In the beginning
With the advent of the internet, it has become much easier for gamers to play with like minded people around the world. Back in the mid-nineties I experimented with various online titles and met my share of decent friendly folk, sprinkled with the odd idiot and bully. Multiplayer shooters eventually led to role playing game titles and for a while with each game, you’d take the time to explore the world around you. You acclimatize yourself to the game environment and inhabitants. Sometimes people get in the way with their ego but more often than not there are those in the same boat as you.
Through a mutual struggle, you’ll come alongside people who are hoping to complete various quests. You’ve both learned how to take on the game’s numerous types of enemies and now you’re at a standstill to take on a boss. You plan your attack, you share out items and set your skills/spells/moves in order of efficiency. Regardless of whether you win or lose, you no longer fought alone and chose instead to cooperate with friends.
If you get the right crowd of like minded individuals who share the love of the game and enjoy each other’s company, then you’ve landed safely. You’re in a familiar crowd that can safely rely on one another to get through each area alive. Over time you get a feeling of the speed of the group too. You see how each member reacts to varying situations and they, in turn, work you out, offering helpful advice occasionally.
But this doesn’t work overnight. This process takes a while and sometimes impatience, tempers and generally life can split people apart. Allies are lost over time, but some stick around because of a rapport that you can build on.
Back in 2009 and 2010 I bought Resident Evil 5 and Lost Planet 2 respectively and met some awesome friends. Here’s our story of cooperative gaming.
Lost Planet 2
Developed and published by Capcom, Lost Planet 2 is a science fiction game set in the distant future, far from an exhausted Earth. Groups of marauders known locally as Snow Pirates have chosen to brave the freezing climates and make a new life on a planet known only as EDN III. Each group tells its own tale of survival against the nefarious corporation NEVEC and the indigenous Akrid creatures. These insect-like aliens harbor a vital source of energy called thermal energy or T-ENG for short. This resource keeps people alive and fuels their walking mechs, called Vital Suits.
Over time you learn to put your factions differences aside and work for the sake of the planet. As with the first game, you’ll fight against NEVEC soldiers, as well as larger Akrid infestations. These themes of camaraderie extend deep within the story, eventually entrusting you, the player, into working with your team of human and AI to defeat a common enemy.
With a team of four players, all of them human or 3 AI plus you, you’re expected to work together because of the limited T-ENG available. Data posts boost that number to 500 units a piece but if you die, you’ll lose that amount. When it hits zero, the game is over, akin to a lives system.
I’d be lying if I felt it wasn’t too difficult because it all depended on the quality of you and your team. AI deaths, fortunately, don’t count towards your T-ENG total but a human player can lose five hundred while losing a VS with a human pilot costs one thousand. Each energy post shares out five hundred when activated and it’s best if everyone on your team is present. T-ENG also acts as an energy tank to fuel a diminished health bar, gives power to energy-based weapons and fuels up a VS. On harder difficulties the amount of T-ENG you retain is always counting down, especially in colder levels and when you pilot a VS.
So to keep you and your team alive long enough to finish the level, you’ll need a helpful team. You can share weapons, T-ENG and even repair each other’s VS if needed. Three model of VS actually supports multiple pilots, granting access to more powerful weapons but within a slower moving target. Boss monsters tend to go down even faster if you employ an entire human player squad and concentrate your fire. Riding down the throat of a huge akrid while friends outside shoot at its exposed core benefits everyone.
Playing with friends
As you’d expect, not everyone in this game plays ball as a team. People rush on ahead, collect both posts and VS for themselves without consideration of the team’s safety. You might think you can stop a small army on your own but the game bites back with sheer numbers. Leaving the safety of cover finds the best of us under the scope of a rifle. And while your team’s AI might be good at grabbing their attention, it’ll come down to you making that final push/killing shot.
So you’ll need a solid team with you. One that will share out the T-ENG when needed and those who won’t hog all the best VS and weapons. Thankfully within a year of the game’s release, I found a couple of like-minded people to enjoy the game with. Both Skylar and Icewind stick around like glue. We all understand the game is not a race, neither are we gunning for the top score. We pause and regroup when someone dies and re-affirm our drive towards the goal.
One of the highlights of the game was learning to use a huge rail gun. The entire second chapter of the game revolves around your team stealing a train outfitted with a huge cannon. Split into four parts, the mission is conducted as follows. Your first job is to elude a huge Akrid called Red Eye. This monster is like a huge worm that burrows under the sand, taking entire carriages off with each bite. Secondly, your next job is to leave the train with all the T-ENG you can carry. However, circumstances force you to land in the desert, prompting a shootout with the locals.
Following this ambush, our third job was to catch up with the rail gun. We disposed of those aboard, whether it be soldiers or other enemy VS units. Once conquered, it would now be up to us to ‘pilot’ this weapon and put it to use. Skylar would normally take the gun’s pilot seat, while I and Icewind loaded up the shells and manned the anti-aircraft guns below. Occasionally the Red Eye would slide up against us, causing damage to the train. But it was always fairly straight forward to descend below deck and fix the specified area.
While this train level is certainly unique, later game bosses aren’t so complicated. While it’s certainly possible to defeat each boss with just AI, an experienced human team does much more damage in a shorter time. Plus with friends you know, you can get a better feel of where to set your attacks, knowing you have the rest of the group focused elsewhere. Having a full team at your disposal means the boss AI has its attention split throughout. Or we at least like to think so anyway!
The game presents each boss in a unique environment and it’s down to using what’s currently available. Working as a unit means taking the time to understand the lay of the land and formulate a plan of attack. Later levels set in zero gravity present a large learning curve, navigating and attacking the enemy within a larger space. Bullets make way for laser weapons, so you’re forced to adapt to deadlier weapons from the moment you enter.
Naturally, with tougher difficulties and more powerful foes, there’s plenty of mistakes made throughout our journey. From getting eaten by an octopus to throwing the wrong grenade, it happens to us all. And we laugh or swear it off with good humor because once again we’re not in it for the results. However saying that we did find satisfaction playing competitive modes, all the time gunning for the high score. But during this, we never lost our patience because we all played as best we could. As you can see from the videos (there is the occasional bit of strong language) we had our fair share of laughs during this sci-fi adventure.