Multiplayer is all about the action. I’ve already written a lot about story in RPGs, but I haven’t given game mechanics and combat the attention they deserve on their own. For me, the main difference between a single-player video game and its multiplayer DLC is not the ability to play with other people, it’s the lack of cutscenes. And it’s refreshing.
For an RPG like Mass Effect 3 — dialogue-heavy and cutscene-happy as it is — a multiplayer DLC that dishes out uninterrupted combat is a blast. It’s a tribute to that thing that attracts gamers to games in the first place: action. I appreciate the unadulterated combat, and it appeals to many types of gamers (and many sides to gamers), such as 1.) social gamers who want to play with friends, 2.) competitive gamers who want to take out other players and come in first, 3.) gamers who want to unlock kick-ass gear and 4.) gamers who get impatient with cutscenes.
Multiplayer action is a refreshing change from the stories in video games, especially RPGs. Even a gamer like me who prefers single-player, story-rich games just wants to shoot digitalized enemies sometimes. Varied combat is obviously a huge part of what we love about the games we play.
And yes, sometimes single-player games bully players into playing their MP DLCs to get the most out of the SP mode. I’m looking at you, Mass Effect 3. And you, Diablo 3, which is only online even in single-player mode. That’s not really something I appreciate. Even if the co-op is a lot of fun, it should always be totally optional for single-player games.
So maybe some players would appreciate cutscenes, but really, multiplayer mode offers something that single-player doesn’t: action without distractions. (And lots of cool gear.) Most of the time, you still have all the gorgeous graphics of the single-player game. Even the story is there — cutscene-less as it is — as you’re entering an alien world to fight the enemies who populate the game and make it meaningful. You just don’t have to sit through cutscenes; you can happily click away the hours without story getting in the way.
But cutscenes are invading multiplayer DLCs now. They’re limited, but it seems they’re on their way.
Some gamers embrace the depth and enhanced story element multiplayers are taking on. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is an example; it has a real story, with unlockable cutscenes as you level up. Other games have limited cutscenes that mostly set up missions and battles so you know what you’re doing and why you’re fighting. Cutscenes after matches can also reward winning players better than a simple scoreboard can.
But to be fair, if cutscenes become too common in MP, I can see this trend alienating multiplayer fans. Though a prologue and epilogue cutscene can enhance a game’s impact (Bioshock 2 MP), numerous cutscenes in an overarching story seem to be encroaching on single-player, co-op and MMORPG territory.
We already have co-op modes in some games that allow two or more players to play the otherwise single-player game — and enjoy the story — with a friend. Gears of War is an awesome example. We also have MMORPGs for cooperating, competing and interacting with other players in a world that has a story. In many MMORPGs, our decisions — the way we play the game — even change the fictional universe in ways that may affect other players.
If a multiplayer game were set up like a single-player game, that might be different. Cooperating through the single-player story is a fun and inventive option. But typically multiplayer DLCs are set up for players to cycle through battles with others — the type of gameplay makes sitting through recycled cutscenes a bore. (Maybe that’s why Naughty Dog got rid of the cutscenes they included before and after each match in the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta.)
That’s why I hope that multiplayer DLCs, for the most part, stick with their strengths, giving gamers a way to play their favorite games with others — and in my opinion, that means keeping the cutscenes pretty much totally out of it, please.