Focus On MAG's Squads, And You'll Notice The Game Is Much More Co-op Inspired Than It May At First Seem.

Never in all my years of opinionating have I been more sure of one thing: co-op is the future of online multiplayer.

There'll always be a place in video games for the wrought solo escapades of a tight single-player experience, as will there always be the space for competitive multiplayer — but co-op is the future.

Playing Borderlands over the holidays brought me to one, single, solid, concrete, philosophical conclusion: co-op is brilliant. Beneath the surface, Borderlands was kind of janky. But of its many flaws, one thing it got absolutely spot on was the co-op. Jump online, find someone you want to play with, and play. It's all it needed. The gameplay and engine see to everything else. So long as the co-op actually works, you can have an absolute blast solving quests, hanging out, and exploring a universe with other players at your own pace. It doesn't matter if those other players are real-life friends or not, what matters is that you're sharing the experience with other people, free to explore the game at your own pace; regardless of skill or time-input.

Y'see, the problem with competitive multiplayer is that there's always someone better. And rarely does a game reward skill. Competitive multiplayer rewards time. If you're willing to put the equivalent of 15 days worth of practice into Modern Warfare 2, you'll probably get quite good at it. But if that investment is something you're not willing to give, it can often feel quite lonely on the battlefield.

That's where co-op shines. It doesn't matter who you're playing with, you're progressing against computer AI that has been designed in a way that is fun for everyone. And even if you're buddy has played 90% more than you, and is significantly better; instead of taking you down the moment you respawn, in co-op he'll be helping you and guiding you. Maybe even showing you some cool stuff he's found in the game. It's magical.

That magic is something I think developers are starting to understand, which is particularly why you've seen the inclusion of a mode like Spec-Ops in Modern Warfare 2. People are starting to move away from that deathmatch phenomenon, and beginning to share experiences with two or three other players.

It's only going to become more prominent also. Games like Bethesda's Brink aim to provide a mixture of single-player, co-op and competitive multiplayer into one huge "campaign," and you're also seeing games like MAG fuse the ideals of co-op and competitive multiplayer.

In MAG, when you begin to understand the mechanics, the game becomes less about shooting opponents, and more about being a solid team unit. It's co-operative gameplay in a microcosm, even if the overarching premise is competitive. Sure, you're not given the luxury and freedom of exploration as you are in Borderlands, but the concept is there, hidden in MAG's squad system.

A few years ago, every game had to carry the word "deathmatch" on the back of its box. Watch that change to "co-op" over the next 12 months, if it hasn't already.

“Twiggy” is an anonymous PushSquare columnist who has been spotted in three major cities across the globe. It’s rumoured he’s on the run from the British monarchy who accused him of treason.

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