Some games seem destined for a life of solitude. Their design seems inherently singular, and we go through life with a general acceptance of this fact. These work as single player games, and we are comfortable playing them as such. However, what if a developer decides that they are not content to have just a single player experience? Gamers would be in uproar about how the game does not need multiplayer capabilities and how it is just taking valuable resources away from the single player component. They will say that the single player will invariably suffer because they are spending money and time on an unneeded aspect of the game.
In many situations, this uproar would be founded in truth, because in many cases, games throw multiplayer capabilities in as cash-in. However, every so often, multiplayer is added in the most unlikely of places, and it completely blows us away. Some brave souls decide to try their hand at making games multiplayer and they succeed. When that happens, it is truly something special.
Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 is what gave me this idea. I was appalled when I heard that Bioware was taking time away from the single player to make a separate multiplayer mode. After all, we are in the third game of a trilogy that never had multiplayer before. However, Bioware knocked it out of the park. The multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 is among the best cooperative gameplay I have ever experienced.
The multiplayer in ME3 is wave-based co-op. You and three friends or random players have to kill off enemies in every wave, and you will have to perform certain objectives on select waves. It features a deep, persistent unlock system that keeps me coming back for more. I expected the multiplayer in Mass Effect to detract from the experience, but I was wrong. It takes an amazing game (with an unfortunately poor ending) and makes it even better!
Grand Theft Auto IV
Multiplayer in Grand Theft Auto? I scratched my head when I first heard that Rockstar was adding in a weird competitive multiplayer mode to GTA. I always thought they might try their hand at making Grand Theft Auto into a massively multiplayer game, but rolling out what they did just did not make a lot of sense. However, it turned out to be awesome.
Of course, running around the city and causing mayhem is one of the main appeals to GTA, and doing that with a crew of your best friends makes it even better. Having your friends play cops while you are the bad guy is lots of fun as well. While I still would love to see a GTA MMO, I was thoroughly happy with what Rockstar did with the online play for GTA IV. Even in retrospect, I am not sure how they pulled it off, but they did.
Resident Evil 5
When I first heard about multiplayer in Resident Evil, I was a little concerned. Part of what makes RE games so good is the feeling of seclusion. That is what makes a Resident Evil game so scary. Then I thought about Resident Evil 4, and how they seem to be taking the game away from the creepiness and moving in a more action oriented direction, and it kind of made sense to have co-op. I flip-flopped on the issue for a while, and decided I would not judge it until I played it.
The original Resident Evil would not be good with co-op. However, it works for RE5. I was never afraid playing alone or with friends in RE5. This tells me that the multiplayer did not detract from my fear, just that the game is more action focused now, and with that in mind, playing co-op makes sense. Having a friend there, suffering through the trials and tribulations of the game made it an incredibly fun experience. I did not have expectations one way or the other going in, but I was certainly happy on the way out.
Just because multiplayer does not seem to make sense in a particular game does not mean you should write it off. There are so many talented guys and girls working in the video game industry that they are bound to think of a way to make their crazy ideas work. Next time your favorite single player franchise announces that they are going to add a multiplayer mode, think about these games before you get all up in arms over it. Who knows; it could be the best multiplayer experience you have ever had.
What are some games with multiplayer that surprised you? Let us know in the comments!