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What the World / Needs Now / Is More / Co-op Campaign-Style Gameplay . . .

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Original BFFs

. . . it’s the only thing / there’s just / too little of . . .

I know that doesn’t rhyme.  I’m sorry.  But it’s true.

Digital interactivity is the wave of the future blah etc, we all know that, and the Playstation Network and XBox Live make online gaming easy for console gamers.  There are numerous games that have multiplayer options on them; but, very often, especially in first-person shooters, the multiplayer option is nothing more than separate large, formless maps where you just run around shooting other players.  Sure, it might be your team vs. another team, and you may be required to capture a flag or something, but at the end of the day, it’s just a big deathmatch, and there’s no story or progression of thought involved.  While some people love stuff like this, to me it gets stale pretty quickly.

For me, the best and most fun type of multiplayer option has always been co-op; you team up with a friend and actually work together to beat the game instead of just racking up enmity by killing each other all the time.  This was one of the many staples of old-school console gaming (as evidenced by the Contra screenshot above; I used to love going over to Beal’s place and playing Super Contra — good times).  Double Dragon, Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, TMNT — all these are classic examples of games where you progress through the campaign together, but, is it just me, or is there now a decided lack of games like this?  Tanya and I have been trying to find really good co-op campaign style games that we can play together on the Playstation Network, but so far we haven’t actually come up with that many.  My question is, simply, why can’t ALL games be made like this from now on?

Now of course there are still many co-op games out there on the market, but many of them are lacking in some way; some only have local co-op (meaning all the people have to be playing off the same machine), or some are only the deathmatches as described above.  Even those that do have a co-op campaign mode very often only offer it as a separate, and much shorter, ‘add-on’ to the game; there are very, very few where it’s possible to play the entire story through with a friend.  I don’t quite understand why that is — as I’ll point out in a minute, it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to do.

The game that got me really hooked on this was the PS2 version of James Bond: Everything or Nothing.  Aside from the wonderful opening shot of Shannon Elizabeth in a sliver lamé dress, the co-op campaign itself (though one of those separate, shorter things) was great, great fun and actually of a decent length.  And it was eminently re-playable even after you knew exactly where the guys would come from and what would happen.  Here’s a snippet:

This may sound strange, but I have yet to play another co-op game which was more fun than that one, and it was made six years ago (it’s true I have been out of the gaming world for a while, but anyway).  I know there have been some games created specifically as c0-op campaigns, but I have haven’t played any of them, so I don’t really know how they stack up, though here’s a list I found which postulates a top ten.  You’ll notice that Little Big Planet is on that list; that’s the game Tanya and I have actually been playing quite a lot of, and while it’s fun, I don’t actually count it as ‘co-op campaign’ style.  True, there are moments in the game where you need two or more players to accomplish some goal, but those moments are never to advance in the level — they’re only to get more stickers and other swag.  Same goes for games like Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones; these are a step-up in the co-op department in that you need a helper to get through the level, but it’s all in a very simplistic way, nothing the AI can’t do for you if you’re playing alone.  The main success of these Lego games, though, is the drop-in/drop-out feature, letting you move from single to multiplayer at the drop of a dime; this also solves the biggest problem with multiplayer-heavy games, which of course is that you need someone else to play it with you.  In the past, this could actually be a game breaker because if you couldn’t have a friend come over, or you didn’t have friends who had the same games, you wouldn’t be able to play it. That problem has now been solved with the advent of online gaming and being able to play with strangers if you so desire.  So, companies should be moving toward making every game co-op compatible using the drop-in/drop-out method, even RPGs (that would be truly awesome — imagine Dragon Age or whatever where one of your friends could just drop in and take control of one of your party members; it would be like World of Warcraft, but with a finite end and so minus the potential addiction problems).

Something more like Left 4 Dead is what I’m talking about, though I can’t play that with Beal because my stupid MacBook is too old — I wish Valve would port it over to the PS3.  Or, one game I purchased because it has the right idea, but so far has let me down: Resident Evil 5.

"Just Kick Him In The Balls Already!"

