Multiplayer games, by their very definition, require multiple players. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk on multiplayer games. It sounds simple, but in reality, the idea of two or more people playing the same game together across the world still feels like weird space magic. Games like Fortnite and Call of Duty managed to bring in millions of players every month, but there’s more than a few multiplayer games that could be considered dead on arrival.
It’s natural for multiplayer games to experience a limited shelf life, as players move on to other games as time passes, but some just aren’t given the chance to succeed in the first place. Whether through lacklustre sales and reception, a lack of publicity before launch, awful game quality or some other combination of reasons besides, some games are only fit to be considered as dead on arrival. Here’s a selection of some of our favourites. They’re not in any order, but they are pretty dead.
1. Dead Alliance
Developer: Psyop Games, Illfonic Publisher: Maximum Games Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
You might be wondering what the hell Dead Alliance is, but honestly you’re probably better off not knowing. One of those games that ambitiously tries to create PvPvE scenarios, Dead Alliance is set during a zombie post-apocalypse where military bases have become cities. Players will compete against other teams for control of objectives, trying to use the zombies as a weapon — as you do.
It sounds decent in concept, but in action, Dead Alliance is an incredibly ropey and unsatisfying game to play. With little in the way of promotion ahead of launch, and an awful multiplayer beta that exposed the game’s litany of issues, Dead Alliance was rather fittingly dead not long after launch. It’d be a shame, but developers Illfonic are seemingly undeterred by dead multiplayer games. Friday The 13th died through no fault of their own, but then there’s the next game.
2. Predator: Hunting Grounds
Developer: Illfonic Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Platform(s): PC, PS4
Once again, it’s a bit weird to describe a game as dead on arrival when there’s been post-launch patches and updates to try and stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, Predator: Hunting Grounds’ lukewarm critical reception and seeming lack of large, mainstream sales have ensured that the game is certainly not long for this world. There seems to be a cult fanbase for the game, sure, but Illfonic had to have been expecting better.
It’s a shame considering that the Predator IP has yet to see a game that really makes the most of the terrifying potential that one of movie’s greatest monsters has to offer. Concrete Jungle was a janky mess of a game, while the AvP games never had the real staying power you’d hope for. Playing as a Predator taking down a team of players as marines seems like a natural fit for a game, but Hunting Grounds just isn’t the ideal version of that vision.
3. Rocket Arena
Developer: Final Strike Games Publisher: EA Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
One of the biggest aspects that can contribute to a game being dead on arrival is whether or not the pricing of the game is correct, and Rocket Arena just didn’t seem like it was worth the entry fee. A non-conventional multiplayer shooter, Rocket Arena tasks players with knocking each other off maps instead of blowing each into smithereens. It’s a different take, but one that could have been effective.
However, Rocket Arena launched with a £25 price tag, with the promise of battle passes and post-launch content, while looking not too dissimilar to games like Fortnite, leaving many to wonder why they’d pay the entry fee when there’s other games out there for free.
This frosty reception has led to huge price cuts for the game, and it’s now available as part of the EA Play subscription service, which is usually a bad sign for a live-service multiplayer game. Perhaps the Game Pass Ultimate integration with EA Play will stave off the reaper a little longer, but Rocket Arena was pronounced dead on the scene, even if it manages to be revived. Now, all eyes are on Knockout City, EA’s next attempt at a weird multiplayer game.
It’s not just competitive games that are susceptible to D.O.A. status. Co-op games are just as likely. If you ever felt like playing a bad version of Left 4 Dead, Earthfall seems like just the ticket. Swapping the zombie virus for an alien invasion, Earthfall sees up to four players trying to take down waves of weird extra-terrestrials, though your patience will likely wear thin before the enemy count does.
In fairness, Earthfall did have one or two interesting ideas. The concept of 3D printing weapons and defenses in order to survive in a world overrun with aliens is pretty cool and likely realistic, but the core gameplay was so shoddy and laborious to play that the overall experience suffered as a result. Poor reviews and the fact it was a barely promoted new IP asking for near enough full price meant Earthfall died a death on launch.
5. Overkill’s The Walking Dead
Developer: Overkill Publisher: Starbreeze Platform(s): PC (PS4 & Xbox One was planned, but abandoned)
The game’s widespread derision also led to the game’s planned console ports also being cancelled, which is a special kind of “dead-on-arrival” that’s only really be topped by one other game. We’ll get to that one in a second. The Walking Dead’s failure has led to a number of financial difficulties at Starbreeze, but apparently they’re hard at work on Payday 3, so it’s not all bad news, eh?
6. The Culling 2
Developer: Xaviant Games Publisher: Xaviant Games Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Oh god, The Culling 2. We’re dredging up that corpse again. If there’s ever a game that dropped dead quicker than it walked through the door, it’s The Culling 2.
The sequel to The Culling, one of the forefathers of the battle royale genre, TC2 managed to launch and subsequently be delisted within a couple of days, as there simply wasn’t enough players populating the servers to even fill up a lobby. In the game’s brief lifespan, there was only an estimated handful of proper matches total. A few days later, the game was delisted from all available platforms.
