For me, the PS2 was all about the split-screen co-operative games; very rarely did I play a game without my brother. Games like Dynasty Warriors, Time Crisis, TimeSplitters, WWF, SOCOM, and Unreal Tournament occupied our days and nights whilst growing up. The 360 had some half decent co-op games that I enjoyed playing as well, like Left4Dead, Army of Two, Borderlands, Call of Duty: World at War and Halo 3. But the current-gen consoles seem to have switched split-screen for online, which I find very disappointing. What ever happened to the old fashioned split-screen game?
I love playing a game co-operatively with someone in the same room as me. Gaming online is all well and good, but I feel like you loose that human connection when the person isn’t sitting next to you. It’s like swapping a face to face conversation for a Skype call; it’s just not the same. So it really annoys me when games don’t have a split-screen multiplayer mode. The current-generation of games seem to be focused on the online-multiplayer, with games like Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Dead Rising 3 and Titanfall sticking with the ever popular online game modes of ‘Team Death Match’ or ‘Capture the Flag’. Long gone are the days of the co-op campaign.
CoD and Battlefield could easily have gone for a split-screen campaign and Dead Rising 3’s online co-op options would have been just as good locally. I think the main reason that developers are turning away from local split-screen is partly based on the lure of online gaming as well as the graphical limitations. Online shot in popularity during the last generation of games console. I can remember when Xbox Live was nothing more than a single screen on the 360’s dash; now, when you look at the dash of the Xbox One, a good 70% of it is advertisement for online gaming, YouTube videos, or buying games online. It’s all about the apps, the downloads, or watching what your friends are doing from the comfort of your own home. When you were stuck on a game back in the 90s, you’d invite your friend over to help you complete it (or copy the save file from their memory card to yours). Now you’d hit them up on game chat to ask them how to do it, or search for a YouTube tutorial to guide you through it. I feel like online-gaming is slowly breaking personal bonds that you would develop with friends and your games console; and the majority of these bonds were once built by playing and completing games together.
Developers also shy away from the split-screen because of the significant degrading of game graphics that splitting a screen in half can cause. It makes games look ugly and, if it isn’t done correctly, they can over-stretch or shrink to fit in; sometime it isn’t a pretty sight. But, then again, sometimes it isn’t about how a game looks, it’s about how it plays, and playing it with a friend is always more fun than playing it on your own. I’m a strong believer that the digital can’t replace the physical, and those emotions that you experience when playing a game are multitudes greater when you’re playing it with a buddy sitting next to you. I’d happily sacrifice graphics or usability to play a game with my friend (as long as the game wasn’t made unplayable because of it). For instance, I recently started playing Borderlands 2 again with my girlfriend. Whilst playing the game split-screen, I quickly noticed that the inventory menu doesn’t fit well on a split screen; you have to scroll it up and down to see everything properly and it just feels a bit cumbersome. Still, if that’s how it needs to be for me to play the game with my girlfriend sitting by my side rather than us being in separate rooms, then that’s how it needs to be. If I can play the game split-screen I’ll take a clunky cumbersome menu any day of the week. Gaming in the same room, with the people that you care enough about to share those games with, is something truly special. It’s how I spent much of my childhood… well, that and playing football.
When I was a kid, gaming sleepovers were the done thing. I don’t know if people still have sleepovers now… or do kids just open up a group chat on Whatsapp and spend their nights chatting about who has the best tan in TOWIE? Anywhoo. I can’t count how many times my friends and I had gaming related sleepovers, with the classic LAN party being one of our top favourites. When we were really young, we’d shove the old Multi-Tap on the PS2 and play Time Splitters until we had a migraine. If you’re wondering what a Multi-Tap is, it’s what you used to have to use if you wanted to play with more than two players, way back when wireless controllers weren’t a thing and online gaming was just a pipe dream. As we got older, we’d hook up our 360s to two separate TVs, connect the consoles together with a network cable and then play each other on Call of Duty or Halo 3, split-screen 4 vs 4 style. Now, if we wanted to play a game together, we’d just send a text message and ‘meet’ each other online. It’s kind of sad really… I miss those days, playing in the same room, cables and wires sprawled across the lounge; you can’t beat that face-to-face gaming experience. Though I guess I’m too old to have a sleepover now, I think adults just call them house parties.
So where does that leave us now? The best (and only) local co-operative games that I’ve managed to play on the Xbox One thus far are Rayman: Legends and Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition… and I won’t lie, they’re very similar games. Oh, and I guess you can play sports games together like FIFA or Madden. Still, I want a co-operative shooter. I want to fight by my friend’s side with my friend literally by my side. Is that too much to ask? How do you feel about split-screen co-operative games? Do you miss them like I do, or are you glad that the online experience has done away with them? Let me know in the comments below!