This seems to have everything I’m asking for: the whole game a true co-op campaign, playable either with someone else or on your own with your sidekick AI, Sheva, and a drop-in/drop-out feature. The only problem is that Sheva doesn’t quite cut it for what is needed. She’s damn, damn good in the AI department, all things considered, but she’s still not good enough for the level of sophistication the game is striving for. I find she often runs right in front of me, or, even worse, stands still right in front of me when I’m trying to shoot something; she often runs ahead and grabs all the available ammo and then it’s a pain having to get her to give me some; sometimes she lets herself get cornered too easily and I’m always having to save her. I found that I didn’t enjoy playing the game because her dying would cause me to fail and I didn’t want to have to spend the whole time worrying about her (this on top of the control issues — why do my arms have to move so goddamn slowly?!). Due to this, I decided to try playing online so that a real person could take her over and know what to do and I wouldn’t have to worry about it; the two problems there were that for some stupid reason the other player was allowed to bring any and all guns s/he had already collected from later in the game and bring them to the earlier levels, so while I was trying to survive with my piddly handgun, s/he was blasting away with a shotgun or something, effectively making it not so fun for me, and also, sometimes the person would drop out after ten minutes and I’d be alone again. So while drop-in/drop-out works good with friends, with strangers it doesn’t fly so well.  I still want to give this game a go with a friend, though, so Tanya, if you’re out there — you game?  Bad pun, sorry. 

Killzone 2 could easily have had drop-in/drop-out and it would have improved it immensely, though for some reason they didn’t think to put it in, and Killzone 3 is being rumoured not to have it either, something which has pissed off the co-op-ers out there, for I’m not the only one clamouring for more co-op goodness.  There’s this here website, Co-Optimus, which focuses specifically on co-op games and gives you the lowdown on them, but, of course, it’s all moot when most of the gaming friends you know aren’t capable of playing with you anyway:

Tanya — you’re awesome!

Beal — get a PS3!

Drew — get a PS3!

Jamie — network your damn PS3 already!

Graeme — co-op Ghostbusters . . . co-op Ghostbusters . . . think of it, buddy.  Get on it.

I'm Calling Winston

(I know the multiplayer part of GB is just a short, separate part of the game, not the campaign — but don’t tell Graeme).

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Thursday, August 26, 2010 1:31 pm

    I’m standing right here!

  2. Thursday, August 26, 2010 9:59 pm

    Yep — he’ll never, never know.

  3. Friday, August 27, 2010 2:36 am

    Just present it to him like the whole game is multiplayer — just that most of the time your co-op partner is Venkman, Stantz, Spengler, or Winston.

  4. Friday, August 27, 2010 2:38 am

    Oh, and any chance you’re upgrading your computer any time soon? ‘Cause this spring, Portal 2 is equal parts single-player and two-player. (And you don’t need to be spoiler-paranoid here, this video isn’t gameplay footage, it’s more a very basic example of how a two-player puzzle would work.)

    • Friday, August 27, 2010 5:13 am

      There is a chance of a computer upgrade by spring, yes.

      What’s say we go tit-for-tit — if I get a new comp, you get a PS3?

      • Friday, August 27, 2010 5:10 pm

        Yeah, considering I’m living exclusively off my credit card for the next eight-plus months, there’s no way I’m buying a PS3 any time soon.

        • Friday, August 27, 2010 9:36 pm

          Somehow you’ll have to make do with your PC, Wii, DS, and XBox360.

          • Saturday, August 28, 2010 6:17 am

            My 360 and Wii are in St. Catharines (though I may get the 360 shipped out here sometime).

  5. Friday, August 27, 2010 10:36 pm

    Get another credit card :)

    • Saturday, August 28, 2010 6:19 am

      Or you could lend me yours.

      • Saturday, August 28, 2010 7:34 am

        You have been blessed with the gift of comedy . . . we salute you.

  6. tgjkennedy permalink
    Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:22 am

    I’ve been researching games for us to play in future and Red Dead Redemption looks promising. It’s the equivalent of Grand Theft Auto only cowboy style.

  7. tgjkennedy permalink
    Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:27 am

    Alas.. It’s just stupid multiplayer and not co-op. I was misinformed.

  8. tgjkennedy permalink
    Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:34 am

    The other option coming out would be Lord of the Rings: War in the North. 3 player online co-op…. Looks like it might be interesting.

    • Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:36 am

      Yes — that could be good. Jamie and I played a local c0-op LoTR once — was much fun.

      Still haven’t forgotten about IJ:2 — just haven’t had a chance.

      Also — think I’m going to hit LBP and start trying to design a vampire ;)

  9. Sunday, May 15, 2011 4:33 pm

    Jamie and I played through RE:5, locally, finally, and though the split-screen was a little small, it was quite good. I’d love to go through it again with someone online where I could use the full screen.

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