While the first game was portrayed as a game show battle experience not too dissimilar to The Hunger Games, The Culling 2 felt more like an ill-conceived knockoff of PUBG and H1Z1. When you sacrifice a core part of a franchise’s identity to chase an established trend, you’re setting yourself up for failure, and fail The Culling 2 certainly did. Nowadays, Xaviant are spending their days charging players a fee to have matches in the relaunched version of the original game, a move that was widely ridiculed.
Developer: Turtle Rock Publisher: 2K Games Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
There’s a couple of games on this list that have tried to emulate the success of Left 4 Dead, the fantastic zombie co-op shooter from Turtle Rock, but even the mighty developers of that game aren’t immune to putting out dead on arrival games, as their last title, Evolve, felt like it crashed and burned. With all the hype of the L4D series behind them, Turtle Rock sought to redefine multiplayer with an asymmetrical experience, but the results just didn’t match up.
One of the first instances of the 4v1 multiplayer genre, Evolve saw a team of four hunters attempt to track down and kill a monster controlled by another player. It was an ambitious game, but the characters lacked identity and the overall gameplay balance left something to be desired. Monsters were designed to level up as the match progressed, but if monsters happened to get caught by hunters early on, they were dead.
Developer: Relentless Studios Publisher: Amazon Game Studios Platform(s): PC
Proof that just because Amazon has a lot of money doesn’t they can just force their way into the gaming industry, Crucible was a multiplayer game that saw multiple small teams compete to complete the same objective, with different characters offering various abilities that players would have to mix and match to complement each other. That might sound interesting, but it also sounds a lot like Overwatch and Team Fortress, at least when it comes to utilising varied heroes anyway.
Crucible had actually been in development since 2014, but the game finally received a public release in May of last year. However, due to fan feedback on a lot of the game’s core design, plus a dwindling player base only a month after launch, Crucible “unreleased”, going back into closed beta.
Developer: Rebellion Publisher: Rebellion Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Time to make myself sad, I guess. Despite the fact they can be a bit ropey, I love Rebellion’s co-op shooters, like Zombie Army Trilogy and Zombie Army 4: Dead War. However, Strange Brigade’s mix of horde shooting and historical setting looked like it could have been Indiana Jones meets Left 4 Dead. Unfortunately, Strange Brigade never resonated with a huge audience, leaving it resigned to history like the many archaeological finds the Brigade encountered.
In fairness, Rebellion’s shooters might not be to everyone’s taste, and the fact that Strange Brigade was a new IP that was untied to previous games like the Sniper Elite series, meant Strange Brigade struggled to find its feet in a crowded multiplayer scene.
After a season pass of content, news on the Strange Brigade front just dried up (aside from a Stadia launch in 2020, but that’s hardly a big help for a game), before Rebellion moved on to Zombie Army 4, which is still receiving content over a year after launch. Fair play.
Developer: Codemasters Publisher: Deep Silver Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One
If any game development company knows how to make a racing game, it’s Codemasters. Their work on the Dirt and F1 series of games alone is a testament to that, but they’ve also tried to branch out and experiment with the racing game genre. Onrush was meant to blend team-based gameplay with fast-paced, arcade style racing for a unique fusion that could have been built to last, but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
Admittedly, Onrush is quite the tough sell. Racing games can be a bit more niche at the best of times, but adding onto that the fact that Onrush utilises objective-based game types over straight up racing, and that the vehicles fit into certain classes, might have made it seem a bit too impenetrable for the casual fan.
Despite plenty of hype for the game before launch, Onrush has seemingly disappeared off the face of the map. At least Codemasters are doing okay though, thanks to EA.
Developer: Boss Key Productions Publisher: Nexon Platform(s): PC, PS4
We’ve mentioned already that Crucible failed to gain any real groundswell, in some part due to the fact it’s a hero shooter and we’ve already got decent hero shooters. If anything, the Crucible developers should have realised that’d be an issue after the release, and subsequently swift death of Lawbreakers. Despite launching to critical fanfare, the game found itself delisted just after year from the game’s release.
Attempting to blend the hero shooter hallmarks with frantic, meaty multiplayer seen in the likes of DOOM, Quake and Unreal Tournament, Lawbreakers seemingly fell flat like a pancake after the first couple of weeks. The aesthetics looked like the drawings that edgy dude you know in school made, while the game tried to cater to a hardcore shooter market that might have alienated most from giving the game a chance. Lawbreakers was a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but if most potential players don’t feel welcome, you’re not going to last very long. There was even a moment where publishers Nexon attempted to blame PUBG for the game’s lacklustre sales.
