Polygon recently went live with an in-depth post mortem of Yager’s recent narrative-centric third person shooter, Spec Ops: The Line. On-hand to provide the answers to their questions were Walt Williams and Richard Pearsey who both helped mould the game’s haunting storyline, as well as lead designer Cory Davis, whose comments will likely spark debate though hold plenty of truth.
When it launched back in late June, Spec Ops was praised for its engaging singleplayer experience that had players questioning the actions of lead protagonist, Captain Martin Walker. The multiplayer, on the other hand, was somewhat of a different story, the development of which was passed onto Darkside Game Studios. In our hands-on with the game’s competitive online component we weren’t left particularly appalled, though the plethora of evident short-cuts and overall lack of dedication gave it a tacked on feel.
Multiplayer, as Davis puts it, “was never a focus of the development.” According to the lead designer “It was literally a check box that the financial predictions said we needed, and 2K was relentless in making sure that it happened — even at the detriment of the overall project and the perception of the game.”
“No one is playing it, and I don’t even feel like it’s part of the overall package — it’s another game rammed onto the disk like a cancerous growth, threatening to destroy the best things about the experience that the team at Yager put their heart and souls into creating.”
It won’t do any favours for Yager’s relationship with 2K Games, though fellow development studios and gamers alike will be able to associate with the truth in what he is saying. Though not the case for every game on the market, there are clear examples of online multiplayer being weaved into boxed products to ensure it meets the “full package” criteria audiences have been conditioned to expect. For games such as Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed (both were originally singleplayer-only affairs) it has done wonders though, as we’ve seen first hand, this approach hasn’t had the same effect on 2K’s 2012 output.
Towards the beginning of the year we saw the release of Digital Extremes’ The Darkness II (under 2K Games). In our review we awarded the game a much-deserved 9/10 though, due to its non-existent pre-launch playerbase, we hadn’t sampled the title’s online multiplayer. Though developed under the same roof as the superb singleplayer campaign, it felt far too stretched out with little in the way variety or a rewarding sense of player progression. We haven’t returned to The Darkness II for a post mortem but if we did, our experiences with the online multiplayer would likely drag that stellar 9/10 down a more modest rating.
There is an argument to made for tacked-on multiplayer however, one that hinges around the price at which publisher pitch their products. As gamers we have been conditioned to expect multiplayer to rear its head whenever the word “shooter” crops up. As a result, publishers no doubt fear that audiences won’t shell out full price for a game which isn’t as all-encompassing as its online-enabled counterparts.