Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: Your favourite single-player campaign

GameCentral readers discuss the best ever single-player modes, from Resident Evil 4 to Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time.

The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Tomen, who asked what your favourite single-player experience has been, whether it’s a single-player only game or just one part of a larger game.

Despite having so many options to chose from many names came up multiple times, including Uncharted 2, God Of War, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare, and various Mario and Zeldas.


So good they bought the company

Marvel’s Spider-Man was a recent really good one. I am still kind of surprised, and I’m not sure ho much is by accident or design, but I’m so glad that Sony has concentrated so much on single-player games this gen and that they have had such huge success with them. Between them and Nintendo they’ve basically destroyed the argument that they’re less profitable and no longer a killer app, which we should all be grateful for.

Combine that with the discrediting of loot boxes and I think single-player games are in a really good place right now. Spidey is obviously going to get a sequel, for example, especially after Sony went and bought the developer and as a fan of the comics I find the portrayal of Peter Parker in the game to be better than in the movies. I suspect that they’re building up to a two-player option with the introduction of Miles Morales though, so I’m a bit worried about that. The first game is so great because you can explore the world and take everything at your own past and I think that’s the magic of single-player that you lose with other kinds of games.
Hank Hill


Best of the best

Sometimes I think the only people that aren’t 100% sold on Zelda: Breath Of The Wild are existing Zelda fans, or at least they’re the only people I’ve ever met that didn’t like the game. Me though I love all the games to one degree or another and consider Zelda to be the greatest video game franchise of all time.

Breath Of The Wild is my favourite of them all and such a masterful single-player game I have no idea how they’re going to top it. Exploring the world and working out how to fight enemies and craft items is the most enthralling gaming experience I have ever had. It’s also a million miles away from any kind of multiplayer experience I’ve had. Which is not to criticise them but it’s such a different thing there’s almost no comparison.

When I’m playing Zelda I feel like I’m in that world, that the whole game is designed to entertain and challenge me and can do (and has done) so for hundreds of hours. Single-player and multiplayer are completely different and while I enjoy both when I’m in the right mood it’s single-player that is by far my favourite.


Man vs. machine

Dark Souls is the ultimate single-player experience as far as I’m concerned. There’s a little bit of multiplayer in terms of the phantoms and messages left behind but essentially it’s just versus the computer and it really does feel like a David versus Goliath battle the way.

People talk about the difficulty and obvious it is a very hard game but it’s really more about perseverance and observation. Dark Souls requires all of your concentration all of the time, making it the opposite of most other popular games at the moment. Which is why I’m so happy it was such an unexpected success.

Even better, they haven’t tried to capitalise on that success by creating tons of terrible spin-offs farmed out to unconnected developers. If this was EA we’d be knee deep in multiplayer spin-offs and loot boxes by now but Dark Souls has stayed classy and I would instantly be interested in any new game that came out in the series.


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Home on the range

Maybe it’s recency bias but after completing it a few months ago Red Dead Redemption II feels like the perfect game to me. Amazing graphics, as we all know, but it’s the size and detail in the world and the believability of the characters that stays with you. Apart from maybe The Witcher 3 there’s no other games that do this as well, not even GTA V, which feels very cartoonish after playing Red Dead.

What’s also interesting for the purpose of this Hot Topic is that Red Dead has a multiplayer mode, but for me it’s nowhere near as enjoyable. When you’re playing against other people who are being typical 21st century trolls all the atmosphere and realism just fades away.

That’s why single-player player will always be my favourite and why I really am not a fan of adding multiplayer options to single-player games. Although at least in this case I can completely ignore it.


Modern classic

I take this Hot Topic as a Call Of Duty type of affair, meaning mainly a multiplayer but with a campaign mode tagged on. Either way I nominate Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This game not only introduced me to a modern warfare scenario but to an experience which is second to none in a first person shooter.

Previous Second World War games took up most of my previous time but, wow, this game is quite something, as well as very realistic. Take, for example, the night time plane flight with the night vision. Taking out enemies from the comfort and safety of being out of range rang very deeply in the type of world we live in now. The conversations going on over the radio, or from your buddies on the plane when taking out the enemy, just made it even more immersive and just makes you think of what the modern day battlefield is like – a very sombre affair.

The Chernobyl level had an effect on me also and hit home hard the situation that is still impacting on life today. The background sounds with the ethereal music playing plus the distant voices and cries of a lost people was very poignant indeed.

The ghillie suit stealth level was really absorbing and was pulled off to some great effect. Not forgetting the other various styles of gameplay and familiar battlegrounds, as seen on the news and films alike. I particularly like the characters and how they were portrayed as they really made you care a fair bit for them, especially when you were left in a world of destruction after some nuclear device went off and it seemed as though all was lost.

Modern Warfare 2 was also an amazing journey and a very addictive campaign storyline also. But it would be Call Of Duty 4 which had most of my favourite and most memorable moments. A breakthrough of a single-player campaign by the developers and the start of a regular series of games that would prove to be money makers in their own right.


Never bettered

I know it’s been in the news a lot lately but for me it’s The Witcher 3. That is such a fantastic single-player experience I’m not sure I expect it to ever be bettered, not even with Cyberpunk 2077 (although hopefully it comes close).

A good single-player game is all about putting you in a world you feel apart of, where you can explore and do things however you want. At least for me. I can’t stand linear games, like Call Of Duty campaigns, and much prefer to roam free and do things how I want. The Witcher 3 is all about that and just writing this make me want to play it again!


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Play it again, Flowey

As I considered this Hot Topic, I realised how many of the usual suspects still held up. The sinister sophistication of Silent Hill 2, the satisfying character arcs of Disgaea: Hour Of Darkness, the immaculate plotting of Skies Of Arcadia. They still hold up. And, if I remember right, I usually pick Skies Of Arcadia for these topics.

But now? Now I have played Undertale. It is pretty much perfect. No, I’m selling it short: it actually is perfect. From a storytelling point of view. Mechanically, the environs may leave you feeling a bit cold but this is still a great setting. The world is as alive and rich with lore as, say, Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask or Dark Souls. In fact, the royal cities in both are somewhat reminiscent of each other.

The plot is compelling and inventive, still leaving room for player choice to direct it and the characters are among the most fascinating and loveable you will ever meet. To the point where I could never, ever imagine myself doing a genocide run.

I killed Toriel in my first playthrough because I wasn’t sure how to get her to back down, so I just kept attacking. No, I thought, she’s got to back down any moment now. Any moment. She’s down to her last few HP, she’ll surrender now and applaud my tenacity or something. I’ve played role-playing games before! I know how this kind of scenario ends! But, like most players, I got a very nasty shock when Toriel doesn’t back down. Well, she dies. I was more upset than should be possible.

So Flowey mocks me – just to rub salt into the wound. But I take the little jerk’s advice and reload my game. Then I realise, after a certain point, Toriel’s attacks no longer touch. So the answer is… to do nothing! Ha!

And then she lets you go, off on your adventure to save the underworld. Or not. But not before giving you that iconic, powerful hug. The notion that you could harm any of these wonderful oddballs is so unconscionable that it makes you question the kinds of violent acts that would normally be deemed heroic in most other games. What? You killed Papyrus? You monster!

Yes, who is the real monster? Which could be too on the nose but it’s more like the La Marseillaise scene in Casablanca. On paper, it shouldn’t work. It should all be too corny. But it works perfectly. Yes, Undertale is the Casablanca of video game narratives. Of all the Temmie shops in all the world…


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