Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gears of War: Co op gaming on a PC

I finished Gears of War on Hardcore mode (not as uber as its sounds - it is actually the medium setting) and I decided to try out some of the multiplayer options. The normal range of player versus player modes is on offer but what immediately caught my eye was co-op mode.

Co-op is old hat to console gamers but it is relatively rare in the PC field so I had to give it a go. Co-op mode used to mean playing with a friend in the same room on a split screen. Nowadays Co-op mode allows you to play with some random player on the internet. Gears of war does allow private matches with friends but only for those who pay for a gold subscription to Windows Live. Silver members like me must trust to the public lists to find a partner. Could a random player be trusted to watch my back?

Being used to the vast lists of servers that offer themselves for multiplayer games like COD4 and TF2 I was at first disappointed to discover that there were precisely zero9 co-op matches available for me to join. I refreshed the screen a few times but nothing came up.

I would have given up at that point but luckily I spotted the option to host my own game. Within minutes a new player joined me and we indulged in a spot of co-operative monster fragging. Very enjoyable and much easier than solo play to be honest. The happy truth is that no matter how bad a human partner is they are still far better than the AI companions you get in solo play.
I have since set up a few more games and each time I found a partner very quickly. I have also joined other players' games although I have never seen more than three on offer and most of the time there are none. I think that the one plus one nature of co-op means that games never stay on the list for very long. Never fear, hosting your own game is a good way of getting a partner.

My only regret now is that I played through the whole game solo before indulging in co-op. I thought I had better hone my skills in single player before embarrassing myself in public. In reality co-op is easier than single player (and more fun) and would have been a great way of getting through some of the tough levels more quickly.

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