Two of the biggest games right now, Fortnite and Player Unknown Battlegrounds (or PUBG, to give it a snappier title) are taking the gaming world by storm at the moment, but I for one am not rushing to participate. You see, I’m not a fan of online multiplayer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they are a bad thing because many, many players are enjoying the heck out of them. I’m just saying they aren’t for me.
Why is this? Well, first, I don’t think I’m alone and I will give you some reasons.
I like a game to last longer than 5 seconds. What you usually find in multiplayer games is that it’s everyone for themselves. While you often work as a team, teamwork is the last thing on anybody’s mind. The other thing you find out quickly is that some of the other team has better weapons than you as they have built up their personal arsenal due to hours of play and possibly paying for upgrades through the much disliked Lootbox system.
This leads to you firing your puny starter weapon at them point blank repeatedly and them killing you with a single shot. You regenerate only to last a few more seconds when the same person kills you again. Once you have died about 10 times, with hardly getting a shot off, it gets tiresome. Then you see the Scoreboard and there you are at the bottom with no kills, 5 points (somehow) and then you wonder why you bother?
Personally, I don’t find it fun. Games like Star Wars Battlefront, Titanfall and the online version of Grand Theft Auto V just leave me cold as a result. GTA V Online also has the dubious honour of letting players kill you even while you are shopping. I didn’t even use up my 10 hours of Star Wars Battlefront free play with EA Access, I was fed up after about 2 hours. Battlefront II’s I used mainly on the campaign. I much prefer it that way.
Some games have online modes as well as a single player campaign. I can honestly say, I hardly ever touch them. Battlefield, Call of Duty etc… again, while I understand why they are so popular and keep the games going, I personally could do without them.
I much prefer to make my own way through a game whether it is an open world or a linear story. Some games offer both and some manage to integrate multiplayer into the game itself. When this works well it can be enjoyable. I found that Watch Dogs did this extremely well. You may be minding your own business and somebody is trying to hack you. There is a limited time for you to find the hacker and I found that to be integral to the game experience. The game is all about hacking, so why not?
There are additional missions for you to be the hacker too. I found that just as enjoyable. There are other additional missions that stray into multiplayer but those are for completists while not impacting on you finishing the actual story, finding the collectibles or doing side-missions. This for me worked very well as I could ignore multiplayer, mainly.
Another game where integrated multiplayer works well is The Division because it is completely by choice. You can team up with other players at various safe-houses but you can just as easily go it alone. Once out of the Safehouse, you will be in a shared game with that person or team. If you leave the Safehouse on your own then it’s just you against the game. There is, however an area called the Dark Zone where it is purely multiplayer and you are rewarded with better weapons and equipment to tackle the increasingly difficult story campaign, but again, it’s not actually necessary to finish the game. This choice is completely up to you. As you can imagine I prefer to go it all alone.
Destiny is another title that relies on Teamwork to complete some missions. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to complete Destiny’s many stories without multiplayer. I just don’t want to, trusting my own skill without having to rely on others.
I recently started playing Grand Theft Auto V Online and this is where multiplayer really started to get on my nerves. Whilst the multiplayer shootout and race missions are optional, (some, I don’t mind) in order to progress through the story you have to become reliant on others. For instance, there’s a mission near the start where two of you have to get from point A to point B in some cars that are “hot” and being looked for by the police. If one of you is spotted then you fail the mission and have to restart. However, this all depends on how good your partner is.
It also depends on how patient or determined they are, because if they leave the mission you have to endure a long loading screen and then find yourself dumped miles from the mission start. You then have to reach the mission start to do the mission again. If you are the host of the mission you can set the parameters and even skip the long cutscene. If not, you have to sit through it again unless the other player cuts it short. Then off you go again, hoping the other player doesn’t get caught, starting the process all over again. Of course, he or she is allegedly also hoping you don’t do the same.
I find this incredibly frustrating and wish there was a single player option just so I can complete the mission and progress. After 20 goes of this, you just give up. Especially when you know the other person has too. Then you get a long loading screen trying to sell you something before being deposited miles from anywhere.
A few months ago, we saw the much anticipated release of Rare’s Sea of Thieves and one I was really looking forward to until I found it was just multiplayer. It has other issues (like being as shallow as a puddle) but for me, it introduced me to a new term, “Griefing” – sure I’ve come across this behaviour before (mainly in GTA V Online) but this was the first time, for me it actually had a name.
