Its the new hotness, the new "Special Feature" listed on the back of the box, its Co-operative Multiplayer. Granted the "Co-op" feature is as old as the 8 Bit games, and like Mega Man they have suddenly become relevant in this generation. But does the inclusion of Co-op make the game more fun to play? How many games can actually pull it off? and should we be criticizing games for not having Co-op?
Now I have not had a lot of time with Co-op games. The first Co-op game I played was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a pirated console that had no name (and came with 50 inbuilt NES games). I remember that game was fun, actually it was way more fun to play a level with my friend rather than play against him. I have not played the Gears of War games thoroughly, so I cannot comment on whether they are good or not. I have been playing Call of Duty World at War, and I did try out the Resident Evil 5 demo, and I am more than happy to go on and on about them.
Lets try the RE 5 first, since my PS3 hates me, it took me a LONG time to connect with another person online -I kept getting disconnected-. While I am not a fan of the control scheme, it was nice to be able to depend on another person, actually I was fiddling with the controls while he was taking care of the zombie/infected. Now this is a game that would probably be more fun to play with another person, relying on another person while Mr. Big Axe Man swings his big manly man-axe at my head.
Now Call of Duty World at War, on of their "biggest improvement" from the previous Call of Duty game was the addition of Multiplayer -because the story sure wasn't "gritty" or "mature"-. Finally we could play with our friends if we were getting "pwnd" online, we could finish the entire game and experience it as a group. Problem was, they didn't put their money where there mouth was. Ill be honest for a second, I rented "WaW" to practice for Killzone 2 and rack up the trophies, I believe many other people out there like getting those trophies. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the majority of the trophies cannot be accessed in Co-op mode. So even if I finish the entire game with my friends, I "technically" did not finish the game. Why would I spend all those hours playing the story mode? Definitely not for the story, competitive Multiplayer (meaning Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch) is a lot more involving and a lot more fun, and I only get one lousy trophy for going through all the trouble of finding four other people who wont disconnect in the middle of the game.
Now lets imagine for a moment that you are not a trophy whore, is Co-op any more enjoyable for you? It doesn't give you simple option playing through the story mode one mission after another, its just mishmashed and throws you one random level after another. The Co-op experience isn't just four of my friends playing as a squad, its four of us playing as Private Miller or Dmitri, so while I am shooting Nazis and planting bombs, my compatriots trigger the next portion of the "in-game" cutscene which instantly teleports me to wherever I needed to go -this is a problem that a certain Gears of War developer warned about when he was explaining his reason to keep Co-op between two players-.
I believe Co-op is difficult to pull off, you can be unique and create a whole 'nother Co-op experience like Resistance 2, but if people wanted originality, we wouldn't have had World at War in the first place. Now reviewers are complaining that Killzone 2 doesn't have Co-op, which makes me happier than ever. But the exclusion of something -which does not break the game in any way- shouldn't be criticized. Should we then start criticizing video games for not having features we want to see? Is there a checklist somewhere that says that an FPS or a Third Person Action Adventure game MUST have Co-op?
Give me a decent single player game, that is all I ask. I will gladly spend $60 on a great Single Player experience, specially if the Story and the Gameplay is good. Either build your game around Co-op, don't just include it in the game so you can list it in bullet points on the back of the box. There are so many things that can go wrong with Co-op -internet connection is on the top of my list-, and I have been reading about a rumor that God of War III is going to have Co-op, which terrifies me. If you have a good story, keep it in single player because the minute you give others the option to play with me, I don't feel as immersed in the game, instead I talk to them about random things like PSN logging me off on purpose.
P.S. I haven't played Left 4 Dead, but I know enough to never criticize Valve, those guys will hunt you down and kill you.
Also, just as I finished this, my newly downloaded Rebel FM (Episode 5) started talking about Co-op. So any similarities means they stole it from me :)