Misbegotten Multiplayer Mode
"It's true, I'm afraid. They've gone and included one of those awful multiplayer modes that seem to be all the fashion these days. This means you and some whippersnappers can huddle round your flickering screen and play a few game that I reckon were thrown in at the last minute and will be average at best."
, Donkey Kong 64
There are video games designed primarily or exclusively for two or more players, ranging from Co-Op Multiplayer
to Competitive Multiplayer
. Many video games, however, are really designed for a single player, and become painful with more than one player; other games may merely treat their multiplayer mode as nothing more than an afterthought.
Compare Socialization Bonus
, where playing with someone else is actually beneficial.
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- In Evolva, there's a multiplayer mode, but it's kind of tacked on: plain deathmatch that allows you to use your characters from the single-player campaign if you like. Also, finding players is somewhat difficult and the best option is to try to find another player via the Internet protocol. The handful of maps aren't bad (the multi-player maps are medium to large in size and include some of the strangest designs of all the maps in the game), but Evolva multi-player is mostly an afterthought.
- In amateur game design forums, frequently a new user will bring up the idea of making a multiplayer Adventure Game, such as King's Quest or Space Quest. None of them have, so far, been able to explain how exactly a linear non-replayable puzzle solving game is supposed to work with multiple players.
- Uru: Ages Beyond Myst tried this, in MMO format. Now the game is free to play.
- According to lore, after Space Quest 6, Sierra was trying to develop Space Quest 7 into a multiplayer game, multiplayer being the next big thing in the late 90s.
- As recounted by Al Lowe, this was the original plan for Leisure Suit Larry 4 but technical limitations ultimately put an end to the idea, resulting in it becoming a Missing Episode.
Beat Em Up
- Battletoads, as pointed out by The Angry Video Game Nerd. The number of items is not adjusted, the two players can hurt each other very easily (to a downright comical degree in level 2's case), and one of the levels becomes literally Unwinnable because of a glitch in programming. If one of the players dies, both are sent back to the last checkpoint, and if one player runs out of lives, both are sent to the start of the level without giving the other player their lost lives back. Later Battletoads games for consoles mitigated this a little by offering an alternate two-player mode where the players can't hurt each other.
- Batman Forever is already a game that's So Okay, It's Average at best, but the levels are clearly not designed for co-operative play, given that awkward clipping starts to occur in an attempt to keep both characters on the screen, and some platforms are just above the top of the screen but which have to be accessed with the grappling hook in order to proceed; with two players, this requires ungodly co-ordination, otherwise the clipping will cause one or both players to fall. Also, the duel mode is meant to be reminiscent of Mortal Kombat, but the Riddler Thug is grossly overpowered.
- Rise of the Robots only allows Player 1 to play as the "hero" Cyborg, whereas Player 2 can choose any of the enemies. Player 1 will die. A lot.
- Punch-Out!! for Wii has a head-to-head mode that is regarded as this by many people, though others will argue that this mode is actually a very deep and intense battle of the wits and people are only disappointed that they can't play as King Hippo or Super Macho Man.
First Person Shooter
- The multiplayer modes in Painkiller are considered by some to be an afterthought, shoehorned on top of the single-player mode by the publishers' demand...but that didn't stop the Cyberathlete Professional League from choosing Painkiller as their official 2005 World Tour game.
- Subverted by Painkiller: Lite Edition, which only contains the multiplayer mode of Painkiller.
- The PlayStation Portable version of the Peter Jackson's King Kong game added a WiFi multiplayer mode: Both of you played the same level in single-player, and the person who completed it fastest "won".
- Sadly, Doom 3. The guns were poorly balanced, the game shipped with almost no multiplayer modes, and the critical part of the engine was its ability to render quality shadows. Of course, every multiplayer gamer ever turns shadow quality down to get performance.
- What's worse, Doom 3's own copy protection only locked out the multiplayer modes from the game unless the game was properly activated, which might have factored in on the quick demise of Doom 3 multiplayer.
- Wolfenstein (2009). While the previous entry in its series was known for its excellent multiplayer, the new game managed to completely ignore the majority (if not all) of the innovations RTCW brought. No wonder, just about every fan of RTCW's/Enemy Territory's multiplayer consider the 2009 game to be a complete joke in this regard. Heck, the team responsible for the multiplayer component getting fired on release speaks volumes.
- Didn't help that it had graphics downgraded compared to the singlepayer version.
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon was a decidedly difficult and engrossing game in single-player, due to the fact that bullets kill, and you want to keep your teammates alive for future missions. Good tactical placement of each member in the squad (to cover each other and lay down suppressing fire) is paramount, and stealth movement is therefore also very important. Of course, in Co-Op multiplayer mode, coordinating a surgical offensive is far more difficult, but is really pointless because unless all players are rubbish they can often work alone, killing enemies by the dozens whenever they spot them. It really takes the fun out of the game, and even placing hundreds of bots on the map doesn't really change anything.
