When we announced that Bioshock 2 was set to feature Co-op, the Co-op gamer in me jumped for joy, but my inner horror gamer was very unsure. The recently released Resident Evil 5 sparked a similar doubt in me when trying to decide if I wanted to play alone, or hook up with a friend.
On the co-op side of things, sharing the experience of a horror game can be like watching a campy zombie movie with friends. Building fond memories of a time with scary monsters after our brains, or precious life force called “Adam”. Co-op has potential for amusing anecdotes to share down the road.
On the other hand, a lot of the atmosphere and isolation is lost while you're discussing tactics with someone, either via headset or in the same room. Talking, reassuring, laughing, or belching, reminds us that we're not alone. It also drowns out many of the important bone chilling aspects of these games, such as ambient noises and haunting score. Thus making the solo mode scarier.
So, which way is best to experience a horror game, when co-op is clearly available? According to MTV Multiplayer's Stephen Totilo, Solo is the way to go.
Only when I played by myself did I feel pressure. Maybe not intense fear…but pressure to keep Chris and Sheva alive. She needs your help. While a solo player can command Sheva to attack or stay close, most of the maneuvering and tactics are going to happen where Chris is standing. There’s no drawing off half the enemies to the other side of the village, no ability to shout “You-take-the-sniper-position-while-I-draw-them-out!
Which is a very valid point clearly in favor of the Solo gameplay. However, he also says:
I played Resident Evil 5 halfway through with a friend, then all the way through on my own. The experiences made for two radically different games.
My conclusion from this: Resident Evil 5 has massive replay potential through vastly different experiences. One play through meant to be shared with friends, and another that leaves you to your own devices. Which way will you play first?