I’ve explained my enthusiasm towards Xbox Live before on numerous accounts, but yesterday I finally got to sample the thing they were raving about back when it launched. Live is indeed geared towards being as effortless as possible, and that it is. However, when the service launched back in 2002, the Live team explained that their goal was to make it feel like playing with your friends, in the same room. The key to this, obviously, is voice communication.
Yesterday I played the excellent demo of Crackdown in co-op mode with a friend of mine. From the moment we opened voice chat in the 360 dashboard, it felt like sitting on the same couch. (I was actually playing Geometry Wars when we initiated the chat.) I’m sure it’s taken some tehcnical wizardry to make it work so well, but it really feels just natural. You can chat all through the loading screens and multiplayer lobbies and whatnot. I was playing my own music in the background, also through the 360, at the same time: this is as it should be.
Exploring the demo was so much better with company to share your findings. Mark my words: all games need co-op, and all gamers need friends online. I know my enthusiasm towards Crackdown was boosted hugely by the co-op experience.