This week saw the release of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, and next month will see the launch of Titanfall.These games share quite a few similarities, as both are shooters and feature just online multiplayer action. While that isn't something out of the ordinary for PC gamers, who've been used to titles like Counter-Strike or Team Fortress 2 for quite some time, these titles are also launching on the Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles.
While many console titles are focusing primarily on multiplayer experiences, like Call of Duty: Ghosts or Battlefield 4, they also offer a short single-player campaign designed mostly to take fans through set piece moments and explosions, as well as to get them used to the core mechanics, the different weapons, or the vehicles that are present in the multiplayer mode.
Garden Warfare and Titanfall, however, aren't even trying to offer a single-player campaign or even some form of plot.
Plants versus Zombies: Garden Warfare, for example, uses the core story principles already seen in the actual tower defense games, but this time puts you in the shoes or roots of the plants and zombies, who fight against each other as they always do.
You get some interventions from Crazy Dave and Dr. Zomboss, but that's pretty much it, there are no dramatic plots and no cut scenes that attempt to develop the plants or zombies as characters.
More importantly, this just works. Players are quite smitten with the online experience and, thanks to the huge amount of customization options inside the actual game, they can enjoy it without growing bored for quite some time.
I have already praised it in my review for its dedication to multiplayer and for the fact that it manages to blend both competitive and cooperative modes together.
Titanfall, meanwhile, focuses only on competitive multiplayer but does try to deliver a bit more of its plot via special sequences before or after missions.
It's still too early to tell just how this mechanic will work, as the game has yet to come out. Even so, judging from what we've seen in the beta, players can expect to hear some expositions during the campaign multiplayer mode. Those who don't want any of that can just jump into the pure competitive playlist of the upcoming shooter.
Previous games have tried to focus completely on multiplayer, such as the PS3 exclusive MAG (Massive Action Game), boasting a huge amount of supported players and quite a few innovative mechanics. Unfortunately, it was certainly ahead of its time, as Sony took down the MAG servers last year, leaving owners of the title unable to play it.
This is a major danger of online-only games, especially nowadays.
While Counter-Strike 1.6 can still be played, for example, because the community has its own servers, Garden Warfare or Titanfall have only official servers from Electronic Arts or Microsoft.
This means that, at some point in time, a switch will be flicked and the whole online multiplayer experience is going to become unavailable.
EA already has such a system in place, periodically taking offline older games that are no longer popular, like its sports ones.
It's safe to say that both Garden Warfare and Titanfall will be supported for at least a couple of years, but, at some point in time, you won't be able to revisit them.
Even with this danger, however, I for one welcome this change in terms of multiplayer and single-player relationship. Some experiences are better off just focusing on online interaction. If dropping any pretense of a story means a slicker multiplayer and, hopefully, a smaller price (as is the case with Garden Warfare), then I'm all for it.
The future also looks pretty good for this new multiplayer-only phenomenon on consoles, as Bungie's Destiny will also deliver just an online experience, albeit with story elements sprinkled throughout it, much like Titanfall.
Considering both these titles have generated a huge amount of hype, you can bet that more developers are now allocating resources towards creating similar experiences.