Concord’s Trailer Makes Me Miss Single-Player Campaigns In Multiplayer Games

The first ten or so minutes of Sony’s thirty-five minute State of Play from last week was spent on a brand-new IP from Firewalk Studios: Concord. The trailer opened with a wide shot of a beautifully rendered science fiction cityscape; accompanied with an appropriately synth-heavy soundtrack as a backdrop. We soon see a pair of characters falling from the sky in slow-motion, giving us a chance to see the fine details of their brilliantly rendered motion-captured faces. A jump-cut later we go to a flashback of these otherworldly characters at a local diner eating some purple sludge while bickering about a plan gone awry. From their distinct personality traits, to their model designs, to their dialogue writing and whole “rag-tag team of misfits” vibe, all paired with an overall strikingly vivid aesthetic, it was hard not to see the blatant inspirations this game was taking from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

These inspirations became even more obvious once the trailer picked up the pace with some frenetic action, yet never lost the levity of comedy from all of the incessant bickering between the trio. Each character also had their distinct approach to combat; from the wily gunslinger, to the brutish tank, to the agile power caster. Even through all of this lack of originality, however, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching the five minute cinematic. Yes, it all looked like “we have Guardians of the Galaxy at home,” made by corporate executives that are simply ticking the boxes of what they feel the youth enjoy, but it was produced and directed well, with solid voice acting and writing that didn’t make me outright cringe. It was a good start to a much anticipated State of Play and I was curious to hopefully see some gameplay. Unfortunately, the gameplay that would take up the remaining five minutes of the game’s showcase was when my level of interest waned, significantly so. 

Concord state of play
Oh, so it’s just another hero shooter…great. Image: Sony

Game director Ryan Ellis and studio head Ryan Hsu would come on to introduce Concord as a first-person 5v5 hero shooter where two teams composed of the many colourful characters will be pitted against each other in varying game modes. Whether you’ve played Overwatch, Valorant, Apex Legends, or the many other hero shooters out there, none of what Concord is doing should be particularly fresh nor new for you. It was disappointing, frankly, to see a fairly engaging cinematic trailer be followed up with such a milquetoast, clearly corporate driven demonstration of a game that many have grown tired of.

Sony understand: we want games focused on single player narrative and not multiplayer service games.”
Concord cinematic was giving me Guardians of the Galaxy vibes, until they show it’s a 5×5 shooter and all my interest went [a]way.”
Why is every studio making an over watch clone? Who told them people want that?
These are the first three comments underneath the State of Play YouTube video; many sharing similar sentiments are sprinkled the further you scroll, and were constant from users in the chat during the event’s livestream. It’s a sentiment that I share and can’t help but ask: what happened to the single-player campaign in multiplayer shooters?

Back in the mid/late-2000s to early-2010s, it was almost guaranteed that all first-person shooters, even those with a heavier focus on multiplayer, would come with a single-player campaign. Even if it were a short five hour romp to get the hang of the game’s mechanics, it was something to look forward to with each new release. Some of these campaigns are still held in high regard for their good storytelling and exhilarating set-pieces, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare being one such example–although its politics are questionable at best, though such a thing shouldn’t come as a surprise; this is Call of Duty, after all. Though COD still churns out yearly releases with a campaign in toe, they’ve become an afterthought in recent years. Halo is another example where the game’s campaigns have gone down in history as some of the medium’s best. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as both Bungie and now 343 have strived to give the series’ story and campaign priority since its inception, to varying degrees of success. Interestingly enough it was the campaign of Halo Infinite, rather than its botched multiplayer, that stuck with me and many others, showcasing that a good narrative can do wonders to bring players into a game’s world.

Halo Reach
Arguably one of the best single-player campaigns in any first-person shooter.

This is why it feels like such a missed opportunity whenever I see games like Overwatch and Apex Legends that, much like Concord, have a cast of fun and quirky characters yet go without a proper single-player campaign to properly give substance to those characters and their worlds. Sometimes the developers will give a new cinematic trailer for a new season, trying to flesh out a narrative and deeper lore, but I’d venture to guess that most players simply hit that “skip” button as soon as it’s available. Because at that point, no one cares, and it’s the developers and executives that made us not care. We’ve grown accustomed to simply jumping into a quick and mindless game with our friends, buying new costumes for characters we know nothing about, and traversing worlds that have no significance aside from being vapid arenas for our destruction. That, in and of itself, is fine, but this experience could be so much more. Narratives build connections between players and the game, so giving an opportunity to explore a game’s wider world and lore through the eyes of these characters could bring a layer of immersion to the multiplayer that could benefit a game long-term. 

Sony has been hellbent on multiplayer and live-service for a few years now, as stated by CFO Hiroki Totoki at an earnings call in 2022, the same year in which the company acquired Destiny 2 makers Bungie. Though this venture has thus far been somewhat successful with the launch of games like Helldivers 2, many fans – like the ones quoted above – question if this is the right path for Sony. For the better part of a decade, Sony has published some of the most critically acclaimed titles, from Ghost of Tsushima and Horizon: Forbidden West, to God of War and The Last of Us. The connecting thread for all these games? Story. Each of their marquee titles throughout the PlayStation 4 generation have been great examples of good to great storytelling in big budget, triple-A games. It would have been nice to see some of that crossover to a single-player campaign for a game like Helldivers 2; a game that I’ve gotten greatly invested into but would have – once again – loved to see a campaign for, especially considering the developer’s ability for comedic writing. 

Maybe we’re past the single-player campaign in modern-day gaming, but I doubt it’s because players don’t want it but rather because, as usual, it’s not profitable for the higher-ups. It would be something that I would love to see make a return, though it would need to be done (and done very well) by the likes of a Sony published title (*cough* Concord *cough*), because only then could it potentially move the needle for other studios to follow suit. 

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