Just The Two Of Us

Give me a great video game and I will sit down for hours. I will be drawn in by the characters and their stories, I will be amazed by the beautiful scenery and animations, but give me a mediocre game and I will play it for about ten minutes before ejecting it from my console and giving it to a homeless man. I can’t sit down and play through these games, I just can’t. I try, and lord knows I have tried. A developer somewhere in the world has poured countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears into the game, but there is just no way I can play it… by myself.

There is only one thing that has saved a handful of these games from becoming sharp, shiny toilet paper for the homeless… co-op. I’m not talking about your ‘fancy Dan’ online deathmatch rubbish here, or even online co-op with somebody you have never met, but sitting next to a friend in the same room.

Some games have made it into my “Top Games” list purely on the amount of fun I have had in the split screen co-op campaign modes. My tolerance for technically weak games rises if they have split screen co-op – old fashioned split screen action. I am going to take you through a few of my favourite games that, while never setting the world ablaze, have ended up being some of my all time favourites.

The Conflict Series

In September 2002 Conflict: Desert Storm was released, a third person squad based shooter set in Iraq during the first gulf war. I was a fresh faced sixteen year old embarking in his vital college work (Media Studies… ahem) and in between the coursework I purchased Desert Storm. I got the game home, unwrapped it and popped it in my beefy Playstation 2. I began as Rifleman John Bradley, serving with either the U.S Special Forces or S.A.S (you could choose). Bradley had been sent into Iraq with his squad to rescue Foley, a Sniper who had been captured whilst trying to blow up a bridge on the Iraq – Kuwait Border to slow down the advance of Saddam Hussein’s armoured division.

Bradley died whilst trying to save Foley… a lot. I just couldn’t get to grips with the game. I had three people that I could control at once; bullets and rockets were coming from all directions, I’d take control of a different squad member and one of the others would die. I got so frustrated with the thing that I just gave up.  The next week my friend, who we shall call Ronald, came over and we decided to put Desert Storm in after seeing the two player co-op symbol on the back of the box. I inserted the disc and turned the lights down low. We started tearing through the game, taking out thousands of Saddam’s henchman as we went. After a couple of nights we had finished the game and wanted more so we ramped the difficulty level up. This is where the real fun began:

“Shit, I’m down, the big bastard tank appeared out of nowhere.”

“Where are you, I can’t see where you are?”

“Look at my screen you idiot I’m right in front of Saddam’s death tank.”

“But where?”

“Hurry up my screen’s fading out, I’m going to die!”

“Wait, wait I can see you I’m coming… shit I’m dead as well.”

“Why the hell didn’t you throw smoke down, you know tanks can’t see through smoke. This is your fault, we have to start from the beginning again now. Jesus you’re shit.”

“You’re the idiot that ran out in front of the tank in the first place.”

And the arguments continued. Even when we carried on with the game and got mowed down time after time by the same big bastard Saddam death tank, we argued. But then, that moment arrived when the smoke was thrown, Ronald snuck behind the tank while I distracted the guards (by firing wildly towards them), and then BOOM! The tank blew up…  into three pieces (come on, it was the PS2), we finished off the rest of the guards, and the game autosaved.  We leapt out of our seats and gave each other a massive high five while complimenting one another on what a good job we had just done; the arguments had been forgotten.

Over the next three years, three new Conflict titles were released on the Playstation 2 and Xbox – Desert Storm 2, Vietnam and Global Terror. These carried on the tradition of poor single player modes, but with fantastic split screen co-op modes which more than made up for it. These games were all bought on launch day and gave Ronald and me endless hours of bitching, moaning, wanting to strangle each other and, of course, fun.

Army of Two

“You idiot, why have you gone and made your gun gold plated… you’re an utter fool.”

That was the response I was greeted with one day when playing Army of Two with Ronald, he just couldn’t see the point of “pimping” your gun. This was a big part of Army of Two; the bigger your gun and the more bling you attached to it, the more enemies would focus their attention on you, allowing your partner to sneak up behind them and shoot them all in the back.

Army of Two was sold as the ultimate co-op game; the developers and the PR people for EA were touting the fact, showing off co-op moves such as one player ripping a car door off and leading the other player down a street whilst firing at the enemy, giving boosts up to higher ground and, my personal favourite, standing in the middle of an open street, back to back, firing off rounds in slow motion. The game looked pretty good and I was sold on it before reading any reviews, so I picked it up on launch day and got into action with Ronald.

