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The Tech Deck

What’s your favorite cooperative multiplayer experience?

Heists are coming to GTA: Online, and that means three of your best buds will be tagging along for some hijinks. (BaGo Games)
Heists are coming to GTA: Online, and that means three of your best buds will be tagging along for some hijinks. (BaGo Games)

Next week, after almost a year and a half of waiting, Rockstar will unleash Grand Theft Auto: Online heists to the hungry gaming masses.

Early impressions, most notably those of IGN, rolled out today ahead of the March 10 release date. The impressions are glowing; though, of course, they should probably be taken with a grain of salt given Rockstar's ho-hum launch of the blockbuster game's online component in October 2013

GTAV heists screenshot
Brace yourself. The big jobs are coming.

As an avid GTA gamer since the days of the top-down GTA2, the thrill of jumping in to a meaty multiplayer experience with three other gamers in Rockstar's wonderfully bizarre and brutal Los Santos gives me heart palpitations. The question of whether heists will live up to other great co-op experiences, however, remains to be seen.

My initiation to cooperative experiences came like many other gamers of my generation - in a Chuck E. Cheese pizza parlor feeding quarters into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade machine. It took a whole week's allowance to get to Shredder, but the experience was totally worth it if you had a good group of four carefully selecting their ninja and playing to the character's strength. The coordination and sheer fun factor of teaming up with others to take down a major boss in that game has continued to be a standard I hold other co-operative experiences to even today.

Ninja turtles arcade machines
Shut up and take my money!

Consoles took a while to catch up to that arcade experience. Sure, I had fun stomping on enemies in Donkey Kong Country or Super Mario World with my dad or brother, but those were strictly two-player affairs. And while Goldeneye 007 and Halo: Combat Evolved remain my favorite console-based competitive shooters, the games lacked that feeling of multiple players battling a common enemy that united various bunches of pizza sauce-covered preteens around the glowing machines of a pizza restaurant.

It took until Gears of War 2's Horde mode before that spirit would be recaptured.

Gears of War 2 logo
Even Marcus Fenix needed some buds to take down the Locust horde.

Sure, there were titles that came before Gears that pitted players against seemingly insurmountable waves of enemies. Also, the much-loved Nazi zombie mode in Call of Duty: World at War released the same year. But there was something about the mix of tower defense, brutal tactical gameplay and character progression elements that made Horde mode a feature that kept me playing late into the night during my college years.

Other gamers must have seen the same thing. Now, it's almost impossible to think of a shooter that isn't released with some sort of a Horde-knockoff. Even industry titan Halo adopted Firefight for Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach based on the popularity of the game type.

In the most recent crop of games, Destiny has scratched that co-operative multiplayer itch. The thrill of hunting loot keeps bringing millions of players back to the endgame content raids every week, as fireteams of six complete the same objectives over and over in hopes of capturing that elusive Gjallarhorn or Crux of Crota.

Destiny shot of the traveler
'Somewhere out there is a purple engram. It will give you squat.'

With new titles like Evolve and Rainbow Six: Siege toying with the notion of asymmetrical co-operative gameplay and integrating team-based multiplayer into narratives, it's likely we've only just begun to scratch the surface of common-goal multiplayer gaming. Hopefully next week's heist release elevates the game mode to new heights.

I know I've left out almost the entirety of PC gaming and MMORPGs, so tell us in the comments below about your favorite co-operative experiences, and whether you're looking forward to the marquee GTA: Online content finally releasing this month. 

Kip Hill
Kip Hill joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the City Desk, covering the marijuana industry, local politics and breaking news. He previously hosted the newspaper's podcast.

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