It takes two.. or 16 for Sam
Co-op is gaming is a wonderful thing that’s often overlooked by developers as they see it as getting the way of telling a decent narrative. While this can be true and Dead Space 3 has recently demonstrated that having someone else with you turns scary moments into some kind of ridiculous comedy, that doesn’t mean co-op lacks value. It’s often a great way gaming for people who don’t really play too much, ideal for families and partners who want to get involved with each other’s hobbies. Both can play and have fun, with one player taking up some of the slack and the other getting someone to look after them and save them from the frustrations of the game over screen.
Co-op could potentially ruin a good game (I’m not convinced Half life would have worked in two player), but it can also rescue an awful game. Nearly anything played with a friend, particularly on the same sofa is a huge amount of fun, but finding these games can be difficult. So here’s a list of some of the best co-op games available at the moment and what exactly makes them so much fun.
The Lego Series (except Lego City Undercover)
The ego games are this gen’s archetype of the co-operative game. They feature local multiplayer and drop in-drop out gameplay. This means someone can literally plug in a controller and start playing with no real messing around. Each game features loads of puzzles revolving around the different minifig’s abilities and working together is key to victory. The games are basically comedy anyway, so everything just gets funnier once you had an extra person to laugh (or groan) at the slapstick comedy. There’s some many to choose from but a couple stand out, notably Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings. None of them are bad games though, and if there’s one that goes with something you already have an interest, go for that. Most of them can be found pretty cheap nowadays and most are available on PC, 360 or PS3. They can get a little simplistic at times and it’s hard to shake off the impression they were made for kids, but there’s enough of a decent challenge if you’re serious about collecting every single secret.
Left 4 Dead
Both titles in the Left 4 Dead series are fantastic co-op games for up to 4 players, but they do have a tendency to let you expose your true colours. While playing the first game with a good friend, I found us both surrounded in a street near the end point of a section of the No Mercy level. He went down, and for some reason the zombies surrounded on him, ignoring me for a moment. Without even hesitating, I ran for the exit, leaving him to a grisly demise as bait for my escape plan. I’m not sure our friendship has ever been the same since. The games can be played split-screen for two players or online for up to 4, and there are a wide range of difficulty options available, with Expert being brutally tough and almost impossible on Left 4 Dead 2. Obviously your enjoyment of these games revolves around how much you like fast zombies and FPS games, but the blind sense of panic stays intact while you’re playing with friends, and once you reach the end of a story you really feel like you’ve achieved something together. Unless you left them to be eaten.
Gears of War
While the Gears of War games might not appeal to everyone (and are only on the 360) they’ve got so much right with the co-op features it’s hard to know where to begin. They started with two-player co-op but moved up to four player for Gears of War 3 and Judgement and have such a range of features it makes playing with people of any ability a complete joy. First and foremost, you can set individual difficulties. One play could be on insane, while the other is on easy, and somehow it just works. You get achievements for the difficulty you’re playing on, and in recent games you get experience while playing towards unlocks for the multiplayer modes. The stories are a fun ride and all of the games hold up graphically, even in split screen mode. They’re ludicrously macho and over-the-top but that’s what you want when you’re playing with friends, something you can laugh at and enjoy.
Halo doesn’t go too far to explain how co-op works. While the other games in this article so far all have other characters for you to play as, Halo simply drops you in as extra Spartans without making too much of a fuss about it. Thankfully the up to 4-player co-op in the later games do nothing to harm the main game although it can spoilt the mood of ODST and Reach a little bit. They’re all fantastic games in their own right, and the tactical FPS gunplay takes on a new twist when you have someone who can work with you. The vehicle sections become much more fun when it’s a real person manning the turret, and there’s a range of split screen and online ways to play together that can easily be mixed and matched. There’s even challenges based around co-op to help you get motivated.
Many thanks to ‘Wilsba02’ on Reddit for reminding me of this glaring omission, Borderlands is an absolute joy in co-op. While you both do need to have a decent idea of how to play, the fact that it is a fully featured FPSRPG that features four player co-op, with two player split-screen is amazing. When the first title came out it gave me hope that every game would be this way, but sadly that was not to be the case. The only issue is the loot, Borderlands is all about loot and when that spectacular orange rocket launcher with the crazy effects drops, who’s going to grab it first? Never be a sniper, you’ll always be too far away and your greedy friends will grab everything.
This is a little different from the other entries in the list, because the main game can’t be played through in co-op. There is however a full co-op campaign complete with extra maps via DLC, and it’s brilliant. It also makes a nice change as there’s very little violence other than dropping your partner into a pit by use of portals. The comedy remains intact from the main game and the two robots you control have become important characters in their own right. A brilliant co-op experience on a game that’s surprisingly cheap nowadays.
The ‘fun if it’s in co-op list
The following games are oddities, single-player they’re even average or complete garbage, but they take on a whole new life of their own in c-op that make them a lot more fun to play through.
Army of Two
We haven’t played the newest title, but reading reviews of it I often see it described as mindless, anarchic and extremely violent. Then for some reason it gets a low score? Army of Two is what happens when somebody thinks Gears of War is too serious, it’s campy and ridiculous but so much fun I was tempted to put it in the top list, the only reason I didn’t is because single-player it’s pretty dire. There’s third person shooting and passable shooting at that, storylines that take you through zoos and cities, and you can design your own masks in the second game (I created a particularly fetching Iron Man mask). Most importantly though, the key driving power behind this game is that if you save up enough money you can ‘pimp’ your guns. that’s the right verb, because the top level for each gun covers it in gold and diamonds. Beautiful.
Resident Evil 5 & 6
The last two major Resi titles have featured typical Capcom craziness with an ostensibly horror backdrop, but both have forgotten how to scare their audience, preferring action over atmosphere. Adding a co-op player into the mix though turns these average adventure-action games into something special and exciting, and sometimes hilarious. I’ve 100% completed Resident Evil 5 thanks to the co-op mode and once you start getting tooled up it’s strangely compelling as you make a mockery of the supposedly intimidating enemies and slightly broken gameplay mechanics.
Kane and Lynch
These games were critically panned, but I had a lot of fun playing through them with a friend. Co-op allows you to forgive games their repetitive natures and just have fun with the story, and things escalate so quickly it’s hard to get bored in these modestly-sized games. Missing out on them completely due to the lacklustre single-player also means you miss out on some fine gaming characters and some interesting visual effects in the second game.
This game is awful and broken and really should never have been released, but in split-screen it’s a whole bunch of fun. You play as some kind of future cowboys riding bizarre huge vehicles clearly designed for one person and doing backflips to climb up ledges. Nothing about it makes much sense but it’s entirely comedy gold, and short enough that it doesn’t get boring. You can even strand your partner in various places with no way to escape other than to wait for you to finish the level or quit out of the game. It’s brilliant.
So what have we missed? Post any other suggestions below in the comments, we’re always on the look out for more exciting co-operative games to play!