At a time where there is an abundance of First Person Shooters on the market it can be hard to choose exactly what you want to play. You need to ask yourself, what long running series or hot new game do you want to follow and put the most time in to? For me I’ve always been a fan of the Halo series as it was the first game I got on my Xbox 360. It had a fantastic online mode which opened my eyes to the world of online gaming, but what originally hooked me was the great campaign.
Halo 3 showed that a genre I had never really cared about before could be so much fun and engaging. From the great story, the wide variety of environments you could play through, and tight gameplay too. This game was the catalyst that led me to play a number of other shooters which also had great campaigns – Call Of Duty: World at War and more.
While the online modes in titles such as these are fantastic (specifically Halo 3) and they certainly kept me playing for years after I had originally beat the single player, I found It was not long before others in the genre began to put a little less effort into their single player modes, or just released their games as multiplayer only titles. Now there is nothing wrong with running multiplayer only and of course, as with Battle Royale games on the market currently you can see that many excel, but I wanted to talk about a few FPS games from the last few years that in my opinion have great examples of single player modes and why I feel they are still important.
Titanfall 2 is one of the latest examples of a game with a superb single player and it’s actually quite interesting that the developers put a focus on this aspect of their game. The original Titanfall was essentially a full online game – with a ‘single player’ story that just placed you into online matches and progressed the tale after each match. I expected more from Respawn Entertainment at the time, mainly as I’m a huge fan of mechs and really felt like this could be something great, however I was left disappointed.
When I heard about a sequel on the horizon I never really gave it much attention, it was only when I saw it on sale for under £10 that I thought ‘why not?’. I started the campaign and was absolutely blown away by the care and hard work the developers had put into it. The story was engaging and made use of the gameplay mechanics exceedingly well, and the protagonist and his mech were characterised fantastically; I found myself generally caring about what happened to them. I think if a piece of media can put so much characterisation into a mech and have me care about them as if they were a real person, then they have done their job well.
I felt the single player for this game was important in helping it stand out and honestly is the reason that it’s worth playing. In fact, I found that the multiplayer was literally the same as the previous title, and whilst this is not to say it was bad, we had plenty of online madness from the initial game. The single player aspect of this game is what makes Titanfall 2 worth your time and unlike its predecessor actually made the story worth following.
I do hope if there is a third in the series that it has a single player as engaging as TF2 and yet still tries to do something new with its multiplayer, I feel that then we would have a truly amazing game on our hands. Whether this will happen any time soon however – with the series seeming to have taken a focus on the spinoff Apex Legends, is up for debate.
Perhaps one of my favourite campaigns of all time within the genre is that of Halo ODST. This does not have a traditional multiplayer as there was no real need thanks to Halo 3 still going strong, and I feel that allowed the developers at Bungie to really put everything they could into the story. This single player stands out because it turned what you were used to with Halo on its head.
You were no longer the super soldier Spartan like Master Chief but a much more vulnerable character. The story followed ‘The Rookie’ as you walk through the lonely and dangerous streets of New Mombasa at night and try your best to track down the rest of your missing squad. The best part about this campaign is the atmosphere created, as you walk the dark streets all alone to the sounds of smooth jazz, while the rain creates a sombre chatter in the background.
ODST uses sound in a way I feel is absent from other Halo games in order to help create a feel of total melancholic isolation. You can tell Bungie wished to tell a new story within the franchise, yet still one players were already familiar with. This felt a lot more like the Halo novels (seriously check some out) in the way it focused more on the relationships of the characters and their comradery rather than Chief being essentially a lone soldier and in some ways an insert for the player.
It is a great example of doing a spinoff correctly. The care from the developers is still there and while it could be argued by some that this was merely a campaign expansion to Halo 3, to me it never felt like one and it stood on its own as a great experience. FPS games do not always need a multiplayer or even need to be a mainline title in order to soar in the mind of the players. I’d argue that there are plenty more stories to tell in the Halo universe – or any other series for that matter – if any developers wished to have a little freedom and do a shorter spinoff like ODST.
The Metro series is another great example of the importance behind great single player experiences in the genre because it uses another medium in order to benefit itself and the player; in this case the original Metro novels by Dmitry Glukhovsky. The use of these novels as a basis allows the developers to bring a unique story and world to gaming. This has also worked well for RPGs such as the Witcher series, and while the games do diverge from the novels it is still interesting to see what the developers could create from them.
Metro is a really unique series because it used a great deal of mechanics not usually found within the genre. The decision of choosing between keeping decent Pre-war ammo or utilising it to purchase other items for example was something I had not experienced before. This was interesting because, depending on how you look at it, it could put you at a disadvantage and created a risk/reward scenario depending on how good your aim was.
I loved that there were a wide variety of unique enemies, from other humans to a number of animals that had been infected by nuclear radiation over the years – some like the Librarians being a huge issue to take down if you were not prepared for them or had not conserved decent ammo.
I believe there are still a bunch of mechanics like those used in Metro that could be included to the FPS genre, helping keep titles unique in a sea of shooters. I also feel there could be a wealth of stories from other forms of media that would be well suited to an adaption into the FPS genre. It generally excites me to see what the future holds in that regard.
Lastly, I wanted to speak briefly on the DOOM remake which was one of my favourite games of the last few years. It is not only a perfect example of reimagining a game without losing what made the original special, but also managed to add in new mechanics that perfectly complement the original structure. What’s interesting to me about DOOM is that while the developers did add a story, I’m not sure I took much notice of it; an example that you don’t always need an engaging story to have a great time in the single player.
The story was only something that was there in the background while I ripped and teared through whatever hell was thrown at me, and whilst there is a multiplayer mode – as you would expect from titles nowadays – while fun for a few rounds, it is not something that particularly grabbed me.
You can tell the team put their all into the single player experience and I feel that was so important for a game like this, one that is entwined with so much history in the genre. If you look at DOOM 3 there was an attempt to put a campaign in the game but to me it just felt off, trying to fuse the more modern style of FPS single player with the classic DOOM style we are familiar with.
This time around there was only the minimal taken from more modern titles and the focus was the core gameplay that we all know; strafing, gunplay and kickass music. This single player mode was important because it keeps the core feeling of the series alive for players both new and old, creating nostalgia while also showing new players what one of the Grandfathers of the FPS genre can still do.
So, to conclude, there is nothing wrong with the FPS genre focusing on multiplayer but I think it is wise for developers not to underestimate the power of a good single player mode. There are still amazing stories you can tell in this genre, be they based around real world events like Call of Duty WW2 or a loose adaptation of another form of media like the previously mentioned Metro series. But developers should not be afraid of making a decent single player experience if they feel they lack in the story department, as DOOM has shown us that these can be great just from the gameplay alone. I really hope they remember these points and that we continue to see fantastic titles in the near future.