The internet has forever changed the world of video games. There was once a time when game developers didn't have the technology to go back and patch away any bugs that may have shipped with a game. And there were no DLC add-ons or online video game marketplaces in those days either. Just ten years ago, we never imagined we'd be streaming television shows and movies on our gaming consoles.
But probably the biggest change the internet has brought to the gaming scene is the focus on online multiplayer. When I was a wee one, playing a multiplayer game meant finding a friend to come over and share what was usually a split-screen experience. Now, multiplayer is something I can take part in simply by logging into the internet.
Competitive gameplay modes like capture-the-flag and team deathmatch flourish these days. Even most single-player games include some sort of online mode. While online multiplayer is a ton of fun, I am still deeply saddened by the fading of the story-based first-person shooter (FPS). Sure, there are many other game genres that embrace storytelling as an essential piece of the gaming pie, but the FPS is starting to shy away from great single-player storytelling.
I'm not trying to say that FPS games no longer have single-player modes at all. It just seems to me that so many FPS developers are so focused on providing a smooth and balanced online experience that the single-player campaigns no longer receive as much attention as they deserve. Let's be honest. When was the last time you played through the entire campaign in a Call of Duty game?
Back when the original Medal of Honor launched for the PSOne (we just called it the PlayStation back then), the world was a radically different place. MoH needed to have a solid single-player campaign or people simply wouldn't play it. By the time the series hopped over to PC with its Allied Assault disc, online multiplayer was becoming more common (at least for PC titles). So, of course Medal of Honor: Allied Assault had a really great multiplayer mode for its time. Maybe I was just a lot less jaded back then, but I seem to remember that Allied Assault also had a very good single-player campaign, one I was able to play from start to finish multiple times without getting bored with it. In fact, that's why I fell in love with that game in the first place.
The original BioShock is a fairly recent big-name FPS that completely excluded any sort of multiplayer mode, and that game has one of the most phenomenal storylines in video game history. BioShock is worth playing purely because the story is so brilliant.
While games like Call of Duty: Black Ops are seducing gamers with their extremely competitive online modes, story-based FPS games are taking a back seat. And the ridiculous amount of success that Call of Duty is experiencing now only means that the copycat titles are going to try to grab a piece of that multiplayer pie.
Now, normally this is the place where you'd expect me to declare that the untimely demise of the single-player FPS is on the horizon. But this week I'm feeling optimistic. Sure, the single-player FPS is on the decline, but I don't think it will completely disappear. Perhaps there will be a dark age in which online multiplayer games dominate the market, completely drowning out the voices of the story-based FPS. But I absolutely know that there are companies willing to keep the great stories coming.
Valve is one of these companies. Sure, Half-Life 2: Episode 3 was supposed to come out years ago, but I'm pretty sure Valve is cooking up something amazing for us. I doubt it will be too much longer before Half-Life 3 starts showing up on the radar. And you can bet that Half-Life 3 (or Half-Life 2: Episode 3, whichever comes first) will be exclusively single-player and will have a storyline that will knock our socks off.
BioShock Infinite is another single-player FPS that looms in the future. Sure, the BioShock series has embraced this whole multiplayer phenomenon, but the series remains, at heart, a plot-based experience. And the little bit of footage from the single-player campaign that has been released so far has been absolutely mind-blowing.
Even Battlefield 3 looks like it's getting some massive work done to make sure that its single-player isn't as weak as previous entries in the series.
The Left 4 Dead series (yes, the focus goes back to Valve) has taken an interesting counter-approach to the story-based FPS: the co-operative FPS. Players don't join up to shoot at each other; they do so to blast away zombies together. (Sure, both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 have competitive modes, but the real focus of those games is the co-op experience.) This is good news for us FPS lovers who enjoy a great plot. While the Left 4 Dead series is incredibly non-story-based, the formula has the potential to bring real stories back into the FPS game. Imagine the Left 4 Dead formula applied to an extremely story-based game. You could experience all the mind-bending plot twists with a good friend sitting on the couch next to you, only you would both be involved in the gameplay.
My prediction: The single-player FPS is fading fast. But it's not dying by any means; it's just preparing the world for its glorious comeback. The FPS mega-hits of tomorrow could very well be single-player or co-op experiences rather than online fragfests, and that is a future I welcome with open arms.
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*