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Cheers to single player games staying single

I liked F.E.A.R. Really. Even though I played it after the graphics had turned stale, I still had a great time. Its labyrinth of hallways didn’t necessarily make for the most interesting levels, and its cut-and-paste soldiers didn’t make for the most interesting bad guys, but I still enjoyed it. I’ve always had a soft spot for games that let me turn on the slow motion and shoot people in the face. It’s the kind of thing that made Timeshift tolerable, that made Wet up my alley. And, when playing F.E.A.R. in the dark, when it tries to be creepy it occasionally succeeds.

So when F.E.A.R. 2 came out, I had to nab it right away. I had played the demo already, and jumped a few times in my seat while doing so. I was promised a game in which after emerging onto a theater stage with a wooden donkey upon it, an enemy might shout out, “He’s behind the ass!” That was a key selling point. And then there was the promise of shooting up more fools in slow motion with bullets to the face. This time around the protagonist had a name, which was one step up from the previous protagonist. The presentation was cleaner, the graphics were significantly improved.

And then the announcements for F.E.A.R. 3 came around. It was hard to tell what was going to make the game stupider: calling the thing F.3.A.R., something I refuse to do other than in this sentence, or the addition of co-op as the main method of enjoying the story. On one hand the concept seemed interesting. One player approaches with slow-motion related powers, the other with ghost abilities, and together they rend the flesh off the bones of their enemies. It would be great for a pure action game.

But the idea of F.E.A.R. is that it isn’t a pure action game, and it has more than a splash of horror mixed into its cocktail of guns and ghosts. And when I finally got around to playing the final product, by myself, I found an odd, poorly paced game that severely lacked in creepiness to compensate for its repetitive gunplay. Somewhere along the line the desire to create a multiplayer game was thrown into the single player game I was already enjoying.

If the only casualty of the multiplayer genre’s war on single player games was F.E.A.R., then the world would still be okay. Now, even though I enjoyed parts one and two, and the expansions, I didn’t cry a single tear due to F.E.A.R. 3’s multiplayer transgressions. I wasn’t that wrapped up in the story, nor did I really care about the fate of its protagonists. I didn’t like the fact that they took what could have been a potentially great single player experience and then diluted it to a weak co-op game.

There has always been a desire for developers to include multiplayer, or for publishers to demand developers to do so, and the results have not always been good. Did anyone play Stranglehold, let alone its multiplayer? Did anyone participate in a deathmatch in The Darkness? Do people still play Assassin’s Creed: Revelations online? I can only guess at what the numbers are, but what’s most important about those games is that the multiplayer is always separate from the single player. I can enjoy the game by myself, without worrying whether I need to find someone to fill in protagonist slot 2.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2011.

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