Time to co-op: the best games to play with your friends

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Photo from Steampowered.com
Photo from Steampowered.com
Photo from Steampowered.com

By Graeme Acres

When it comes to gamers who like multiplayer there are two kinds – those who want to shoot WITH friends and those want to shoot AT friends. Having spent years of getting beaten down at Halo (thank you, SnipingSam420noscope) I eventually realised that I belong to the former. Co-operative gaming (or Co-op) is my vice, it’s a chance to ignore highly-complicated stories and blatant fanservice that comes from games like Metal Gear… Y’know what, names aren’t important.
My point is co-op, in particular splitscreen, gives you a chance to hurl excuses and abuses at your bestest of friends. To lay spectacular plans and watch it all end in horrible failure (Collin, if you’re reading this – you know what you did). And sometimes even to triumph against all odds. So let’s talk about co-operative multiplayer. Here are five suggestions of mine if you want to assemble you friends and take a welcome break from work.

Left 4 Dead 2
Year of Release: 2009
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, OS X, Linux
Trust me, this is a classic – both on consoles and PC. A game that can push your sense of teamwork to the limit, Left 4 Dead 2 uses an AI Director that ensures every playthrough is a unique zombie-killing experience. It analyses your team’s performance and tries to out-manoeuvre you by changing its tactics. If you’re a good teammate, it is a rewarding yet challenging experience. If you are a bad teammate, strap in and wait for the bad karma.

Alien Swarm
Year of Release: 2010
Platforms: Microsoft Windows
This one’s for the PC master race, you know who you are. Strutting around with your slightly-higher-quality-but-barely-different-graphics! [I look forward to your hate-mail] Alien Swarm is a brutal close-confines top-down shooter where you take on overwhelming numbers and constant friendly fire to discover the fate of a space colony that went off the grid. So, totally not the plot to Alien series. It encourages players to specialise in certain classes and stick together as the game requires each class type to perform unique roles in each mission. And never run off alone. It just doesn’t end well. You aren’t Sigourney Weaver, so why try?

Borderlands (1, 2 and the Pre-Sequel)
Year of Release: 2009 (Borderlands), 2012 (Borderland 2) & 2014 (Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel)
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (Last two consoles only apply to Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel)
This series is a firm favourite of mine. It can randomly generate a bazillion different weapons. It allows for two player splitscreen or four players online and contains a world just packed with awesome and hilarious moments that will keep you glued to your seat. And it has so many references, you’ll laugh yourself nerdy! Seriously, the world of Pandora needs you guys.

Castle Crashers
Year of Release: 2008
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Xbox One
You may not know this one, so read closely. Castle Crashers is a golden oldie that has been brought back to life in glorious screen-shattering 1080p at 60fps! That was sarcasm. It’s a cartoony beat-em-up where you are part of a band of brave knights trying to save a bunch of kidnapped princesses. Don’t worry, it’s a mocking parody of the damsel-in-distress tale. You can even pick your style of play based on the raw elements of magic, so coordinate mix-and-match your abilities with your friends and go save some princesses.

Portal 2
Year of Release: 2011
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360
Violence is not always the answer, so here is something for the pacifists. Portal 2 is a great game for 2 player co-op – both online and offline. This is a game for the thinkers and the trollers. Defy physics and common sense as you take on a series of testing chamber designed to deter, maim or kill you (don’t worry you play as robots, so technically it shouldn’t hurt). Enjoy the dulcet tones of GLADOS, the bad guy, as she narrates your failures and renders your successes meaningless with her sarcastic dialogue. To complete co-op in Portal 2, it’s not just about playing together – it’s about thinking together.

So those are my recommendations. Give them a try – save a zombie-in-distress or fight off a horde of princess. Wait… wrong order. Nevermind. Take your mind off looming deadlines and keep yourself (relatively) sane with a bit co-op gaming.
All for one and one for all!

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