Whilst I do like gladiatorial style grudge matches with friends in the same room on Super Smash Bros: Brawl, I also like uniting with my fellow peers and blowing stuff up. There's just something about being in the same room, with someone you know, and going through a game, annihilating it together. Maybe it's the camaraderie, and the simple commands that you can give each other without the aid of a microphone. Or perhaps it's the fact that you only need one expensive console and television that are not hooked up to the internet.
Call me old fashioned, but I do not like the amount of games coming out with a solely online co-op mode. The term 'co-op mode' should be a guarantee that you will be playing through a game together, side by side, with a degree of co-operation. Open this environment up to the internet however, and it could very quickly dissolve into being paired with someone who will steam roll the game solo, leaving you to polish your gun, and avoid stepping in left over brain matter. That is not what co-op multiplayer gaming is all about! Not to mention the new levels of griefing it could open up, when you're new found internet best friend decides that dropping a laser designated bunker busting missile on your face is hilarious. The trouble is, this is exactly the kind of thing that I would be tempted to do at least once in a game like Mercenaries 2. Online there is the added incentive to do it because the person I am playing with will never be in the same room as me, ready to acquaint their fist with my gentleman regions.
The influence of today's post could possibly be the fact that the aforementioned Mercenaries 2: World In Flames comes with a solely online co-op multiplayer. I think this is a bit naff as a game like this would be brilliant to play with friends. Instead of being able to open it up to everybody in a beer and gaming evening, you now instead have to be in possession of friends with their own Playstation 3, who have to stay at home to get a game in with you. This is not the case if you are willing to take your PS3 to said mates house and then link it up to the internet over there, fumbling around with an extra TV and more extension chords than a PC World showroom. After all that effort you might as well decide to screw the gaming and have a few beers, because in half an hour you will need to take it down again.
This lack of split screen multiplayer seems to be going against the idea of multiplayer gaming. Instead of gaming in the same room together, drinking and being merry, Pandemic Studios want you all sitting a mile or so apart, getting hammered by yourself and only communicating via microphone. They are very much in the spirit of 'togetherness' it seems.
I do realise that there are sacrifices that need to be made in order to have a split screen game, after all, you need to render the game environment twice. To get around this, some games tone down the graphics a bit. In my mind, this is a worthwhile trade off. Take Army of Two for example. There was a game which was a bit 'so-so' when playing through single player. Get a mate over however, and the gameplay receives a huge boost with tactical decisions and bodies flying in every direction.
Multiplayer seems to be the latest feature that every game needs to have, but driving it all online does rather derive from the original premise of a good night in with mates. Now its all about having an average night in with people you know as 'y0d4 88', who may or may not be an undercover policeman trying to coerce you into indecent situations with minors.