- Playing Quake II in co-op with two players is already fairly painful, but becomes almost impossible with three or more players, because the levels are so cramped and killing your friends is stupidly easy. Fortunately, the Competitive Multiplayer modes are much better.
- BioShock 2's multiplayer was passable unlike some of the examples here, but was still an incredibly obvious afterthought. This was a strange decision for a sequel to a very successful game lauded for being a first-rate single player experience. Predictably it was largely ignored by most players. When Ken Levine confirmed what many suspected, Bioshock Infinite will have no multiplayer, the fans rejoiced.
- What's weird is that Levine's team commissioned at least one magazine article actually bragging about how much time the writers spent on Bioshock 2's multiplayer mode, trying to fit the multiplayer mode into the Bioshock canon as a little snapshot of how Rapture went to hell.
Hack And Slash
- Gauntlet is a classic arcade game meant to be played with two people, and its sequel with four. The PC port can also be played with four people, if they can somehow all fit at a single keyboard.
- Some PC arcade sticks emulate keyboards, so that isn't all bad. The game would be tricked into thinking that all four players were using one keyboard, when in reality they would be using four arcade sticks and three buttons each.
- The first Diablo. Friendly fire. It was still possible until the mage learned Chain Lightning, after which his allies were forced to take cover behind walls every time monsters showed up.
- Glider PRO has a two-player mode where the first player to leave a room (Glider PRO is a non-scrolling game) must wait for the second glider to follow, or press a suicide button if it can't. The second-player controls being non-configurable (locked to the modifier keys) is only a minor annoyance compared to this.
- Many people criticized the multiplayer modes of the two Metroid games so far that have had multiplayer (Metroid Prime 2, which was oriented more towards single-player anyway, and Hunters, which was clearly built around multiplayer).
- Super Mario Galaxy. The second player... can stop enemies! And bother Mario! How awesome! Thankfully averted in the second game, though, where the Co-Star Luma (controlled by player 2) can grab all sorts of items bar the Rainbow Star, and, in addition to freezing foes, also do its own Spin, which is just as effective as Mario's.
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii is an interesting mix of this and Socialization Bonus. When there are two or more people playing, if one dies but has at least one extra life while the other remains alive, they can be rescued a while later. The characters' heads are also rather good as trampolines, and two small characters carrying each other can break blocks just like their Super versions. More items spawn from "?" Blocks as well. However, more often than not, the players will get in the way of each other, often leading to mis-obtained items, Total Party Kills and much frustration, as any co-op Let's Play can prove.
- Makes a return in New Super Mario Bros. 2 with the same mix and retains every example from its Wii-predecessor noted above. Curiously enough, the game adds another advantage and disadvantage each: Playing co-op doubles the amount of coins earned at the end of each level, which is kind of pointless since this game takes coin gathering Up to Eleven, but the camera only follows whichever player is the current leader, Sonic & Tails-style. The latter is particularly stupid as each player are no longer limited to sharing a single screen and said leader status can be stolen, either by ground pounding or killing the leader or simply getting to a checkpoint or stage transition first.
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3 for the Sega Genesis are an odd case. They have multiplayer modes, which are fine, but you can also have 2 players in single-player mode. Player 1 controls Sonic, while Player 2 controls Tails... but if Tails goes offscreen, which happens often, you have to wait until he flies back onscreen and lands. If Tails dies, he comes back the same as if he goes offscreen, but if Sonic dies, both players go back to the last checkpoint. And that's only the tip of the iceberg. On the other hand, if you can get someone to play with you during the Special Stages, getting the Chaos Emeralds becomes much easier. The Special Stages work much better with multiple players than the acts do.
- Shadow the Hedgehog bought back this feature where a second player can control the helper characters (minus Black Doom, Eggman, and oddly, Charmy). Not very useful in "get to the goal" missions for the same reasons mentioned above in Sonic 2 and 3. However, instead of having to wait for the helper to re-appear if he/she falls off camera, this game now has the option to call him/her back to your side with a simple tap on the D-Pad, which makes it actually worth it in alternate missions like "collect X rings" or "kill X enemies". For added hilarity, you can use characters in their opposite missions: have fun using Sonic to beat GUN soldiers and then have him complain on Shadow.
- Donkey Kong Country Returns has a co-op mode which seems to benefit gameplay as both Kongs can move separately AND tag along to use the single-player version moves. However, due to the Nintendo Hard difficulty and that, unlike New Super Mario Bros. Wii, players share lives, it can become a hindrance.
Real Time Strategy
- Brutal Legend had quite good multiplayer - for 1v1. While the game supported teams of up to 4v4, playing team games was often an exercise in futility. There was still only one stage and a shared money pool, which meant that whomever wanted the cheapest unit built "won" the argument. Additionally, having multiple avatars in the vicinity issuing orders confused the bejeezus out of the AI.
Role Playing Game
- The original version of Final Fantasy VI for the SNES allowed you to play in two player mode, which just meant that the second player could control a few of the characters in battle. If they happened to be bitter about being made second player, this person could, instead of attacking the monsters during battle, kill the characters assigned to first player, allowing them to take over control.
