Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Bring co-op multiplayer back to the sofa

I remember a time when playing a game with a mate meant fighting for sofa space and pretending to be a good host by offering them drinks that you secretly hoped they would refuse because you weren’t thirsty. It meant your extra controllers actually got some fingerprints left in the dust, and by the end of the session, someone might have a sore arm or bruised ego.

Nowadays though it seems like the internet is brutally killing my fond childhood memories by moving the majority of multiplayer gaming into cyberspace, leaving sofas criminally under populated. I can’t help but think that the current state of playing online with your mates shares the same level of personal connection as leaving your children at the orphanage does. I miss not needing a microphone to speak to someone when a zombie is bludgeoning me to death with rotting limbs.

My joy really hit its peak though when I got my hands on a copy of Splinter Cell: Conviction last week and found out that the frankly brilliant co-op campaign, and the other multiplayer modes had splitscreen support. It meant that me any my brother could completely blitz through it, gleefully loving every neck snapping, double tapping, goggle wearing second.

Some of the biggest disappointments I have found in games lately have been the lack of support for local multiplayer. System Link games are no good as you need two consoles and two TVs for that, not exactly what your mate might be willing to bring over on the off chance you fancied a game together.

Mercenaries 2 was a huge disappointment in my eyes, not that it was a bad game, but because the co-op mode was solely online. Where’s the fun in running around and blowing up the world when you can’t then turn round to a mate and let him know how awesome you are, only for him to do the same thing moments later. When you choose to play a co-op game with the general public, a surprising lack of co-operation is usually on the cards, as one guy runs off thinking he knows better. Whether he does or not is irrelevant, he’ll either run off and kill everything, or charge into the distance and have his balls blown off. Either way, you don’t get the fun of working together.

This is of course not true with all games. I have had some amazing Left 4 Dead sessions where the randoms were a really joy to play with, and were promptly added to the friends list as contacts for future awesome games. I have had a huge amount of stinkers at the same time though, so it really can go either way.

The Army of Two games are also utterly brilliant in my opinion. As a singleplayer experience they are nothing too spectacular, but as a co-op shooter, they are knee rubbingly good.

I can appreciate the challenge of creating splitscreen games as developers basically have to overcome the challenge of rendering the same world twice. On the other hand though, Ubisoft have pulled it off brilliantly in Conviction, which shows just how well it can be done. I really hope that this will start to become more commonplace as I really want to get more use out of my second controller, and maybe an excuse to buy numbers three and four.

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