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Team up for the take-down with these buddy-focused PS4 games.
By Adam Mathew
Friends who slay together, stay together – this is gaming's greatest truth. Why on Earth would you waste your time in player-versus-player games, like the latest Street Fighter or the online lobbies of Call of Duty: This Year's Model, when you can be attacking a challenge with a compatriot in a co-op experience? Not only is a problem shared, a problem halved, but with a buddy you've got a living, breathing witness to what could be your greatest gaming accomplishment (or worst fail). Co-op doubles the hilarity, every time, guaranteed.
All that being said, we've seen a shift in how co-op is dispensed nowadays. The PS3 generation is now looking like a golden era for shared, single-screen experiences because a huge percentage of publishers have moved their co-op offerings into the online space. Some argue that it's lost popularity because the implementation of split-screen was problematic: rendering player perspectives two or more times over meant a hit to processing power – and often an eyesore drop in on-screen detail. The more cynical gamers among us suspect that money-grubbing publishers identified shared games as lost revenue. I personally think it's a little from column A and a little from column B.
Realistically, if you're an avid co-op gamer on a budget, I recommend trawling through the indie-produced section of the PlayStation Store as a lot of these do adequately recapture the old genres. But that's not to say that there aren't meatier AAA co-op experiences out there to find and devour over a great many hours with friends with modern-only tastes. The collected list below features some of the greatest multi-person fun you can have this side of a room decked out with a video camera, shag carpeting, weirdo lighting and a stereo looping slap-bass guitar.
The finder brass said it'd be a good idea to say a bit about myself, so you know that you're not taking co-op gaming advice from some sort of non-gaming yahoo shut-in. Honestly, I couldn't be further from that description as I've basically spent thirty years of my life gaming with friends (and frenemies). It all started with three-player karate-fests on IK+ on Amiga and now, somehow, I'm toppling prestige raids in Destiny 2 online. I've been suckered into buying every ill-fated multi-tap peripheral released for every single console, and my ideal Christmas is playing eight-player team-rules Bomberman with my two sons and their many cousins. Trust me, folks: I co-op 'til I drop.
- RELEASE DATE: 3/3/15
- DEVELOPER: Arrowhead Studios
- PUBLISHER: Sony
Turn on your PS4, log into the PlayStation Store, close your eyes and throw a controller at the screen, I guarantee you've just hit three twin-stick shooters (and you now need to buy a new TV). Shooting in all directions while eight-way running through a bullet hell makes for an excellent co-op experience, and singling out just one of these was a challenge. That said, Helldivers takes the crown, thanks to its support for two to four local/online players, on-target satirisation of beefy space marines, a lengthy Galactic Campaign and some good ol' fashioned friendly fire.
The hook that will keep you and your pals coming back for more is the stratagems mechanic. Essentially, you can request DIY care packages to be orbitally dropped into the madness – if you can remember the exact code to hammer out on your d-pad. Dedicated hours of play can earn you some truly impressive ordnance, and you'll need every sonic ballbreaker you can get your mitts on because the xenos come out of the goddamned walls. The addictive embrace of Helldivers is not to be underestimated. You'd have more luck escaping a French kiss from a facehugger.
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9. Rock Band 4
- RELEASE DATE: 4/8/15
- DEVELOPER: Harmonix
- PUBLISHER: Harmonix
To those of you about to upend their living room to make space for fantastic plastic instruments (and mad windmill guitar moves), I salute you. Though AAA rhythm games are livin' on a prayer right now – thanks to the lukewarm reception to Activision's 2015 revival of Guitar Hero – Rock Band 4 represents the absolute apex of the genre, and you can procure its Band-In-A-Box bundle quite cheaply. In no time, you and three mates can go from talentless shlubs to shredders who can belt out 60's rock classics on mic, lead guitar, bass guitar and drums.
Music taste is always going to be subjective, and the good news is you can always expand your setlist by logging into a 2000-strong song store. And the only thing better than attempting your absolute favourite music in the career mode together is listening to the virtual crowd start to sing along when you really start to nail it. Rock Band 4 also offers some latitude for some attitude via freestyle solo sections for guitarists and free-form melodies for the crooners. With a few inhibition-removing brews and the right crew, this is the best local play gaming has to offer.
