I adored BioShock, and while it lost some of its lustre and great ideas once it reached a certain point, one thing that I couldn’t criticise it on was the lack of multiplayer. It was never an issue as the actual FPS mechanics weren’t anything special, and it was the isolation and the experience of exploring this strange world on your own that really drove me forwards.
It reminds me of Metroid Prime, where a fantastic sort-of FPS that was about exploring a strange new world by yourself was met with criticism for its lack of multiplayer. And sure enough, where Metroid Prime 2 came with a half-baked multiplayer, BioShock 2 is set to come with its own effort.
Back when Metroid did it, I can remember making the argument that multiplayer is completely at odds with what makes both Metroid Prime and the Metroid series as a whole great. The games, up until then, were all about being isolated on a hostile alien world, exploring while hunting and being hunted, and even when it moved into the first-person perspective those were still the ideas that carried it. It was never a shooter, in other words, and therefore didn’t need deathmatch, and that description pretty much entirely applies to BioShock as well.
Just look at where Metroid has ended up. Hunters and Prime 3 aren’t bad, but Samus and her bounty hunter friends don’t feel like Metroid to me.
I hate this need to clamour for the bullet point on the back of the box. It’s disrespectful to the effort that goes into crafting a rewarding single player, and while I could understand it if, say, a Call of Duty came without multiplayer, it’s wrong to say that every game needs it. Complaining that a story-led FPS doesn’t come with multiplayer is devaluing a great work in order to appeal to people who don’t appreciate the work that went into the game anyway, like criticising Schindler’s List for not having enough action scenes.
I don’t like to sound like a pretentious twat, which I think is somewhere that this argument comes dangerously close to taking me, but I really think there’s a point here. Starbreeze makes fantastic first-person adventures and has had a great reputation for this since the first Riddick game on the Xbox, and both subsequent releases in this vein, The Darkness and Assault on Dark Athena, have had, respectively, shockingly bad and mediocre multiplayer modes that nobody plays anyway. The people who appreciate the games have no interest in the multiplayer, and the people who would whine about the exclusion have games that they’d rather play in Call of Duty and Halo. Developers should save the money and make an even better story.
To me, this is another example of why games aren’t taken seriously, and it doesn’t help when the gaming media is often guilty of marking games down for not coming with multiplayer, continuing to mix up objective consumer advice and a review, because they’re not the same thing. Games are art, are they? Well then we’d better mark down Hamlet for not having any musical numbers.