Split-Screen, couch co-op, just playing with your mates; whatever you want to call it, it’s dying out. Sure, online gaming has brought people from all over the world together and made it easier to game with your friends, but in my opinion there’s nothing that can replace the brilliance of playing a videogame with your friends literally beside you. Why modern game devs don’t realise this, I may never know, but this, a new regular feature focusing on the brilliant world of split-screen gaming, aims to bring the injustice into the light. Or, failing that, it’s a small dedication to couch co-op. We’ll be discussing classic co-op games, distinctive memories of playing with friends and giving you some hints on current games that offer local modes, all while looking forward at some upcoming games that lead the charge for the renewal of split-screen gaming. Welcome to Sofa Sharers.
First up, a look back at a particularly excellent split-screen game. For the first edition, it’s my personal favourite co-op game ever, the wonderful Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars. Supersonic is a wacky little PSN title that released back in 2009 to a tepid reaction, which is my bitter way of saying that not many people liked it. It reviewed pretty averagely and I doubt they sold a whole load of copies. Well the joke’s on those people who didn’t pick it up, because for a bargain price, Supersonic brings one of the most ridiculously fun and amazingly accessible local co-op modes ever.
The game is essentially football with tiny little cars (that also happen to be rocket-powered and acrobatic). The physics are hilariously airy, meaning the ball is often difficult to predict, but after a bit of practice it’s easy to learn the moves required to get it under control. The game features a bunch of different vehicles, pitches (some of which are amazing) and has a decent single-player mode. I was pretty well sold on the game when I first bought it; playing solo is fun enough, even if you’re not a football fan. Turns out I barely knew what I was getting into; once you’ve played Supersonic with your friends alongside you, there’s no going back.
You can play the split-screen mode with up to four people, and while it’s great fun to play with just two, the maximum number is the best way to play. Playing 2v2 games can be tense, hilarious, varied and ultimately great fun. My friends and I used to play tag-team tournaments in which teams of two battled it out for the SARPBC crown. It got competitive, often heated, but there was always an underlying appreciation of this little game that felt, in some ways, like our own. In a time when little indie games were only beginning to come out of the cracks, it felt strange to be loving a game that no one had ever heard of, but that was part of the appeal.
Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars is a masterclass in couch co-op gaming. It’s totally functional, completely adaptable to the number of people playing, and feeds off the simple, but therefore accessible, gameplay. Back at the end of last year, I named it one of my top games of the entire console generation, and I stand by that statement. I know I’m not the only person who greatly enjoyed playing Supersonic, I’ve heard tales of people playing it from those who I’d never expect to even like games on the whole. It has a brilliant general appeal and should be a part of everyone’s collection
“Looking within” is my lofty way of saying “memory time”, each edition of Sofa Sharers will feature a new memory from gaming’s past from one of our staff (or maybe a reader through social media). It offers a chance to take a look at a specific event, level or gaming session that involved split-screen gaming. Everybody’s got at least one moment they can remember; if anything is going to be a tribute to the successes of split-screen, then this little section should be it.
I’ll kick off proceedings with a memory that’ll long remain in my mind. It was while playing Resident Evil 5, in local co-op mode of course, that my friend Ben and I encountered one of the toughest battles, not only of the game, but also of our friendship. We were battling against this stupid, annoying boss who just wouldn't die. Some black-tar-bio-creature of some sort. Neither of us are RPG players, so tough boss levels aren't exactly something we’re accustomed to, safe to say, we got accustomed to this guy.
We spent a good four or five hours trying to kill him, from about 3am-8am in the morning. It was frustrating, draining, almost friendship breaking, but we drove forward with the hope that we could kill the bastard. For all the crap we went through, it was an experience to remember. No matter how many times we died, no matter how many damned barrels we blew up only for them to have no effect, it remained a fun journey. Alone, there’s no way I would have endured more than an hour of it all. As brothers in arms, we were going to take down this foul demon!
Unfortunately, we didn’t take down the demon. We fell asleep mid-conquest. Not every story has a happy ending, I’m afraid. We did return to the game about half a year later, and this time (with the aid of an online walkthrough) we beat him pretty quickly. It was a huge success, although we were mostly just pissed off that it proved so difficult the first time round. We beat Resident Evil 5 after two huge gaming sessions that consumed our every thought. They were brilliant fun though, no matter how annoying some moments became. I just wish I could say the same for Resident Evil 6.
Finally, “looking forward” gives us a chance to glance into the mystical ball of couch co-op and see what lies ahead for local gaming in the future. That could mean details on an upcoming game with confirmed split-screen, or it could mean speculation as to whether certain games will feature couch co-op support and in what manner.
Destiny is undeniably one of the biggest games of 2014 and also of the next-gen consoles. With the game recently delayed to September, world-renowned developers Bungie now have longer to craft the exact game they desire. The sci-fi MMO-esque shooter is looking to be an intriguing prospect; a canny combination of Borderlands-like RPG exploration and Halo inspired gunplay. If Bungie’s past is anything to go by, it could also be one of the best split-screen games on next-gen. There’s been no confirmation of local co-op as of yet, and if it does feature in the final game then don’t expect to hear about it for a while. Still, every past Halo game has included a brilliantly produced split-screen mechanic, so why they’d remove this feature from Destiny would be beyond my understanding.
The game has a co-op focus, that much is for sure. Bungie have been quoted all over the internet saying that the game will be the ultimate ‘play with your friends’ experience. Well if they really want the ‘ultimate’ experience, then I believe that local co-op is a necessity. With so few people actually owning next-gen consoles, split-screen is a real selling point at the moment as it’s one of the few ways to play PS4 or XB1 with your mates. What with the recent trend of not including split-screen in AAA titles, the likelihood is a little lower than it otherwise should be, but I’m an optimist, so I’m going to give it a likelihood rating of 8/10. It’s my new, super important score method that Bungie will no doubt see and note with great importance.
That’s all for now. Sofa Sharers will go live every two weeks on a Friday, so be sure to check back for the latest article. Let’s not let split-screen die, but help it rise from the ashes like a Phoenix!