Near, Far, Co-op Wherever You Are
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Near, Far, Co-op Wherever You Are

I had to go to the bathroom twice during this film, it was soooo long

When Celine Dion sang, “near, far, wherever you are”, I guess she was not talking about co-op gaming, but she could have been.  The debate over how people play co-op has raged (or more correctly simmered) on Co-Optimus on and off for years.  Local, online, system link, arcane magic; which is the best method?  But I’m not writing about physical proximity of players today, but a new issue that has arisen in the past few years as virtual worlds become larger.  What about closeness of characters within games?  The recent releases of Crackdown 2 and LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 have shown me that although you may think you are playing co-op you perhaps are not, especially when it comes to open world titles …

The success of Halo 3, Gears of War and Left 4 Dead took a while to filter through to all game developers, but even the most blinkered fan of solo campaigns must admit that there are now more games being released with integrated co-op, or at least some sort of co-op mode, included.  In the next few months we’ll have at least Kane and Lynch 2, Halo Reach, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Fable 3, Colonial Marines, F.E.A.R 3, Call of Duty Black Ops, and others beside.  However, although they claim they will include co-op how close will the players actually get?  Co-op can be included in all types of games from FPSs, RTSs, MMORPGs and even GLIMs (one of these genres may be made up), but perhaps it is in the open world genre that it is proving the most taxing.

Let me explain using two games, similar in some ways, but very different in others: Mercenaries 2 and Crackdown 2.  When I loaded up Mercenaries 2 and played with a friend I was faced with a bizarre system that meant you could not travel too far from your co-op partner.  You had to remain within a set distance of one another or the game would stop you.  This meant that we almost always entered a situation together because we had little choice.  After a while it became second nature and the fact we were ‘forced’ together didn’t matter as it made sense to attack a camp from two sides and work as one. 

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