8. The Division
- RELEASE DATE: 8/3/16
- DEVELOPER: Ubisoft
- PUBLISHER: Ubisoft
After some launch-window glitches subtracted a lot of fun from its online experience, The Division has finally been patched together and my affection towards it has been steadily multiplying. Blasting through a post-pandemic Manhattan with three other like-minded sleeper agents is a fun and tactical experience, providing your posse knows how to exercise restraint. Not only do you get incredibly solid cover-to-cover gunplay, Ubisoft has also layered in the most addictive loot and crafting system this side of Diablo III. Oh the things you'll mindlessly grind through in order to earn a gold-plated boomstick or a stylish-looking beanie.
The Division stands out from all other third-person shooters thanks to its dedicated Dark Zone area, a player-versus-player competitive multiplayer mode. You're asked to slowly climb the ladder of a separate progression system by putting yourselves at incredible risk (the ability to lose recently collected loot and XP) in order to earn great rewards (the highest rated gear in the game). Some of the most intense co-op sessions I've ever had have been in the Dark Zone because other seemingly nonchalant players can turn treacherous in a second. Be warned: real-life friendships have been ruined by spur-of-the-moment greed and itchy trigger fingers.
Click to buy The Division on PS4 from Mighty Ape
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- RELEASE DATE: 2/8/16
- DEVELOPER: Ghost Town Games
- PUBLISHER: Ghost Town Games
Though it pains me to say it, local, single-screen multiplayer is going the way of the dodo-themed discotheque. However, it's not completely dead because Overcooked successfully reheats and serves up some yesteryear-flavoured manic multiplayer madness. Think “co-operative Bomberman meets the Iron Chef” and you've got a fair idea of what's on the menu here. Under a time limit, you and three other cooks will need to prioritise food orders, scramble for ingredients, cook them to perfection and send them out to the hungry masses. Rinse (the dishes) and repeat.
If that task sounds incredibly easy, that's probably because you haven't factored in human error, maze-like kitchens that reconfigure on you, friendly-fire bumping collisions and an extremely flammable kitchen. Few games can make failure feel entertaining, but Overcooked is downright hilarious when the crap's hitting the exhaust fan and the least qualified firefighter in your group is going mental with the extinguisher. Overcooked's simple controls make it easy for anybody to pick up, but putting the controller back down again is nearly impossible.
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6. Rayman Legends
- RELEASE DATE: 18/2/14
- DEVELOPER: Ubisoft
- PUBLISHER: Ubisoft
A good party game needs to be easy to pick up and play (thus luring in casual gaming fence-sitters), but some complexity also needs to be steadily layered in to keep interest levels high. Being a 2D platformer – the simplest gaming concept this side of Pong or Tetris – Rayman Legends fulfils the first requirement, and over the course of 12 hours, it achieves the latter by drip-feeding in clever and unpredictable ideas. The cherry on top is that it looks bloody gorgeous and is jam-packed with quirky humour whose universal appeal consistently leaps generational gaps like Rayman does bottomless pits.
Obviously, this is primarily about running, jumping and four people collecting more crap than a hoarder who's just discovered a new spare room. Rayman Legends slowly expands this framework to include slapstick violence (which is hilariously inter-player), tons of unlockable cosmetic items, fiendishly hidden secret areas and some exquisitely choreographed musical levels. The latter are crowd-pleasers of the highest order. Because who doesn't love arse-kicking medieval goblins to the sound of Black Betty or mashing through a mariachi version of Eye of the Tiger?
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5. Far Cry 4
- RELEASE DATE: 18/11/14
- DEVELOPER: Ubisoft
- PUBLISHER: Ubisoft
Quick disclaimer before we begin: you cannot smash through the main campaign of Far Cry 4 with a co-conspirator. Even still, the side-quests and expansive open-world are your oyster, plus both players will have their loot saved. You should also be aware that it'll take two hours of solo play to unlock the function, and the joining player's world progress won't be saved – which, in my opinion, is an odd sort of shafting.
Look beyond those game design peccadilloes and Kyrat is one helluva sandbox to explore and explode through with a mate. Seizing a series of heavily fortified outposts is barrels of fun, whether you're both sneaking in together or kicking in the front gate while toting heavy machine guns and riding elephants. If structure isn't your bag, you can always have hours of emergent fun creating your own stunt courses with an array of vehicles and wingsuits. Make no mistake, Far Cry 4 is mustard co-op gaming, but watch this space for Far Cry 5. Word is Ubisoft will be making the entire campaign compatible with dual-player destruction.