- Bethesda Softworks added gratuitous multiplayer mode to the first The Elder Scrolls Spin-Off, Battlespire. They never did it again.
- Troika, the makers of Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, were forced to include a multiplayer mode by Sierra. They promptly hacked out a single module and an almost completely unplayable interface, which was promptly laughed at by the fan community.
- The Lord Of The Rings The Third Age had a 2-player mode that was just like the Final Fantasy examples above. Or worse, since your party is only 3 characters in this game, while all the above examples have 4-man parties, so someone is only getting one character.
- Could be even worse, since although there are six playable characters, when 2-player mode is activated, the game doles out a pre-set selection of characters to a player (Berethor, Hadhod, and Eaoden to Player 1, Idrial, Morwen, and Elegost to Player 2). Thus, it's possible for a single person to be playing on 2-player mode because the other three characters (who are assigned to the other person) are useless for the scenario.
- Believe it or not, but the early Infinity Engine video games (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale) were all geared towards multiplayer as a legacy of their prototype, Battleground Infinity. Although the multiplayer modes in those games were quite sound, they have been completely overshadowed by the single-player campaigns, so very few actually remember them nowadays. The multiplayer mode for Baldur's Gate is still mentioned in some guides, walkthroughs, etc.: it is possible to use it to have an all-player created party without actually being multiplayer.
- The Multi-player feature is incredibly useful...in single-player! Because of the ability to freely import and export characters in multiplayer, players can form their own parties that aren't constrained to the sometimes underwhelming NPCs, as mentioned, even the main character can freely be swapped in and out without restriction. Saved games can be set up to certain locations of the game that allow different characters to try them quickly, and of course exploits can be done to make uber characters.
- Neverwinter Nights was also designed to be a multiplayer game. Then they learned finding teammates was impossible, and people really liked Story-Driven Single-Player Role Playing Games anyway. Hence the expansion packs and sequel added more story and more optional party members.
- Deus Ex is a very open-ended first person FPS/RPG with an emphasis on its story. The multiplayer, however, is essentially a bunnyhopping arena shooter similar to Quake, though not quite as fast paced.
- Mass Effect 3 is an odd example. The single-player mode, of course, is excellent, and the multiplayer mode is a decent shooter experience, but the game caught a tremendous amount of flak for its attempt to force people who wanted a good ending in single-player to play multiplayer by linking Effective Military Strength to success in either the multiplayer game or other tie-in games. Since the Extended Cut DLC, though, it's become more-or-less possible (and with more DLC, easy enough) to get the best endings without playing multiplayer, and increasing Readiness through multiplayer is now completely optional.
- The multiplayer in Tales of Symphonia can be fun, but clearly not that much thought was put into designing it. The battle camera only follows the first player, like in the single player mode, so if the party spreads out, everyone else won't be able to tell what's happening. And managing the menus is very awkward with multiple people.
- The arcade Shooting Gallery series, Police Trainer. Most of its 2-player minigames are the same as the 1-player variant, or even more difficult simply due to the distraction of shared screen space. Worse, one player may directly cause the other to fail a minigame (and losing precious coinage with it) by being greedy and shooting more targets than required, and a few minigames are directly competitive, requiring someone to fail. Police Trainer 2 was slightly better and even had a cooperative minigame for each rank, but one of its 2-player minigames was outright Unwinnable due to lack of targets for both players, putting a quick stop to the fun.
- Dark Messiah's online multiplayer play more like a bad Half-Life 2 mod than anything to do with Dark Messiah, ignoring the singleplayer game's brilliant combat system, spells, classes and with far worse graphics. Of course, it was made by a different company altogether.
Third Person Shooter
- Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy is primarily a first person shooter with Psychic Powers. It has a CoOp mode that allows Player 1 to steer and shoot the weapons, and Player 2 to control the psychic powers. Unless both players are on the same page on what to do, things can get very... strange. Considering the dev team had so much trouble assigning buttons they couldn't find a way to fit in rolling or dodging (and thus both are absent from the game), this would be an ideal solution to games with lots of powers... if you had four arms or really good teamwork with player two (but lets be honest, the first is likelier).
- One game along these lines was the original Mech Warrior on the SNES, in which one player did the steering and the other aimed the turret.
- Despite the story offering the perfect setup for 2-player co-op, the only online multiplayer in Kane and Lynch is a 4-8 player bank robbery mode with no connection to the main story.
- Console versions of Freedom Fighters had a rather mediocre 2-player Capture the Flag mode that was quite obviously tacked on as an afterthought, using three maps recycled from single-player levels. The PC version left it out altogether.
- The developers of Spec Ops: The Line themselves despised the publisher-mandated multiplayer mode, calling it a tumor hanging off the game. Where the main game is Heart of Darkness in the ruins of Dubai, the multiplayer is an uninspired, generic collection of modes. They themselves played no part in its development: it was outsourced to another studio altogether. Considering the game's nature as a deconstruction of modern First-person Shooters, it sort of makes sense that the multiplayer would be like that.