Back in my childhood, in the days of quality Saturday morning cartoons, pancakes and sweets for breakfast, there used to be a legendary event that was whispered through the mists of dawn, where I heard the battle cry of my kin, racing towards me with controllers as swords. This was called… Couch Co-op.
This was where many friendships and relationships died on the battlefield, or even created beautiful partnerships of courage and strength. Unfortunately, that time, although not completely dead, is coming to an end, as we no longer see front rooms or bedrooms full of people playing together in person, but rather online. Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, of course, but I do however miss it greatly; especially snack time! You know, that time-out you took when you beat your opponent in Smash back on the GameCube, or the bloody violence that was Mortal Kombat on the legendary Sega Megadrive, and enjoyed your victory or defeat with a big gulp of the finest mead (cola in my case), followed delicious banquet of crisps that fulfills your hunger until the next battle!
Whether you lost, or were the victor, you shared that moment of friendship with each other and cherished it or hated each other for 5 minutes and proceeded to plot their murder in your head until someone brought you a snack…Uh…Or am I the only one?
There are so many games that gave me such great memories with either my parents (With me and my dad playing Marvel vs Capcom all the time on my old PlayStation!) or with friends and family playing Sonic 2’s co-op back on the Megadrive – Even in this day and age with Halo 3 on Xbox 360, and Call of Duty Black Ops (With both Zombies and Multiplayer) making us rage at the TV in brand new ways, as well as modern day indie games like Enter the Gungeon or Rocket League supplying us with co-op and splitscreen, it still seems that some developers still want to satisfy us niche gamers who crave couch co-op.
Luckily we still have games such as Mario Kart and Mario party, and even Splatoon where we can have a good ol’ laugh with buds on the couch, but take note this is mainly prevalent with Nintendo, as they develop games with the intent to create a family friendly environment. Given this however, Microsoft have tried in the past (What with the Kinect) with Kinectimals and Dance central, alongisde the Playstation Move, both forms never took off due to them requiring a large amount of space, lack of competitiveness, and early saturation of the market – The main issue was that the games for these “Family Friendly sub-systems”, were that they were good for the first hour or so, but easily got repetitive, and eventually everyone who owned an Xbox or Playstation 3 wanted to forget about those dark times, and carry on with their day to day lives…With Sony however I believe they succeeded in some of their exclusives, such as Little Big Planet as that thrived with social interaction with both online and couch co-op, since it’s primarily a game in which you must work together with others in order to complete fun platforming, puzzling challenges.
But alas, our beloved splitscreen is a dying race, that was once a proud and noble aspect of games, but now is more of chore to develop for in games. In all honesty I don’t blame them, with the majority of modern gamers being online with either MMOs, FPS’es, and even strategy games like Shellshock Live (Which you can check out our review for here! https://respawning.co.uk/pc/shellshock-live-review/)…
Given that, though, there are some shameful examples of modern day splitscreen, for example, although The Binding of Isaac is an absolutely amazing game, the split screen co-op lacks greatly in purpose, and is plagued by awkward controls, unfair punishments and unjust balancing issues; even in a Triple-A games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, splitscreen runs at nearly half the average FPS of fullscreen, and even downgrades the graphics just so the game can cope with two people. Microsoft are also guilty of this, with Halo 5 sacrificing all forms of splitscreen co-op to not “impact on the 60fps experience of Halo 5″…Halo! Once the king of modern splitscreen gaming! It’s certainly a crying shame.
However, with the dawn of online gaming now becoming central to nearly every modern game, giving endless possibilities to meet others with similar interests at a touch of a button…Sounds cliché right? Well because it’s true! Whether you play online through PSN, Xbox Live, Steam or even Miiverse, you’re bound to find hundreds upon hundreds of players doing exactly what you’re doing. Playing something you love. That was the purpose of split screen, to create and form friendships and bonds with each other through a passion that you have, similar to board games (but that’s another story all together!). Whether you love it or not it is and will always be a big part of gaming history; it caused a chain reaction of tournaments, from eSports to charity events, and without the legacy of couch co-op and split screen, none of this would be possible.
With all that said couch co-op will always be in my heart and maybe it will be in yours too (Given that, however, I am SO glad that everything is wireless now…!).