Some of my happiest memories as a young whippersnapper were sitting in my bedroom with a couple of mates playing split-screen games. I found that split-screen or “couch co-op” started to gather momentum with the N64, personally I didn’t have a lot of experience with that particular console but I remember going to a friend’s house, getting eviscerated at GoldenEye and having to endure the humiliating bragging of the victor. Over the next few years we had the launch of the PS2 and later the Xbox and this was a golden time for the co-op. A huge selection of games came out that supported split-screen and a few on the Xbox went up to four players. My young mind was in overload.
I remember sitting with three of my childhood friends playing through Ghost Recon 2 on the Xbox, I remember the buzz we felt working as a team and organising battle plans. After the first couple of games I started to feel like I was in Full Metal Jacket or Platoon. It really was a hell of a time to be a young gamer (with no social life or after school activities).
The turning point, for me at least, was the release of the last generation of consoles. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 quickly developed a huge focus on the PlayStation Network and Xbox live. Suddenly people weren’t limited to playing with one or two friends on their sofa but could play with people around the world!
This is a great facility and our most recent generation of consoles have been built around it. I admit to feeling a slight deflation as the months and years ticked by and fewer and fewer games had local co-op. Sure I could get humiliated playing Halo Reach Online but it’s lost the personal connection that I had enjoyed growing up.
Some games still support local co-op but these are becoming rare indeed.
I completely understand why it is being phased out. We can play online with people all over the world, that’s a marvelous thing, so why should it really matter if you can play with someone sitting next to you?
I understand that developers are now trying to build games to max out the hardware capabilities available to them and this means a lot of these games would need to be downgraded in order for it to run in split screen. I do understand these reasons and for better or worse, its progress.
I’ll admit I am a man-child but it does still make me sad knowing that in a few years’ time I may not be able to have my friend see my “victory dance” when I beat him on Gran Turismo without logging onto twitch.