Celebrate the Holidays with Co-op

The holiday season is upon us, and it's time to celebrate the cheer with some co-op action. Nate Hohle runs down this year's games that gets you in the mood for cooperation.


It’s finally that time of year. The leaves have fallen, rain is quickly becoming snow, and turkeys have been eaten and pardoned. The holiday season is officially in full swing and there’s no better way to celebrate the holidays than by spending them with the people closest to you. And what better way to accentuate that feeling of togetherness than by sitting down and playing some fun cooperative multiplayer games with each other? Whether you’re using your holiday vacation time to catch up on your backlog or enjoying all of the new holiday releases, there are plenty of co-op multiplayer options to keep you and your friends playing together well into the new year. Below, I have listed some of my personal recommendations.

Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Multiplayer

Dragon Age: Inquisition's multiplayer proves that BioWare is capable of striking lightning twice. Despite the premature doomsaying of critics, BioWare’s first foray into cooperative multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 ended up being a very fun side-activity and Inquisition's multiplayer is no different. Like the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3, Inquisition's multiplayer is all about working together to defeat legions of A.I. foes. Unlike Mass Effect 3's multiplayer however, Inquisition's online offering aims to recreate the classic dungeon-crawling experience of a well-played game of Dungeons & Dragons.

Whereas Mass Effect 3's multiplayer tasked players with defending a set area from encroaching foes, Inquisition has them progressing through a randomized linear dungeon. Players can play as several different fantasy classes and unlock new skills, gear, and even new character classes as they amass experience points and gold. Randomized events, craftable gear, multiple difficulty levels, and three different enemy factions to fight keep the mode feeling fresh and BioWare has already stated that, much like what it did with Mass Effect 3, it will continue to support Inquisition’s multiplayer with free DLC updates and special timed events in the future.

If you're looking to play a fun new digital dungeon-crawling experience with your friends without dealing with the extra hassles of dice or pencils or overly complex fantasy MMO’s, Dragon Age: Inquisition's multiplayer might be exactly what you're looking for.

Titanfall’s Frontier Defense Mode

Even though it isn't even a year old, Respawn's online-only sci-fi shooter Titanfall has likely already fallen off many gamers' radars, which is a shame since there has never been a better time to give the game a second look. Not only did Respawn just release a new Deluxe Edition that bundles Titanfall with its three DLC map packs, but the game now includes a dedicated cooperative mode, titled "Frontier Defense", which was introduced in a recent update.

Frontier Defense includes many iconic Titanfall elements such as pilotable Titans, acrobatic pilots, weapon loadouts, and fierce first-person combat. The only difference is, instead of other players, the opposition consists of various A.I. foes. In addition to standard Grunt and Specter opponents, Respawn took the time to create several new types of A.I. enemies such as Suicide Specters, Mortar Titans, and Nuke Titans. These new opponents utilize various tactics, such as Titan rodeos and long-range bombardments, in their mission to destroy the large harvester machine players are tasked with protecting. It may not be the most original co-op concept, but Frontier Defense is a blast to play when you’re working with a well-coordinated team, and it proves just how committed Respawn is to supporting its ambitious shooter.

If you previously wrote Titanfall off as just another twitch-based competitive shooter, you'll be happy to hear that Respawn has taken the time to craft a cooperative mode that perfectly complements the game's unique sci-fi theme and certainly warrants giving the game another chance.

Assassin’s Creed Unity’s Co-Op Side Missions

I know it might be odd seeing Assassin’s Creed Unity on this list, considering the severe technical issues it has been suffering since launch. But, issues aside, the game includes a cooperative mode that finally does the series justice (when it works). Ubisoft's initial attempts at cooperative multiplayer, the dedicated Wolfpack mode featured in both Assassin’s Creed III and IV, are admirable but the premise of racing against the clock to hunt down non-lethal and mostly passive targets has grown stale.

With Unity's co-op side missions, Ubisoft combines engrossing story elements and combat of the series' single-player campaigns with the teamwork-oriented multiplayer elements of Wolfpack mode. The cooperative multiplayer in Unity consists of both standard objective-based missions as well as more elaborate heists, complete with randomized elements that keep the experience feeling fresh through multiple playthroughs. Unity's multiplayer also comes with the added benefit of allowing players to show off their unique versions of protagonist Arno to their teammates thanks to the game’s extensive equipment, skill, and outfit customization systems.

