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The State of Split-Screen Gaming

Can two play at that game?

In this era of ubiquitous online connectivity, finding a decent split-screen game is much harder than it used to be. Despite studios spending boatloads of cash on fashioning a fully-fledged online multiplayer experience, and despite them working with technologically advanced systems, good old-fashioned split-screen multiplayer appears to have fallen by the wayside.

That's not to say developers have given up on the idea entirely. Some still believe in the ritualistic joy of post-pub, Friday night, sofa-based gaming, and understand that being able to share the game with the person sat next to you will always trump having to play squawking pre-pubescent strangers with lag issues.

For that reason we decided to flick the Vs at online play and, for a change, round-up the very best and worst this console generation has to offer when it comes to split-screen gaming.

Resident Evil 5

Simultaneously the best and most detestable thing about Capcom's survival horror blaster was the fact it was designed from the ground up to be a co-op experience. While the five-million-selling game sees your partner doing the dumbest things when played as a single-player game, playing it with a buddy transforms it into one of the best co-op games around.

With all of the pad-hurling frustration of idiotic partner AI removed, Resi 5 comes alive in co-op mode as you share the burden of taking down the Majini hordes - but making the magic happen isn't as well signposted as it could be.

Strangely, the actual presence of local split-screen play is completely obscured from the game's options. Rather than flagging it up front and centre on the main menu, you have to start the game and then get your co-op partner to press start to join in, necessitating a restart (and, of course, a sign-in if you're playing on 360).

Once underway the game works superbly well via split-screen co-op, with the visuals every bit as detailed and no discernible loss of frame-rate to grumble about - though I'm sure Digital Foundry's Richard Leadbetter would have something to say about that.

Better still, completing the campaign unlocks the superb Mercenaries mode, further extending the joys of split-screen co-op fun, while the 'Versus' DLC adds a couple of competitive modes into the mix. Despite not being able to change the split-screen orientation from its staggered horizontal default, this is definitely one of the better examples of split-screen gaming out there.

  • Max players: 2
  • Campaign Co-op: Yes
  • Competitive: Yes (via Versus DLC pack)
  • Split type: Staggered horizontal
  • Drop-in/drop-out: Yes

LEGO Indiana Jones 2

At first glance this doesn't look like a split-screen game at all - until one of you decides to impatiently wander off and do your own thing.

Rather than keep players tethered to a limited section of the environment like all previous LEGO titles, this cunning new system adapts to follow where the player has run off to; splitting in the appropriate direction to their relative position before seamlessly rejoining once within single-screen proximity.

It has limitations, though. This extra degree of freedom gives players the option to stray into areas ahead of time rather than work together in a more disciplined fashion - but that's not the necessarily the game's fault. Get better friends, or perhaps Taser them every time they do something stupid.

  • Max Players: 2
  • Campaign Co-op: Yes
  • Competitive: No
  • Split type: Dynamic
  • Drop-in/drop-out: Yes