Co-op gaming on the PC brings the best of the console world (multiplayer) and the PC world (the PC gaming platform with it's graphics and it's accurate mouse/keyboard input). My friend recently entered the world of gaming through an awesome custom built computer. Ever since we've been gunning for the best and brightest co-op games. Here is a list of ones we have found to be particularly enjoyable.
1. Left 4 Dead - This was a great game aimed almost completely at co-op players. The campaign which winds is way through buildings, rooftops, greenhouses, rail stations and corn fields, provides rich opportunities for different seige and defense tactics. To spice things up the two main "bosses" of the levels, a witch and a hulk-like character, are placed at random. The difficulty settings are a bit too granular for our liking. On "normal" you can pick zombies off one-by-one at a distance without agro-ing the rest, but one step up in difficulty and you'll find yourself overwhelmed if your team so much as squeeks a fart out in the wrong location. It is refreshing however to have a level of difficulty that only hours of dedication and finely tuned team can beat. Where this game really shines is in the versus mode where you can play on either the survivor or infected teams. This mode is much more chaotic than the campaign, as you would expect, but it also requires a different playing style, becuase the sit-and-wait approach to killing zombies only allows the infect more spawning opportunities. So... RUN!
2. Call of Duty: World at War - I am enamored by the Call of Duty series but this one takes the cake. COD levels past tended to be linear and most situtations required a single combat tactic approach leaving only skill and speed of excecution to provide entertainment. The added team dynamic to COD World at War does wonders for increasing the variation in tactics. However, this alone wouldn't have made this game what it is. What did you ask? Level design. A game can be made or broken based on the way the levels are layed out. I'll go a step further, simply the amount of cover, enemy entrentchments and paths can make or break a game. The designers behind Wold at War realized that when playing co-op some commrades like to work together, others like to separate and strut thier stuff. As a result they built in forks and splits in the path where you can choose to go down one or ther other (or both if you're crazy awesome like us). This adds another level of variety as each path has its own triggers, tactics and weapon preference. For those who just can't get enough there are achievements that range from comical to just plain challenging. They force you to replay missions but always with a twist or alternate goal in mind. A particular favorite achievement of mine allows you to revive your commrade by shooting them. Pure genious.
3. Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance - Although not strictly a co-op style game, with the creative use of team based skirmish and custom maps it might as well be. If you're not afraid of resource management, unit micromanagement, time management, science/upgrade management... there's management everywhere in this game... then you can overlook the nitty gritty and realize that this game is probably one of the most epic, scalable, tactic centric games since originals such as Starcraft. The major downside that I have at this point is the lack of AI (or simply unit) intelligence, particularly on custom maps. Many times not more than a few pixels away from eachother, two units will sit and fire at a boulder or hill until the cows come home. (why did the cows leave in the first place?) Constantly mixing up the type and amount of AI (tech, turtle, adaptive) as well as the map, allows for endless hours of technological warfare goodness.
4. H.A.W.X. - the acronym escapes me but the well-suited co-op gameplay do not. HAWX is a combat flight simulator that succeeds in getting the many realworld controls and dials out of your way to enjoy the pure fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience with the precense of a co-op buddy. I use the word precense on purpose because that's really all the interaction you'll have with your teammate in this game. While the number and relative distant proximities of enemies requires that there be two "good guys" to deal with them it's that type of game mechanic that simply puts you and a buddy in the same sky with little else to do with eachother. Occasionally one person may have finished off thier share of bandits and been able to help out thier commrade who has a bogey (reminds me of booger) on thier six but then is immediately called away to fend off another wave in the complete opposite direction. I'm not saying that there has to be so little interaction, it's just what happens as a result of the level situations. This game is definately enjoyable as a co-op experience but it is not required to get the full potential out of the game.
Stay tuned for more co-op games.