Halo 4 is due out later this year and, to remind you of this, Microsoft has seen fit to release a pretty standard behind-the-scenes look at the latest entry in the long-running franchise. While not a whole lot is revealed in terms of juicy information, there was one particular explanation of how 343 Industries is approaching multiplayer that caught my attention.
Frank O’Connor, franchise development director, had this to say about Halo 4’s multiplayer. “We’ve always had this sort of schism between multiplayer and campaign, and the campaign was completely wrapped in fiction and multiplayer just wasn’t. We’ve created a fairly compelling and fairly convincing reason why red Spartans can fight blue Spartans.”
There have been attempts to marry the existence of single-player and multiplayer before. Usually, this takes the rather straightforward approach of co-op or the logical extension that one side plays as the good guys from the campaign and the other plays as the bad guys. Or, in the case of Halo, one team is red and the other is blue. But, as far as my FPS gaming experience goes, I’m struggling to think of a mainstream shooter that has narrative-driven multiplayer as a selling point or core focus.
Yes, I may be reading into O’Connor’s comments on providing a “fairly compelling and fairly convincing reason” why two sets of Spartans are duking it out, but the idea just jumped out of the implications of a multiplayer component wrapped in fiction. I’m not talking about a loading screen that provides a synopsis of my fighting motivation, or a simplified multiplayer narrative that extends as far as defending or attacking.
What I am talking about is the hope that Halo 4 (and other shooters) start to integrate a strong narrative emphasis into multiplayer; particularly in this day and age where almost every online shooter has a simplified RPG progression system. Why not take it all the way and let my semi-personalised combatant have a story to be a part of or, even more interestingly, a story to somewhat influence and forge by playing online.
Think about the simple but crucial evolution that Fight Night Champion introduced to the sports genre by including a strong emphasis on narrative (albeit for single-player). After experiencing a narrative drive in Champion, it made it an instant go-to feature that I was looking for in other sports titles; simply because it offers a compelling reason to move from match to match.
As someone who’s still sinking as many spare hours as possible into Battlefield 3’s multiplayer that’s solely motivated by the gameplay on offer, my mind is racing with the possibilities of thinking that future FPS titles could lure me online with gameplay and the promise of being part of a dynamic narrative.
Do you think that FPS titles should include a narrative component in multiplayer?