Mass Effect 3’s Online Pass Multiplayer Strays Into Singleplayer

Online passes – the things where you have to pay a publisher an additional fee to get the most out of a game if you don’t buy it brand new – are here to stay.  I don’t like them, and lots of you agree with me – the second hand market (let alone the fact that lots of us lend games to mates) is hugely important to the industry, and it feels like it’s us, the gamers, that are getting the brunt of this.

EA’s Mass Effect 3 is the latest such title to sport EA’s version of the scheme with its online co-op mode, and it’s one that appears to be getting slowly pushed into the regular non-online package – I can’t help but feel like the whole idea, barely months old, is already being taken too far.  Case in point: your single player progress is – in part at least – determined by how well you do at multiplayer.

Read that again, and watch the video.  As we understand it, it’s still possible to enjoy single player without going online and get most of the goodies, but it’s a quick example of a game wanting those extra dollars to get you to jump into online for bonuses – and in this case, assuming you haven’t bought the game for whatever brand new price it’s on sale for – buying an online pass.

OPM’s report isn’t strictly true – you can, apparently, still get the best ending without playing online, but it’s not going to be as straightforwarded.  “Ultimately it’s about adding more player choice,” says BioWare’s Casey Hudson.  You know, I get the idea of trying to claw back some of the resale value of a pre-owned game, but I can only see all this ultimately going one way.

We’ve already seen the likes of DiRT 3 withholding certain cars for those without an online pass.

“Multiplayer not only features amazing combat and deep customisation options, but it will give players another way to help the war effort against the Reapers in the main event – the single player campaign,” said Hudson.  It’s worth stressing that the developers are keen to point out that all this is ‘optional’ – you don’t need multiplayer, but I can’t help feeling that this is the first move in that direction.

“It is important to note that the [multiplayer] system is entirely optional and just another way players can have control over your game experience,” said BioWare’s Chris Priestly when the multiplayer was first announced.  “It is still possible to achieve the optimal, complete ending of the game in Mass Effect 3 through single-player alone.”

We’re collating reader feedback on the whole ‘pass’ issue – if you have anything to say get in touch.

Update: To clarify, as I feel some are missing the point a little with this blog: it is possible to complete single player without trying multiplayer, and it’s possible to get the best ending too.  My issue is that the online and offline are seemingly tightly integrated, and this, in my opinion, brings the online pass scheme closer to affecting a fluid single player offline experience, which it shouldn’t do.

So, again: single player is completely playable without an online pass, but if you do play online you can affect your single player game.


  1. Preorder cancelled…

  2. and what happened to the promise of featuring femshep in the marketing?

    has anybody seen a marketing with a female Shepard?
    i haven’t.

    and what the fuck was with that facebook fiasco anyway?
    they ask the fans to choose a femshep, but then they say you can’t have the one the majority chose because she’s blonde.

    i mean, what the hell?

    • You wouldn’t want the fate of the universe in the hands of a blonde, right? :P

      I KID! I KID! Forgive me, I couldn’t resist… ^^

  3. Another great game i’m going to have to pass up, I want to be able to buy a COMPLETE GAME PLEASE. You know, no online ties, no DLC and constant bug patches. Just something nice, tidy and professional.

  4. Online passes are neither here nor there to me. What I’m more concerned about is the core single player game being affected by its multiplayer extremities. This could set an alarming precedent, considering the influence the Mass Effect series has.

  5. I understand that I can get the optimal ending and that ME3 will probably have mulitple endings. Sooo, what if I end up in a lobby where a guy wants to get the worst ending?

    Also, I haven’t watched the video but I am going to get some prompt about quarter of the way through suggesting that I have to play some multiplayer in order to better enjoy the story?

    Finally, I tend to play the single player of games and complete them. I then either do a second run through, play MP or do a mixture of both. I fail to see why I should be encouraged to play in special way.

  6. Forgetting all this online pass business a moment, I’d be more worried that playing online would make my single player easier.

  7. i dont really have a problem with theidea of online passes, because i play mainly single player, and if i know about the pass i still have the choice to buy it new, pay for the pass or boycot the game…
    however, as i said i play mainly single player, especially certain kind of games, like RPGs, so this way of trying to get more money by forcing or at least coercing us into playing the multiplayer is really pissing me off…

  8. I think we’re all jumping the gun here and over-reacting. Until we know exactly how this mechanic will work we can’t really comment. The makers of demon souls could surely have stated that online connectivity will benefit your sp experience, did anybody go nuts about that? No. Same with nfshp, much better sp when you’re connected to psn/xbl. Why are we all going nuts about this? Because its combined with an online pass? I’m sure nfshp was too. Let’s just wait until they explain how it works until we all go mental.

  9. If the experience is better when using your multiplayer rewards in the story how will anybody that buys it used be getting the best ending. I know what they mean by best ending, but the pass is reducing single player enjoyment, so anybody who plays it used will be playing a lesser game. It’s the same as if BF3 would force you to use a pistol all throughout the story until you unlock the other weapons online. They’re using their power by affecting the quality of the game in order to force people to give them money. This is the exact definition of the word extortion. How is this not a crime. Oh yea, because we blindly agree to the ToS which calls it a service instead of a crime.

    • Somewhat sensational statement at the end there.. People who don’t play MP will hardly be playing a lesser game – they just won’t get a shortcut (because the game is DESIGNED around the SP) for currency, or whatever the rewards are. Hardly the same as having a primary weapon removed.

      Besides, people who buy a game pre-owned are already getting the game cheaper – so buying the optional pass shouldn’t break the bank there. Though buying a new game online when it goes cheap (which they all do in England sooner or later), would save you even more money..

      Hardly extortion.

      • When EA announced their online pass they said it was because of the additional costs associated with servers and data storage. They stated that the money from the passes would help improve the multiplayer experience. Now the pass is being strategically used to alter the single player experience. To lock out content that has no effect on costs of servers, or any additional costs to EA. Just like the very first online pass, this is only going to become more common in time, but as it becames more common they’re going to keep locking out more and more story content. In time, a used game will become nothing more then a demo version. Their forcing people to either buy new or receive an inferior game. And ironically the multiplayer experience for every single EA game hasn’t improved one tiny bit. All EA wants to do is disrupt the used game market, which is a legal market. They’re abusing a position of authority for financial gains. Just because they have the technology to lock out content doest give them the right.

  10. Someone had to cut open the golden goose didnt they?

    Online passes are bad enough, why should I buy the game twice new or a pass so both my dependants can play it on their own profile.

    The server argument is now null and void as first Rage locks out single player content, now ME3 is about to do the same. This is about profit, plain and simple. Milk the customer for all they’re worth.

    No the wonder people buy 69p apps in their millions. It doesn’t feel as much like a mugging compared to full price, unfinished, half the content held back £40 titles.

    If this is the future of console gaming then I’ll bow out soon and stick with the PC and steam. At least Valve look after their customers.

Comments are now closed for this post.