It was another great play for the two of us, using teamwork to take down bosses and whinging at each other when we died (or when I added diamonds to my grenades), and it gave us a few more hours of fun. Again, the game is not what I would call a “great” game, and I certainly couldn’t play it in single player, but the fact that I had my best friend beside me meant that the fun we were having and the banter flying around just took it to a different level.

On a side note, Army of Two had the best use of the PS3’s (utterly pointless) Sixaxis controller, you would shake the controller to reload… for some reason it was taken out of the sequel and I still can’t understand why.

Now, although I have said that mediocre games can be fun, some are just not saved by the inclusion of co-op. Conflict: Denied Ops, released in 2008 on PS3 and Xbox 360, was one of those games. Alarm bells started ringing when I saw the title had moved to become a First Person Shooter. Then I played it…what a horrible, broken mess; not even sitting down with Ronald could save that one.

There is no way I could get the same satisfaction playing these games with a stranger online though, how could I berate someone I don’t know? How could I share those moments where we have completed a level that has taken three days to complete?  Oh split screen, don’t ever leave. Developers, keep including competitive online multiplayer options, just don’t take my split screen away.

Last five articles by Joey



  1. Ste says:

    The fondest split screen gaming memory I have is playing Goldeneye multiplayer on my cousins Ninty 64 back in “the day” There would be four of us all crammed on a single bed straining to see our own little corner of a 14 inch TV. It was great fun, although our Kev would always go Oddjob. The cheating bastard.

    Nice article Joe.

  2. Richie rich says:

    If you like Army of Two, I’d say stay well away from the sequel – it’s complete trash – but give that 50 Cent game a go. It’s actually a very competent co-op shooter, albeit one that features a massive twat doing stupid things.

    @ste the best for me was two player Twisted Metal World Tour. We had a ruler sellotaped to the top of the telly and a piece of paper hanging off of it, making a barrier so that we couldn’t see each other’s side of the screen. Awesome.

  3. Joeydale13 says:

    Oh we played the sequel, yes it was trash…But as a twosome we still loved it. No matter how crappy a game is you can still persevere with another person by your side…Kind of like life I suppose!

    Ugh, can’t believe i finished that off with a “moral of life” quote…

  4. Chris H says:

    Hey Fella

    Whilst i fully agree that some medicore games are out there some of us older people dont have the friend sets (some old peope dont have consoles) that you youngsters have lol. I wish more time was spent getting the story right to suck a player in to another dimension and feel part of the game. Other titles have managed this, ME2, Bulletproof, Mafia 2 and the best RDR.

    Yes multi player is taking on the world and i fully agree in this addition but please spare a thought to an old brit with shit internet and a lack of young un’s to play co-op.

    Cool piece though mate

  5. JIMBO says:

    I find myself agreeing in the most part but I have to say that with the party chat system on xbox live I can still enjoy the co-op fun with friends but without having to organise people coming over. Coop games that have been saved by that mode that I have played are resident evil 5, kane and Lynch, kane and Lynch 2. I do find myself getting annoyed when games could be improved by adding coop like call of juarez bib or games that include coop but don’t make it online like the first kane and lynch, I’m a busy guy these days and its hard to find dedicated time for a few mates to come over to play games, but I can jump on xbox live and generally my friends are just a “join party” away and I can be enjoying that old school coop fun, banter included. Great article dude keep em coming!

  6. Adam Adam says:

    It’s great when you have a split screen buddy to play with. It may make the game look like trash by reducing the quality so that it can render 2 seperate perspectives in some games and your friend maybe one of those fellows who like the taste of the morning dew on a pane of glass, but they’re genuinely fun experiences.

    I played A LOT of Timesplitters with my friends split screen and I’d never have had it any other way. We rarely played competitively because we would all catch glances of other screens (even when we didn’t mean to) but it was a hell of a lot of fun.

    It’s a shame that not to many do it anymore, I’m still playing LEGO Harry Potter with a friend on the couch but most the time, my co-op is done online. If you use headsets and you know the guy, its almost as much fun, shame you have to wait till you see them next so that you can punch them though.

