Give me a great Video Game and I will sit down for hours. I will be drawn in by the characters and their stories. I will be amazed by the beautiful scenery and animations. But give me a mediocre game and I will play it for about ten minutes before ejecting it from my console and giving it to a homeless man. I can’t sit down and play through these games, I just can’t. I try, lord knows I have tried. A developer somewhere in the world has giving up countless hours of blood sweat and tears into the game but there is just no way I can play it…by myself.
There is only one thing that has saved a handful of these games from becoming sharp, shiny toilet paper for the homeless…Co-Op. I’m not talking about your fancy Dan online deathmatch rubbish here or even online Co-Op with somebody you have never met but sitting next to a friend in the same room.
Some games have made it into my “Top Games” list purely on the amount of fun I have had in the Split Screen Co-Op campaign modes. My tolerance for technically weak games rise if they have Split Screen Co-Op, old fashioned split screen action. I am going to take you through a few of my favourite games that, whilst never set the world ablaze, have ended up being some of my all time favourites.
The Conflict Series
In September 2002 Conflict: Desert Storm was released, a third person squad based shooter set in Iraq during the first gulf war. I was a fresh faced sixteen year old embarking in his vital college work (Media Studies…ahem). In between the coursework I purchased Desert Storm. I got the game home, unwrapped it and popped it in my beefy Playstation 2. I began the game as Rifleman John Bradley serving with either the U.S Special Forces (or S.A.S, you could choose). Bradley had been sent into Iraq with his squad to rescue Foley, a Sniper who had been captured whilst trying to blow up a bridge on the Iraq – Kuwait Border to slow down the advance of Saddam Hussein’s armour division.
Bradley died whilst trying to save Foley…A lot. I just couldn’t get to grips with the game. I had three people I could control at once, bullets and rockets were coming from all directions. I’d take over control of one of the other squad members and one of the others would die. I got so frustrated with the thing that I just gave up.
The next week my friend, who we shall call Ronald, came over. We decided to put Desert Storm in after seeing the two player co-op symbol on the back of the box. I inserted the disc and turned the lights down low. We started tearing through the game taking out thousands of Saddam’s Henchman as we went. After a couple of nights we had finished the game and wanted more so we ramped the difficulty level up. This is where the real fun begins.
“Shit, I’m down, the big bastard tank appeared out of nowhere”
“Where are you, I can’t see where you are”
“Look at my screen you idiot I’m right in front of the Saddam’s death tank”
“Hurry up my screens fading out, I’m doing to die”
“Wait, wait I can see you I’m coming…Shit I’m dead as well”
“Why the hell didn’t you throw smoke down, you know tanks can’t see through smoke. This is your fault, we have to start from the beginning again now. Jesus you are shit”
“You are the idiot that ran out in front of the tank in the first place”
And the arguments continue. Even when we continue on with the game and get mowed down time after time by the same big bastard Saddam death tank we argue. But then, that moment arrives where the smoke is thrown, Ronald sneaks behind the tank while I am distracting the guards by firing wildly towards them and then BOOM! The tank blows up into 3 pieces (come on, it was the PS2), we finish off the rest of the guards and the game autosaves. We leap out of our seats give each other a massive High Five whilst complimenting the other on what a good job they have just done, the arguments have been forgotten.
Over the next three years three new Conflict titles were released on the Playstation 2 and Xbox – Desert Storm 2, Vietnam and Global Terror. These carried on the tradition of poor single player modes but with a fantastic Split Screen Co-op mode more than making up for this. These games were all brought on launch day and gave Ronald and I endless hours of bitching, moaning, wanted to strangle each other and, of course, fun.
Army of Two
“You idiot, why have you gone and made your gun gold plated…you are an utter fool”
That was the response I was greeted with one day when playing Army of Two with Ronald, he just couldn’t see the point of “pimping” your gun. This was a big part of Army of Two, the bigger your gun, the more bling you attached the more enemies would focus their attention on you allowing your partner to sneak up behind them and shoot them all in the back.
Army of Two was sold as the ultimate co-op game, the developers and all the PR people for EA were touting the fact showing off co-op moves such as one player ripping a car door off and leading the other player down a street whilst firing at the enemy, giving boosts up to higher ground and my personal favourite standing in the middle of an open street, back to back firing off rounds in slow motion. The game looked pretty good and I was sold on it before reading any reviews. Picked it up on launch day and got into action with Ronald.
It was another great play for the two of us, using teamwork to take down bosses and whinging at each other when we died (or me adding diamonds to my grenades). It gave us a few more hours of fun. Again, the game is not what I would call a “great” game and certainly couldn’t play it in single player but the fact that I had my best friend beside me meant that the fun we were having and the banter flying around just took the game to a different level.
On a side note, Army of Two had the best use of the PS3’s (utterly pointless) Sixaxis controller, you would shake the controller to reload…For some reason it was taken out of the sequel and I still can’t understand why.
Now, I have said that mediocre games can be fun some are just not saveable by the inclusion of Co-op. Conflict: Denied Ops released in 2008 on PS3 and Xbox 360 was one of those games. Alarm bells started ringing when I saw the game had moved to become a First Person Shooter. Then I played it…What a horrible, broken mess…not even sitting down with Ronald could save this one.
There is no way I could get the same satisfaction playing these games with a stranger online; how could I berate someone I don’t know? How could I share those moments where we have completed a level that has taken 3 days to complete?
Oh Split Screen, don’t ever leave. Developers, keep including competitive online multiplayer options just don’t take my Split Screen away.