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Go on a journey to Kyrat, a fictional Himalayan country with Ajay Ghale and play the war with a dangerous wildlife.View details
4. Destiny 2
- RELEASE DATE: 17/9/17
- DEVELOPER: Bungie
- PUBLISHER: Activision
Full disclosure: Destiny 2 had a fantastic launch period, but the honeymoon didn't last when its first expansion came out. That's a long, sordid tale of lies and deception which I won't bore you with here, suffice to say the (space)ship has been righted and Bungie's MMO/first-person shooter hybrid is back to being more addictive than heroin pancakes. Part of that appeal comes down to the most kinetic and rewarding gunplay in the genre, and another huge factor is the inescapable black hole that is Bungie's loot/progression system. Stitch these things together with a three-person fire team that amplifies the frequency of your flashy super powers, and Destiny 2's space magic is strong.
If you and your goons have only got a short window of time, you can link up to engage in a mixed entree of story missions, adventures or strikes. That said, if you become Destiny diehards, you can hook up a merry band of six guardians and go take on the elite raid content. Be warned, though: the level of coordination, skill and gear required to best these modes is considerable. However, beating your first Destiny raid is a true watershed moment in co-op gaming.
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3. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
- RELEASE DATE: 24/3/15
- DEVELOPER: Gearbox Software
- PUBLISHER: 2K Games
You're staring down the barrel of more than 17.75 million guns. And that's just in Borderlands 2, the better half of this two-game remastering compilation (the chaff being Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel). Not that the choice matters much; no matter which flavour you pick, you'll be locked into hours of ultra-violent slaughter and a never-ending cycle of gun envy. Played on a TV the size of Texas with four mates, this glorious spectacle becomes the best split-screen experience in gaming.
Better yet, The Handsome Collection is bursting at the seams with extra content, thanks to a generous injection of PS3-era DLC packs. Plus, you and your compadres are given early access to an impressive array of character classes to mix, match and find a play style that suits your temperament. If you lean towards being a jerk, because your idea of “co-operative gaming” involves swiping all of the loot, Borderlands has got you sorted, too. You can resolve loot disputes with impromptu duels to the death. It's how all arguments ought to be settled, really.
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Experience for the first time in the franchise’s history, play four-player split screen on a single television, all in stunning high definition.View details
2. Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition
- RELEASE DATE: 19/8/14
- DEVELOPER: Blizzard Entertainment
- PUBLISHER: Blizzard Entertainment
Decent four-person local play on a single TV is a rare commodity in the eighth generation of console gaming. However, Diablo III: The Ultimate Evil Edition flies the banner proud, and Blizzard's custom-designed controller interface lets you and your buddies do some serious action-RPG grinding/levelling/equipping without treading on each other's toes. Your only major concern will be who gets to pick which class: Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, Wizard, Crusader or the recently added (and additional costing) Necromancer.
PC folk will hunt me down for saying this, but this feels like the best version of the game one can spend their gold coins on. There's hours upon hours of dungeon-crawling and loot-coveting to be had here, thanks to gift sending, kill-streak rewards, Nephalem “loot run” rifts and nemesis demons (demons that have murdered somebody on your friends list and now want to drop in to say hi and claim your skull, too). Don't let the age of this 2014 reissuing of a 2012 game fool you. Mowing through hellspawn is a timeless and heavenly experience with the right party of miscreants.
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1. Grand Theft Auto V
- RELEASE DATE: 18/11/14
- DEVELOPER: Rockstar North
- PUBLISHER: Rockstar Games
Nobody sculpts living, breathing open-worlds or hilariously skewers the American zeitgeist quite like Rockstar Games. Played from either the first or third-person perspective, GTA V's solo experience offers you either free-wheeling emergent fun or a riveting, multi-threaded crime drama, but I think this package's best content lies in its co-op offerings. Called heists, these diversions give you and four pals the chance to team up and pull off a string of intense multi-part raids and robberies. Honestly, taking on the Elite Challenges of these heists is like living out your very own Michael Mann film.
If intense challenge and structure isn't your thing, GTA V's expansive PvP multiplayer suite, Grand Theft Auto Online, has constantly evolved due to frequent free updates since launch. Linking up with a few mates and painting the town red with randoms is a barrel of laughs, too. Don't let its age fool you – Grand Theft Auto V is still a tour de force.
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