Of course, we couldn’t mention Lawbreakers without talking about Radical Heights, Boss Key Productions’ next/final game that attempted to cash in on the battle royale genre while combining with the ever-present “80s synthwave aesthetic”, where everything looked like it’s being played on a Betamax. Ideas-wise, Radical Heights was the gaming equivalent of a petri dish, throwing ideas and gameplay at the wall in the hopes of finding something that sticks. Nothing did, and Boss Key ultimately and unfortunately shut down not long afterwards.
What the hell is it with Capcom trying to turn the Resident Evil series into some kind of multiplayer franchise? There was Resident Evil 5 & 6, with 5 containing some Versus DLC and 6 being, well, 6. There was also Resistance, the asymmetrical multiplayer experience that came bundled with Resident Evil 3, and Capcom are also launching RE: Verse, a multiplayer shooter coming bundled with Resident Evil 8. None managed to set the world alight, but perhaps the biggest disaster in the series is Umbrella Corps.
Another competitive multiplayer shooter that happens to feature zombies as a threat, and also just generally another zombie game, Umbrella Corps was lambasted as a needless addition to a franchise that frankly collects needless additions like they’re postcards. People still collect postcards, right?
Earning mockery not just for being a far cry from the series players loved so much, Umbrella Corps just wasn’t that much fun to play, leading to the game being abandoned pretty soon after launch. Fingers crossed RE: Verse isn’t heading down the same path.
Developer: Ready At Dawn Publisher: GameTrust, GameStop, Ready At Dawn Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
This one might be a bit of an obscure pick, but if anything, that just makes it even more eligible for inclusion on this list.
Deformers, Ready at Dawn’s follow-up game after developing The Order: 1886, was a physics-based multiplayer brawler that saw players take on the role of weird gelatinous blobs, smacking into each other to deal damage and try to kill each other. If that doesn’t sound all that appealing, then congratulations! You’re one of the many, many, many people who skipped over Deformers at launch.
Truth be told, I only know about Deformers due to getting a review copy at another website, and to Deformers’ credit, it featured a football mode that was actually pretty fun in short bursts. However, it was impossible to find a full game, meaning Deformers could never live up to any potential it might have had. Of course, it didn’t do itself any favours by launching as a $30 game with very little in the way of modes or incentive to keep playing.
14. Hellgate: London
Developer: Flagship Studios Publisher: Namco Bandai, EA Platform(s): PC
Time for a classic entry. Purchasing a multiplayer game that ends up dying not long after launch can really sting, as you’ve tried to support something that clearly didn’t pan out. However, with your typical worst case scenario, the situation will have cost you around £50/$60. With that in mind, let’s spare a thought for the poor souls who forked out $149.99 for a lifetime subscription to Hellgate: London, only for the MMO to suspend subscriptions only 8 months after launch, and for the game to be delisted 8 months after that.
Originally launched in October 2007, Hellgate: London was an ambitious action-RPG with multiplayer elements that was developed by some former Diablo devs. Unfortunately, due to developers Flagship overhyping and under delivering, Hellgate was considered a huge disappointment upon launch, leading to the eventual pie in the face moment that was the subscription suspension and subsequent server closure. Hellgate has been reissued since then though, as a single-player only game, so perhaps there was some potential there.
Or someone with a lifetime subscription wanted their money’s worth. Either one, I guess.
15. Gotham City Imposters
Developer: Monolith Productions Publisher: Warner Bros. Platform(s):PC, PS3, Xbox 360
The Batman franchise has been home to some multiplayer haunts in the past. If you remember that Arkham Origins had a multiplayer mode, then you get today’s gold star, but right now we’re talking about Gotham City Imposters, a game that saw the citizens of Gotham take on the mantle of Batman or the Joker, and wage war on the streets. It was an intriguing idea that launched on the Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Games For Windows – Live, and that’s probably what spelt disaster for the game.
Games for Windows – Live is a known disaster at this point, but back in 2012, there wasn’t much in the way of downloadable multiplayer hits on the Xbox 360 and PS3. If you wanted multiplayer that was less likely to be dead, you were shelling out for a more mainstream game. Gotham City Imposters launched in February 2012, and by August, the game went free-to-play on PC and received no new updates. I remember playing this on Xbox 360 when it came out, but after a week or so, I’d moved on. Seems like everyone else did too.
Honourable Mention: Hyper Scape
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Platform(s): PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X | S
To be honest, it’d be unfair to really describe Hyper Scape as “dead on arrival” considering that Ubisoft are looking to refine the game, and content updates are still scheduled through 2021. However, Hyper Scape might very well be on life support, considering the fact that not long after launch, Ubisoft pledged to give the game a massive overhaul in response to player feedback. They even offered $10 coupons for people to play the game on PC.
The issue with Hyper Scape is that it’s a battle royale game in a gaming landscape that’s just becoming lousy with them. Between Fortnite, Apex Legends, Spellbreak, PUBG, Call of Duty: Warzone and many more besides, the battle royale genre isn’t the novel and interesting concept it was a few years back. I’m far from an industry analyst, but I don’t predict good things for Hyper Scape in the future.
Honourable Mention: Any Multiplayer Games on Stadia
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