They say that everything’s better with friends, which probably explains why cooperative games have always been pretty popular. Whether playing online or on the couch, we’re sharing our favourite co-op sessions in this instalment of Team Talk, which, it should be noted, didn’t necessarily occur in our favourite co-op games. That’s a whole different discussion.
Many, many moons ago a friend and I sat down for some classic couch co-op with How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition. We both went in blind, knowing only that it was a zombie survival title, not yet realising it’d become a test of endurance more than anything else.
As our blood alcohol level increased, so did the challenges presented to us, in both the real and virtual worlds. Bigger and badder enemies started to appear more often, from undead behemoths which explode when killed, to friends who questioned our decision to spend a beautiful summer afternoon getting hammered and playing a videogame.
After much deliberation, we arrived at the conclusion that said friends would (probably) not explode when killed and, thus, should be dealt with in more mundane ways. Thankfully, closing the curtains not only eliminated screen glare but also kept these incredibly realistic bad guys at bay.
As with all cooperative endeavours, teamwork was key. One of us would hold down the fort while the other went on solo expeditions to gather invaluable supplies, a task which grew more perilous as day gave way to night and the smoky living room became littered with the corpses of fallen beer cans.
I'd like to say we completed How to Survive in one sitting, but my most memorable co-op experience is also the one I remember the least about…
Playing games together is a sure-fire way to enhance the experience in my book. While my first solid co-op experience was the Halo 3 campaign (still one of the most fulfilling of all time), the pinnacle of the concept is without a doubt Splinter Cell Conviction for me.
First off the co-op campaign has its own characters and story, at least to an extent. While it's only two-player co-op (who has time to find more than a single friend to play with consistently anyway?), you’ll quickly grow to love Red and Green and forget about the sad loss of the Spies vs. Mercs mode from previous Splinter Cell titles.
One memorable sequence has you completing objectives in parallel across a level before you both end up attached to the bottom of a truck, which unwittingly acts as your getaway vehicle. The satisfaction to be had here cannot be understated.
The game's signature Mark and Execute mechanic, which has you hover your reticle over enemies to visually mark them and then hit fire to take them out in quick succession (similar to Dead Eye in the Red Dead series), also really hits its stride as you mark enemies for your buddy to take down. Delicious!
I’ve enjoyed countless cooperative experiences over my 25-odd years of gaming. From recent delves into the Overcooked series, to Streets of Rage 2 with the little sister, co-op games really do make lasting memories. Which is why, dear chums, I’ve gone for World Cup 98 on the N64.
Picture this scene, if you will: four 12-year-old boys in the grip of World Cup fever, crowded around the telly playing 2-on-2 whilst recreating scenes we’d seen unfold in the real tournament, all to a soundtrack of Des Lynam, John Motson, and Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping.
Surprisingly, neither duo ever selected England, instead opting for either Brazil or France, the two teams that'd go on to contest the final. Understanding which player was controlled by whom was always entertaining, as were the celebrations both on screen and off. It also helped that the host’s Mum always made pizza and garlic bread, and that the host’s brother also procured us our first sample of beer…
Anyway, I digress. I have many fond memories of that World Cup: Carlos Valderrama’s hair, Michael Owen’s incredible goal against Argentina, France dismantling Brazil in the final - but none touch those gaming sessions. Now, repeat after me: I GET KNOCKED DOWN, BUT I GET UP AGAIN...
Here's one of those memorable in-game celebrations, as performed by England, the team Rob should've been playing as.
Like Rob, I could easily have gone with World Cup 98 for my choice this week. Me and my brother would always team up in an attempt to take England to glory, grinding out vital results in the group stages before inevitably facing elimination in the knockout rounds. The graphics may have been a bit rubbish, but EA managed to nailed the pain and disappointment of watching England in the latter stages of an actual World Cup.
Instead, I’m going for a more recent pick with Overcooked 2. Not that long ago I ended up on a team that featured not one, but two professional chefs, who also happened to be avid gamers. After a brief breakdown of the controls, we set to work smashing nearly every high score I'd set up to that point.
Dishes were flying out not just on time, but in the correct order as well(!), meaning we racked up some seriously meaty scores. Most impressive was the way they both actually stuck to their assigned roles, calling out what they needed in clear, concise fashion – exactly the sort of calming, professional presence Team PTC was missing when we took to the kitchen.
One can never have too much pepperoni, apparently.
What co-op session do you most cherish? Let us know in the comments below.