Editor's note: Isaiah's account of the ongoing decline of local co-op is more mournful than cranky. What can I say? I really miss the days when I would sit on a couch with my brother for hours and play Contra. -James
The other day, I had a friend over who wanted to sit down and play through Transformers: War For Cybertron's cooperative campaign. Unfortunately, the game surprised us. It has no co-op campaign.
This got us talking about a simpler time when men were men, and games knew their place. You should note that while writing this I wore a cowboy hat and slim-fitting jeans. I did that to remind me of a time when pressing start wasn’t an activity for just one anti-social gamer on a couch…sometimes two to four nerds would saddle up!
Today we have consoles that, in a way, promote solitary gaming. That’s right my little cowboys and cowgirls. Current multiplayer games encourage players, adrift in the isolation of the Internet, to hide behind a veil of avatars and screen names. Excuse the obvious joke, but has the culture come to a point where gamers are only playing with themselves?
Because I have long championed single-player experiences, it feels really odd for me to write this article. I felt hypocritical until I came to the realization that games have many effective parts. For some, maybe exploding heads online at 60 frames per second is what gets their spurs spinnin’. I can’t be mad at that.
What does anger me is the omission of a game feature that was once the backbone of social gaming. Maybe it is time for a change. I don’t design games, and maybe this admittedly old-fashioned mode isn’t worth slowing down the frame rate of Red Dead Redemption or Battlefield: Bad Company 2. But I've seen recent games where co-op thrives. It often encourages players grab real-life friend or, dare I say, a family member.
Remember the simpler things in life? Like four turtles jump-kicking three Foot soldiers who were out for a late night stroll.
Nowadays, most console co-op games are bite sized — titles like Critter Crunch and rereleased golden-era puzzlers. In my time, games were truly cooperative, and you could play Turtles in Time with a room full of your closest calloused-thumbed buddies. Remember Krang? He was a solid nemesis, but he's not a foe I want to topple with strangers while fighting the lag on my cheap DSL connection.
Traditional modes of cooperative play are dying like a loyal dog who's gotten rabies from a crazed possum. The concept even seems to escape the people doing remakes like Turtles In Time Re-Shelled and Final Fight: Double Impact. Have you played these lackluster rehashes?
Final Fight was a game whose only claim to fame was its huge sprites and its simple co-op brawler adventure. Now you can only play it if you're logged into PSN. This is a blend of old and new that isn't working. I supposed, as a gamer of yore, I should appreciate any attempt to placate me. I don't.
I guess co-op and group play aren't without hope. Sort of….
Please, allow me to sip this mint julep while I ponder a bit more on the subject.
I want you to participate in an experiment: Venture over to Co-Optimus.com and find a handful of games you like that came out in this console generation. How many of them have offline co-op? How many of them require the Internet to utilize the local co-op? Do you want to play a local co-op version of Modern Warfare when you know most of its development time went into its online components? Probably not. This is the problem.
We should make a bigger deal about local co-op and offline play in general. I dare say that the Internet may not be the best way to play with a friend. And why does the Net have to interfere with everything? When a game requires Internet verification for local play or your friends to leave your house just to play a game with you, something is wrong.
Anyway, it's almost high noon, and it's time to go hunt some varmint, so let me try and sum up all of these oddly placed words:
It could be that it's too late for us old wranglers. Maybe I miss games with local co-op because it reminds me of arcades and playing games with friends after dinner. Maybe designers and publishers know what the gaming community wants better than I do. I don’t look at metrics and market trends, but if Sunset Riders 2 was coming out the same day as Gears of War 3, I have a good guess as to which game would sell better.
Maybe it is time to put offline co-op games out to pasture. You will have to excuse me if I make a little fuss about it, though. It seems like nobody else cares to.
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