    Cool article Joe :D

  7. Stu Stu says:

    I hate split-screen. Losing half of my screen’s real-estate pisses me right off. However I do love sitting in the same room as a mate and going co-op mode on seperate screens. Just recently we had a little get together of gamng friends and there was one point were someone said “You just can’t get this over voice comms” and they were so right. We all play together online when we can but its always extra fun when we are in the same room.

    I totally agree that even crap games can be given a lease of life via a co-op but anything that requires split-screen in order to do the co-op makes me baulk. My favourite co-op game last year was Splinter Cell conviction – an awesome game in all respects, actually.

    Whilst removing split screen wouldn’t bother me in the slightest, I’d definitely miss the ability to co-op with a friend. I just wouldn’t do it at all if it had to be a stranger.

  8. Richard says:

    I totally agree with this, i have played many poor games, but split screen multiplayer can make rubbish games amazingly good fun. nothing like sitting down with a mate, couple beers and just shooting at terrorists and badies!! endles fun, endless banter, in which i usually get moaned at for constantly dieing and not being stealth, im more of a run around and shoot kinda guy, much more fun!

    Great review

  9. I Think I am "Ronald" says:

    Hey mate

    Great piece.. and not the one between your legs.

    just thinking of all the fun we’ve had messing about on co-op split screen (especially in the conflict series) really put a smile on my face.
    Also i’m really enjoying Killzone 3 Split screen at the moment. Cya tomorrow night to finish it off.
    By the way… your shit!

  10. Samuel Samuel says:

    Ew. Army of Two. NOTHING saves that game, I’m sorry, it was complete bum gravy. Split-screen has saved some mediocre games for me, like Call of Duty World at War and Star Trek Legacy and LEGO Indiana Jones, but Army of Two is just terrible.

    Just my opinion of course. But ew.

  11. Rook says:

    Split screen gaming isn’t something I do anymore but the last time I it was Lorna and I playing the awesome game that is Earth Defense Force. I hd beaten the game myself on a couple of difficulties and Lorna had offered to help me finish the other levels on the harder difficulties. We had fun playing through the levels, working out different weapons to take and try out. Good times indeed.

  12. Edward Edward says:

    I’ve had so many amazing memories with split screen I couldn’t even begin here, but I’m glad to see others have such good memories to do with it as well.
    It breaks my heart slightly that when I have friends over nowadays, it’s increasingly difficult to find anything we can play on split-screen anymore and games companies are making us have to get another console, internet connection and move across to different houses to play with our friends. It’s a disappointing sign of the times.

  13. Lee says:

    Loved this :D like you I also have a co op buddy, I’ve not heard for him in a while. I think I’ll go give him a buzz.

  14. Kat says:

    I used to love split screen multiplayer but only when it was the only option ie on the SNES. Now it makes my tv seem small and I’m easily confused by the action going on in the other half of the screen. If a mate wanted to play Gears or L4D I’d prob tell them to get off my sofa, leave my house and fire up their own xbox. THEN we can play.

    That said, I have had fun with my sister on Halo split screen but that’s only because she has no xbox and such a noob it’s hilarious ^_^

  15. Lorna Lorna says:

    I’m also not a great fan for some of the reasons that Stu presented – i.e I dislike losing half my screen. Also, like Kat it can get confusing… so many times I fucked up in EDF because I was watching the wrong half of the screen and the same for bloody Mario Kart. However, it can still be great fun, but it is increasingly difficult nowadays thanks to many internet friends being scattered across the country and, indeed, the globe.

    I actually like playing in the same room as someone, but not necessarily on the same screen. Good article!

  16. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Ah man… when Pete and I started on the Crawmerax runs in Borderlands using the split-screen option, it was weeeeird. I found myself forever looking towards his half of the screen and couldn’t concentrate on just my own part (I was the same when I was in a band… spent most of the time on stage watching the other guys to make sure they were playing the right parts) although most of the time I was watching him looting crates while I was getting my arse shot off.

    Thing is, I really enjoyed it, and it was odd going back to playing full screen when he went back home. So much so that I ended up playing split-screen with myself on several occasions thereafter where Lilith would be on the right hand side of the screen and the left hand would be my Mordecai character. So much fun.

    The down side… is that you lose the full perspective of the game. In a game like Borderlands it’s not so bad because it’s more like everything running straight at you, but if you’re relying on looking around and seeking out targets then I imagine split screen must be a royal pain in the arse. Interesting though that there are games you will happily admit to being shit but you’ll still love playing them in co-op!

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