These terms seem to be coming back into "fashion". More and more games are focusing not only on their story and single player campaigns, but also their online multiplayer, as well as huge additions in the cooperative campaign modes. Some games, like Gears of War, reward and promote teamwork and comraderie. Other games, such as Final Fantasy, also try to employ the same idea of comraderie, but strictly through their story telling elements.
I start with these two games because I like them both and I am currently playing them both. I played through Gears of War 2's single player campaign mode in about 4-5 weeks, I had a lot of fun, and through out the story I really felt like I was a Gear and part of this team even though it was mostly through story telling and I wasn't playing with a friend or anything. About 6 month later I gave the game to my best friend, whom I played through R.E. 5 with, (more on that to come later) and I bought another copy of the game to play online. We have been playing over the course of 3 or 4 months now, and I can tell you the replay value on the game is ridiculously high once you add in the additional human element that playing with a friend provides. When I think of games that were made with two players in mind I think of Kane and Lynch, Army of Two, heck even games like Little Big Planet, Gears of War in my eyes blows all of these games out of the water, simply with it's action and pace alone. But it's that factor of playing with your friend to get through a ridiculously intense battle with a bunch of grub and a stray Brumak, that makes this game so much more... incredible!
I know there's a group of gamers out there that will totally disagree with this entire post, the question most often asked by these types of gamers is "Why share the glory when I can have it all to myself?" I say to each their own, but I also keep this in mind, collectively we can achieve much more than we ever coudl individually. And that's in everyday aspects of life, so in video games when they give you the ability to use that mechanic, that second set of hands and eyes, the second brain and persepective. The way we look at the world is different in many aspects, a lot of the people we get along with share similarities in view points and perspectives, but overall the eyes we see the world through are all different.
Solving the "issue" of coop play that is not only entertaining but also challenging and enthralling is a tough one I will admit, but not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. To date, my favorite coop game is Resident Evil 5. For reasons I have discussed in my review (See Resident Evil 5 Review ) , but now let's get into the emotional attachment that you develop plaing this game.
Let me give you a little background on my experience with the game...
My best friend had played near every iteration of the game up to this point. We had been looking forward to this game for months, and the day it came out I went and bought it from gamestop and prepared to embark on the adventure. That first night we played for 7 hours straight, there were moments of sheer terror, coupled with extreme delight, and all the while we were entranced with the action. Because we've been friends for 11 years we have a synergy that natural adjusts itself to what we are doing, and when it comes to competition/gaming, we have almost no equal. We played through and got all the way to chapter 5-2 before calling it a night. The next day after getting out of the house and socializing, we got ready to get back down to business, only to discover Sheva's stats had not been saved and so we needed to go back to the beginning of the game and play through to get her re-equipped and ready for battle... terrible news seemingy from the outset. But then we realized as we started playing that first frantic level again, we'd gotten better. We weren't trying to escape our attackers so much as lure them into traps and stay on the offensive. Of course I was equipped with much more powerful weapons than you begin with, but I found myself defaulting to the pistol and precisely taking down the horde of "zombies" that was after us. As we continued back down the path from whence we came we found ourselves much more easily dispatching enemies and reveling much more inthe battle. I found myself salivating at the opportunity to take down a pack of Majini (the name of the zombie like creatures the locals have been turned into). By the time we got back to our original save point we had basically doubled up on our experience through the game, this proved to be priceless in our play of the game from this point on. The game didn't become easier by any means, but we became much more confident in our ability to deal with any threats thrown our way. I can't tell you how much more confidence you have in yourself when you feel like your are in complete control of your character and have the tools at your beck and call to destroy your enemy (more on Character Control in another blog).
When we finally finished the game, and thought we were done, the mercenary mode unlocked and we dove right back in.
The overall message here is that cooperative play made this game for me. I didn't even pick up the game when my friend wasn't there to play, partly because it was our mission we needed to finish together, and partly because the A.I. isn't all that great anyway. I didn't want to cheapen my experience by not having my friend around to see the new sights and cutscenes, but I really felt by the end of the game we had accomplished our goal, and finished a great adventure together. It's been 2 years since then and we still find ourselves playing Mercenary mode> I can't tell you how excited I am about the prospecst of future multiplayer games and immersion into these incredibly detailed and deep worlds and stories. Realistically I am never going to go on an adventure to Mars and fight zombie aliens trying to eat me... but maybe one day in the near future my friend and I can *cough, cough* Dead Space 3 perhaps?