I jumped into Sea of Thieves with both feet, going for a full crew of complete strangers. Thinking four of us would take the high seas, plunder and do pirate things. No, the first thing my crew did was locking me in the brig. Then they came down and played their instruments at me. So I googled it to see how I could escape. You just can’t. In fact, there was an article I found that said players were doing this. I’m sure Rare’s idea for this was to curb unruly players.
What it does instead is encourage evil behaviour. Maybe if you could only lock up other teams, or you incurred penalty points that would be better. I found out that the only way out is when they let you out and there is no time limit. So, my first 20 minutes in Sea of Thieves were spent locked up.
Then they let me out, probably because we were being attacked by another ship. Free and running on to deck, I manned a cannon, waiting for my opportunity to strike. Except the idiot at the helm didn’t realise you had to be “side on” to fire the “side cannons” at the other ship.
Taking matters into my own hands, I ran up to take the wheel but we were already sinking. We sunk, so I decided to swim to our attacker’s ship thinking they’d take me on board but no, I was unceremoniously ganged up and killed. Thanks.
Then down to the Ferry of the Damned I went. Ok, that wasn’t the greatest start, so I tried it solo with pretty much the same results. I was killed by someone who boarded my ship. I never had any loot, but instead I had a chicken coop needed to catch chickens for a mission but that vanished when I re-spawned. Meaning I had to sail to another island to get one but I never made it as a storm sunk me on the way.
Re-spawning yet again, I got dumped miles from another trading post. I then found a chest on the island as I went exploring instead. Gleefully scampering back to my ship with the chest I found that someone was using it as target practise. It sunk before my eyes. I hid the chest in some undergrowth and used the Siren to teleport back to a new ship but when I went back to the island, the chest had gone.
It was at this point I gave up. 3 hours, no gold and found that the reason I hated multiplayer was multiplied by 10. As Jean Paul Sartre once said “Hell is other people.” He’d be totally vindicated in those words if he’d saw Sea of Thieves and Grand Theft Auto V Online. Me? I haven’t been back to either since.
One game I did like part of the multiplayer or PvP was For Honor. While there is a solo campaign, the game is more focused on multiplayer. There are one on one PvP battles you can load up. Where I like this is that there is a definite skill involved in these fights, plus each faction has their own styles. You get matched with a player similar to your own level too. So it’s not like you’ll just be battered into oblivion with an enormous club that you would only get unlocked if you reached 20 levels higher than you currently are.
There are, though, some modes where that can happen with teams of five or six and you basically become XP fodder for the higher ranked players. As much as I want to enjoy those battles, I can’t and seeing “You were killed by JokerKiller1123” every 20 seconds gets old very quickly.
So, yeah, I’d rather play a single campaign at my own pace and not have to rely on anyone else. Give me Elder Scrolls, Fallout, The Witcher, Tomb Raider, Assassins Creed, Wolfenstein, The Last of Us, Uncharted, Red Dead Redemption, Horizon Zero Dawn etc… – anything that doesn’t involve me either relying on others or them killing me within 5 seconds of entering a game. I really can do without it.
There are some that tried, like Evolve. 4 players with different styles and weapons taking down a monster who is controlled by a 5th player. Unfortunately, as with most multiplayer games, too long loading screens coupled with unengaging gameplay led to it not succeeding as well as they initially thought.
There is now a dangerous trend I am seeing, especially with the Battle Royale games. There seems to be little or no content to these games. You are the ones who have to fill them. Maybe Fortnite and PUBG do keep adding content to keep players interested and maybe GTA V Online is constantly introducing new things to play with. Their latest being that you can now run a club. That’s fine. However, when Call of Duty Black Ops 4 completely jettisons the single player campaign in favour of a pure multiplayer experience and the lazy addition of “Blackout” which is… surprise, a Battle Royale mode, then you are going to lose your established fanbase. Every day I hear about yet another BR game as everybody jumps on the trend trying to make a quick buck. I’m sure it will become just another mode in time but when established franchises start preferring it over single player campaigns then we’ve got problems.
After all making Star Wars Battlefront an online multiplayer game it completely sunk, despite it being one of the best and most accurately detailed Star Wars game out there. Battlefront II had the campaign added back into it. As a result, it’s still going strong while Battlefront is virtually empty these days. If Black Ops 4 is a raging success, then I have gauged the mood of the average gamer completely wrong but from what I’ve heard about the beta testing, everyone is basically saying it’s no different from Black Ops 3. Will Blackout make a difference or will everyone have BR fatigue by then? I for one will not be touching Black Ops 4 if there is no single campaign. I’m just not interested.