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Needed co-op because: the co-op it does include isn’t good enough.
Above: Not gonna cut it
We’re spoiled and ungrateful brats. Last year, GTA IV delivered on pretty much every promise made and, in doing so, met or surpassed almost every one of our expectations. But as we drove around the game’s incredibly detailed world, soaking in the superbly told story and losing dozens of hours to the ridiculously open-ended gameplay, we couldn’t feel 100% satisfied. A single thought kept nagging us... this would be even better with a friend.
Above: Two people, one player
Yes, we know you can explore (a limited version of) Liberty City with up to 15 other people. We know you can team up for cop-and-robber style chases or load up specific, standalone missions built entirely around cooperative play. Sorry, that’s not enough. That’s not the real deal.
We want to join forces in the main game. We want to claw our way up the criminal ladder with an ally. We want to rule over virtual New York with a partner. When we’re forced to clean out an entire warehouse of crack dealers in order to progress through the story, we want a reliable wingman. When we need to chase down a biker gang while simultaneously escaping an armada of six-star law enforcement, we want someone in the passenger’s seat who can actually aim.
Mostly, though, we just want to play as Brucie.
Needs co-op because: the game was built with it in mind from the beginning.
Above: Guess what was cut from the final version?
How do you turn the sequel to one of the PS2’s most vibrant games into an exercise in dull, soul-crushing frustration? Swapping the bright colors of The Mark of Kri for a dull, grayish color palette is a good start, but if you really want to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, you design it around a specific feature - in this case online co-op - that you then cut at the last minute because of technical problems. If you’re feeling especially sadistic, you can then replace said feature with a dull-witted computer-controlled sidekick who likes nothing better than to blow players’ cover when they’re trying to be stealthy, and to not watch their backs when they’re getting mobbed by enemies. Doesn’t matter if you’re playing as bulky warrior Rau, his nimble kid sister Tati, their mentor Baumusu or his partner Griz – sooner or later, your “helper” will get you killed.
Above: When can we officially say tribal tattoos are over?
We’re not going to pretend that delaying the game to keep in the co-op would have made Rise of the Kasai great, but it would have removed one of the game’s main irritations. We’d still be left with a bleak, unsatisfying follow-up to one of the most original (and creatively violent) action games ever made, but not having to babysit an AI idiot all the time might have kept Rise of the Kasai from being a hollow disappointment.