Today marks the release of Fallout 76, the first game in Bethesda’s acclaimed RPG series (which is typically catered to lone wanderers) featuring online multiplayer. In itself that wouldn’t be particularly controversial, but the fact it’s compulsory has rubbed some Fallout fans the wrong way, despite it being promised that the game can still be enjoyed solo within its online environment.
Without online-only extras, I wouldn't have played Grand Theft Auto V on and off most weeks since it originally launched - Grand Theft Auto Online simply makes the game for me. Sure, there was multiplayer a-plenty in GTA IV, but, as any true fan would tell you, GTA Online is what’s made the game into the most valuable media property of all time.
At launch there wasn't really much to shout about, just a few race and deathmatch options, but over time it gradually grew and expanded, letting you start a biker gang, run your own club and even fit out your money laundering business with a mobile command centre.
Then there were heists. Almost a whole game mode on their own, these multi-part missions kept players entertained by taking them all across the map and even weaving in characters and storylines from singleplayer, which, of course, I was utterly oblivious to.
While there might have been more memorable moments to be found in singleplayer, it's the unique experiences of online which make me say I love playing GTA, and I'm sure Red Dead Online will have something interesting for us to knock our spurs against as well.
As you can probably already tell, I’ve no problem bypassing singleplayer modes in favour of heading straight online, so I say bring on Fallout 76 and more of its kind.
Grand Theft Auto Online
Some games would appear to lend themselves well to an online-only format, but there's always going to be something lost in the shift from singleplayer to multiplayer. Fallout 4-but-with-co-op (or insert game of your choice) sounds like a great idea as long as the story doesn't suffer. That's not to say the story in any multiplayer outing will inherently be subpar, it's just that the way you absorb it can be radically different when you're in a party.
Online titles are, by definition, meant to be a shared experience. While most don't require a group, or any measure of human interaction, a lot of players will want to socialise in the digital world and it's this specific demographic whose desires are being accommodated.
I've found the issue that will often arise, is that everyone has a different schedule and some are further in the story than others, so attempting to untangle a complex narrative whilst tackling missions in no particular order is akin to trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle using only the shapes of the pieces as a guide.
This is my sole gripe with the idea. As long as the gameplay is solid enough and the story is inessential, yet passable, I'm all for it.
The Elder Scrolls Online
How do you feel about franchises shifting their focus from singleplayer to multiplayer? Let us know below.
In last week's feature, Team PTC shared the games they'd like to have see on Sony's upcoming PlayStation Classic.
Sony recently revealed the full list of 20 games that’ll be included with the PlayStation Classic when it hits store shelves later this year. The likes of Tekken 3, Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII are undoubtedly deserving of their places, but a few more questionable inclusions leave something to be desired.
Chris | Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
I was in love with Soul Reaver from the very start. The opening cutscene sees our hero, if the vampiric Raziel could be called such a thing, suffer an excruciating death at the hands of Kain, all for the crime of daring to grow wings before his master. Resurrected by an Elder God, Raziel is assigned the urgent mission of taking up arms against his former brethren and putting an end to his liege.
It was a gripping introduction and one that I must have watched at least a dozen times all in all. Kain, once the protagonist of the previous title, Blood Omen, is immediately thrust into the role of antagonist; there's no moral gray area here, he's a straight-up bad guy and Raziel becomes a much more likeable character because of it.
Not only was the narrative engaging, but the graphics were superb and the combat was smooth. Puzzles could be a little tricky at times, especially those which required you to switch between the material and spectral planes, but it was always rewarding to finally figure out how to beat a certain section and move on with the story (even if it was occasionally down to dumb luck).
Whilst I'm sure the years haven’t been kind to Soul Reaver, I’d be eager to deliver Kain his comeuppance all over again.
James | Command and Conquer: Red Alert
Now, I know what you're thinking: a real-time strategy game without the flexibility of a mouse and keyboard simply shouldn't work, so this pick should be buried before I even finish this sentence - but hear me out.
In the carefree days of the late ‘90s, multiplayer was in its infancy. The Multitap was scarce and even additional controllers were uncommon, so it fell to the humble link cable to bring players together. Red Alert (as the cool kids called it at the time) was a game perfectly placed to make the most of this technology, putting two warring bases and their associated armies at one another's throats in the pursuit of total annihilation.
The bread and butter of Red Alert is Skirmish, a mode where you pick a map, the number of teams (that's right, AI opponents!) and then it becomes a race to see who can be the first to build up their base and take control of the map.
It may well have been a somewhat paired down experience from the graphically superior PC version, but the end result was a hugely varied gameplay experience, based on an extremely simple mode. It brought weekend after weekend of enjoyment, provided you had a rich friend with multiple TVs and a big enough lounge to house an extended play session (understanding parents also helped).
Liam | Alien Trilogy
I never actually owned a PlayStation when I was younger, being the Nintendo fanboy that I was, but that’s not to say I had no experience with Sony’s first foray into the console market.
Whenever my uncle used to go away on trips, I became the proud (albeit temporary) owner of a PS One, along with a healthy selection of games. Most of what I played back then has now faded from memory, but what’s stuck is gold.
I was - and still am, despite my aversion to horror - a huge fan of the Alien films, so finding a game based on them amongst copies of Tunnel B1 and Firestorm: Thunderhawk 2 blew my prepubescent mind.
It may look tame by today’s standards, but walking the darkened corridors and listening out for bleeps on your motion tracker, Pulse Rifle in hand, was incredibly atmospheric. If things ever got too tough (or creepy) you could always whack in the old ‘1gotp1nk8cidbootson’ cheat and go to town on the Xenomorph bastards without worrying about ammo, health or even chronology.
If Alien Trilogy came bundled with the PlayStation Classic, then I’d definitely consider picking one up this winter. As it is, I think I’ll stick to the SNES Mini for my slice of gaming nostalgia.
Rob | Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Back in the day I really wasn’t much of a PlayStation player (I did borrow an old unit from a friend towards the end of the system’s life cycle, but it only worked if you turned it upside down…), so the announcement of the PlayStation Classic hasn’t particularly moved me.
That being said, I did play some fabulous sports titles on the system - most notably Pro Evolution Soccer, Brian Lara Cricket 99 and Jonah Lomu Rugby - but one title stands deck and trucks above anything else I quaffed.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was a fine example of sequeldom, boasting improved visuals, refined gameplay and an arguably better soundtrack (Chuck D, Bad Religion and Rage? Yes, please!) over the first edition. It also featured the master of freeform skateboarding, Rodney Mullen, this time around.
Supplementing the glorious arcade skating of Pro Skater mark one, version two added in the excellent manual system (where you ride your board on just two wheels), increasing the scope for ridiculous combos and high scores. Drop varied, beautifully designed levels into the pot and you have a casserole that’s just as delicious today as it was back then.
If you do pick that newish square grey box up this Christmas, I send my commiserations to thee. To leave out a game so very zeitgeist is a real bloody shame.
Which PlayStation classic would you like to have seen grace the PlayStation Classic? Let us know in the comments.
If you were too busy playing Red Dead Redemption 2 to concern yourself with Halloween last week, check out our discussion on favourite horror games for a few belated recommendations.