The years spent playing video games on the couch with my brother are without a doubt the years when I enjoyed video games the most. No matter whether in couch battle or couch co-op mode. Today, we play online multiplayer mostly in separate rooms. It’s great that even though we now live in different cities, we can still experience games together. But compared to couch gaming back then, these experiences only take place at the same time – they don’t really coincide. The direct view of the shared, horizontally or vertically divided TV screen and the associated, immediate experience and perception of the overall action generated a much higher level of intensity. A higher level of shared play. While couch gaming, a slight movement of the head is enough to see what the other person is seeing. In online gaming, we are in the same session, on the same battlefield and in the identical corridors of the same mission, but in the end we only experience our own game: It’s not possible to look at my brother’s screen, so it’s not uncommon for the events that took place in parallel but decentrally, such as following a lengthy and challenging boss fight, to be re-synced in voice chat: “When the second wave started, I hunkered down in the corner and waited for my special attacks to recharge.” / “I ran out of ammo at the end – did you see me going for the boss with my melee attacks the whole time?” / “I only died because I got stuck on that buggy edge. The one to the left of the door. Did you get stuck there all the time too?”
I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that when I think of my favorite moments, it’s the earlier offline co-op experiences that come to mind. The challenging parts in video games that didn’t work after the third or tenth attempt were discussed, analyzed and solved together on the spot. We observed whether it was really the bugged edge that was responsible for the death of the other player – or whether the other player had simply acted stupidly. You paused the game, went to the TV and pointed your finger on the screen to show the enemy’s weak spot, the safest retreat point or the box with ammunition. Simultaneously and coincidentally.
Due to the lack of (viable) co-op titles on the PlayStation 3, we landed with Resident Evil 5 at some point. Until then (and even after), the entire Resident Evil series was completely ignored, as none of us had any interest in a horror single-player experience. Resident Evil 5, however, still ranks high on our co-op games list, due in part because of the final boss fight. This time, we had choosen a bad save point together and were right at the entrance to the final fight with Albert Wesker – almost out of ammo: my brother had seven bullets in his sniper rifle; I had 30 bullets in my machine gun. However, Wesker could take a lot, so once the ammo was used up, we could only rely on our melee knives. Not unproblematic, since Wesker was mostly surrounded by hot lava. In addition, due to the non-existent life meter of the final boss, we weren’t even sure if our knife attacks would do any damage at all. It took us hours and countless, countless attempts.
Our approach became more conscientious and precise with each new attempt: We ran together into the boss room, where Wesker was waiting for us one level below. While my brother stayed up there in the beginning, I jumped down to the boss and tried to pull him towards me so that my brother could fire his seven sniper shots into Wesker’s weak spot on his back. As soon as he missed a shot, we stopped and restarted. We didn’t want to have to double and triple the damage we missed with our melee knives. So we restarted. New try. When my brother could actually fire all seven shots in Wesker’s back, he came down to the boss and attracted his attention, so that I could also fire my 30 shots into Wesker’s weak spot. Then we switched to the knife together: One of us drew attention to himself, while the other stood directly behind Wesker and manically hammered on the melee button. Always warning each other when Wesker was about to attack. Synchronized dodging. Numerous failures. Error analysis on the TV screen. Restart. After further failed attempts, at some point actually the final knife blow. Surprising (and totally unexpected) quick-time event. Failure. Restart. After hours, pure relief and joy – and twelve years later, still a present and memorable couch video game moment. We’ve certainly mastered far more difficult battles in other games via online multiplayer, but this simultaneous and coincidental couch final battle remains unmatched in its intensity and memorability.
In a fit of nostalgia, I watched the fight again today on YouTube. I shouldn’t have done that. Although I still consider our couch final fight to be indescribably daring and heroic, I now doubt our video game skills. In the video, the final fight was finished pretty quickly and it was commented as follows: “It’s pretty easy to kill Wesker. At the beginning, just shoot at his weak spot in the back, then shoot at his weak spot in the front. Now charge right at him and you can take him down with a simple button combination. Not only does this save an incredible amount of time and ammo, but it also lets you defeat him within a minute.” Fuck the Internet.
The release of Resident Evil 8 Village has brought back to mind the daredevil couch co-op knife-slicing action of Resident Evil 5. Even though the game is now over twelve years old, it is still one of my personal co-op highlights. If you like co-op games – regardless of whether you had a connection to the Resident Evil series before – you can also catch up with the title on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Resident Evil 5 was released in a remaster version for both consoles in 2016.
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