While I wouldn't recommend getting too invested in it now, Unity's multiplayer is definitely one cooperative experience you won't want to pass up if you're a fan of the series. I imagine once Unity is working properly, the co-op multiplayer will only grow more robust in the coming months thanks to the community events and DLC Ubisoft no-doubt has in store.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Exo Survival Mode

It may not include the ranks or unlocks of competitive multiplayer, but Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s Exo Survival co-op mode still offers a fun challenge for co-op fans while also putting the game’s new Exo abilities to good use. Not only can players tweak and utilize various weapons, Exo abilities, and score streaks but in later stages of the wave-based survival mode, enemies start using them as well, adding on a whole new layer of difficulty. If battling against waves of enemies who can boost, hover, and even turn themselves invisible sounds fun to you, Advanced Warfare’s Exo Survival has you covered.

Even better, those who manage to reach the 25th wave of the mode’s final map will be treated to a special easter egg treat that has them scrambling to escape from an undead threat. We may not yet know how the DLC Zombies mode in Advanced Warfare will function but if you consider yourself a truly dedicated co-op shooter player, you can get a sneak peek of just how challenging the game’s undead masses will be. It is a little disheartening to see Call of Duty’s cooperative multiplayer once again receiving the short end of the development stick (co-op fans like earning experience and unlocking things too guys!) but Exo Survival is still a fun and challenging undertaking with a few neat surprises along the way.

If you want to enjoy a little sci-fi first-person shooting but Titanfall isn’t really your cup of tea, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s Exo Survival is another option to consider as long as you don’t care too much about unlocks or permanent progression.

Honorable Mentions: Payday 2, Far Cry 4, and Heroes of the Storm

If none of the above titles tickle your fancy, there are other co-op options to consider, too many to list in one article alone. Here’s an even briefer rundown of my favorites.

Overkill’s co-op heisting sequel Payday 2 recently benefited from a slew of new updates. These updates have added in several new heists (including one based off of Hotline Miami), a boatload of new weapons, two new playable characters (including John Wick of the recent Keanu Reeves movie of the same name), and new “Perk Decks” that allow you to further customize your character. Payday 2 didn’t exactly make a strong showing when it was first released last year but now it’s shaping up into the ultimate cooperative crime-committing experience. Best of all, Overkill is far from done adding new content for the game.

For those who prefer open-world exploration that includes seamless co-op, we can once again turn to Ubisoft. Far Cry 4 has had its own issues since launch though they are mercifully not as crippling as those affecting Assassin’s Creed Unity. The co-op in Far Cry 4 allows players to invite a friend along as they cause destruction and mayhem in the game’s world of Kryat (the friend doesn’t even need to have their own copy of the game if you’re playing on PlayStation 3 or 4). The only caveat is that story missions cannot be played with a co-op partner which means you’re limited to just exploring the world or taking down enemy outposts. Still, if you enjoy getting to explore lush environments and engage in tense first-person gunplay with a buddy to watch your back, Far Cry 4 is a good option to consider.

But what if you don’t care for shooters or action-adventure games? What if you’d rather engage in a co-op experience that requires a little more thought and finesse? Well if you happened to sign up for the technical alpha of Blizzard’s upcoming MOBA Heroes of the Storm, you can still have your co-op cake and eat it too. Heroes of the Storm includes a dedicated co-op vs. A.I. mode that allows you and your friends to mix it up in an accessible yet engaging MOBA environment without the added stress of fighting other players.

Like other MOBA’s Heroes of the Storm is free-to-play, which means the only real commitment you have to make is ensuring there’s enough free space on your computer’s hard drive. If you don’t have access to the Heroes of the Storm alpha, you can also try out other MOBA’s such as League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth, both of which also have dedicated co-op modes.

If you can think of other cooperative multiplayer experiences that more people should play, feel free to share them in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to do fun non-gaming stuff with your friends and family this holiday season!

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