Why I Won't Be Reviewing Brink, And A Plea To Devs On The Subject Of Multiplayer

So, the highly anticipated Brink has just been released, and the standard flood of complaints have begun. People are attacking it left right and centre for a stream of bugs, errors, poor gameplay balancing and various other gripes. I’ve not played the game, I have no intention of playing it, so I can’t really comment on that. The reason though is something else which many people have also been raging against- Brink’s single player mode.

Looking at the press releases, it was no surprises then to see Brink was going to be a heavily multiplayer affair. My interest was piqued momentarily when they stated they would be trying to incorporate a single player mode too, but I gave up when I realised that they planned on making it merge with multiplayer.

This could mean one of three options- a single player campaign with co op, a single player campaign with counter op (Remember Perfect Dark?), or a multiplayer game you could play by yourself with bots.

Now the game has been released, the word is that it’s the third option. To be honest though, even if it had been one of the other two, it still wouldn’t have worked as Splash would have needed to tailor the game to make viable for people to drop in and out- meaning it would still play like a multiplayer game with bots, even in single player mode.

So, where is the point in all this? Well, what I’m trying to say here is that Brink is indicative of a trend I’ve noticed in gaming, in which games seem to be passing over the single player experience in favour of a pure multiplayer game. I first touched on it here, and I’d like to expand on that now.

Command and Conquer Red Alert 3, Resident Evil 5, Command And Conquer 4, StarCraft II, Borderlands, Halo 3, Medal Of Honour, these are all games I’ve played in the last few years solely on the basis of a single player experience, and all of them have left me disappointed on that front. The reason is common to them all- they were designed with multiplayer in mind first, with little to no concession to the idea someone might want to play them alone. And these are just the ones I played; I’ve heard stories of other games with similar issues.

I won’t go into all of them, but I would like to offer a few examples. CnC:RA3 featured 2v2 as the standard mission format, and required you to have an ally to the play campaign. If you didn’t want to, you were assigned a bot.

Bots are usually stupid, especially in RTS titles, and this one was no exception. To this day I have not been able to complete the Japanese campaign thanks to the fact one level pretty much requires a coordinated attack, which is impossible to achieve with a dumbass bot.

StarCraft II earns less heat as the single player mode does clearly have a lot of effort in it, however the price tag associated with it for a single player experience, lacking two of the bloody races (bar a Protoss mini campaign), is utterly obscene.

Without friends to laugh at it with you, Borderlands is soulless husk of mediocrity and level grinding. Imagine WoW without any other people.

Now, this is not a big trend. I’m not for one moment suggesting that solo gamers are being shafted, but this ‘problem’ does seem to be on the rise. I think it’s often linked to the allegations that games are becoming shorter and dumber too- why bother creating an in depth, complex and rewarding set of game mechanics when you can just bolt something flashy, with no depth (like Brink’s SMART system) together and let people provide the entertainment for themselves? As I said in the piece I linked above, most activities are more fun when you share them with someone- we’re a gregarious species, and we also like to compete. This is where the fun is coming form in these games. This is fine for multiplayer games; fun is fun regardless of the source, however it leaves us solo gamers with a distinctly dull product.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is that I’d like to ensure devs don’t forget about us forever alone types, and to avoid thinking they’ve made a good game just because the multiplayer element is popular. What happens in a year when everyone suddenly moves on to the next big thing? Suddenly your opus has gone from the penthouse to cold and naked in the street as its servers empty. Your game wasn’t good; the people who were playing it were the fun part- and now they’re gone.

I do however make an exception to this, in the case of games which are clearly multiplayer only and are not even trying to pretend they should be played alone. Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead (although that has its own set of problems), to name but a pair. It’s good marketing for me as I know damn well that I’m not going to enjoy these titles. I steer clear of them and I don’t put black marks against the publisher and developer for making me waste my money with false advertising.

I think that a final mention should go to indie developers, many of whom cater solely to the single player market, and consequently are currently churning out fantastic, innovative games with a lot of scope and replay value. Keep it up guys and gals; it’s nice to know that at least someone is still interested in making games that can stand up on their own.

So anyway, that’s my spiel and it’s also why you won’t see me reviewing Brink, or any other multiplayer game any time soon. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, feel free to pop them on the comments below.

-Evis T.

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