Towards the end of the PS3/Xbox 360 console generation, and definitely by the beginning of the PS4/Xbox One generation, couch co-op had quickly become a rare interest. It wasn't necessarily caused by a lack of desire by players, rather it became a lack of support by most developers. Indie games and smaller titles committed to offering more co-op games were few and far between, while the ubiquity of online multiplayer across the industry had marked a seismic shift towards online co-op only. Paired with more graphically intense games and development crunch, many bigger games eschewed co-op entirely. This didn't set well with Hazelight and Josef Fares.
Beginning with Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons in 2013, Hazelight built its reputation on uniquely cooperative games anchored by two major pillars: "story and gameplay." At this point, it's as if the developers at Hazelight and Josef Fares have made it their mission to prove couch co-op still belongs in gaming. That's a bit sensational, but in reality, Fares' comments and general disposition since his rise to fame and "F*** the Oscars" comments have helped bring to light the severe lack of the co-op games of old. Subsequent efforts by the studio have, to some degree, emphasized that players enjoy and want more couch co-op games, which is still a rare offering from most big games.
To be fair, not every game lends itself well to couch co-op gameplay necessarily, but a decade ago, couch co-op offerings in general started to disappear in modern games. Games at the beginning of the PS3/Xbox 360 generation, like Halo 3 and Resident Evil 5, had some of the best co-op game modes to play in general. However, further into that generation, and by the beginning of the PS4/Xbox One console generation, there were very little AAA and smaller games offering co-op modes of any kind. Games like Halo 5: Guardians and subsequent Call of Duty games received a lot of flak for not including local co-op options. That's partially where Hazelight was born from.
Even before the days of Josef Fares making his viral public debut at The Game Awards show in 2017, Hazelight Studios had already released its debut game: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Receiving great praise upon its initial release on the Xbox 360's Summer of Arcade, Brothers is a bit of a cop out because it's not technically couch co-op in that sense, but played like a co-op game. However, the game's acclaim led to Hazelight Studios working with EA to develop A Way Out, a uniquely co-op only action-adventure game that saw similar praise to Brothers. A Way Out's popularity likely influenced It Takes Two's acclaim and success as a co-op only adventure as well.
Hazelight Studios' most recent effort, It Takes Two, further emphasizes the point that purely co-op games and modes are still greatly missed. Even as gaming moves into yet another console generation with the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, couch co-op games, and even just couch co-op side modes in games, are still a rare breed. Moving from A Way Out to It Takes Two, it's almost as if Joseph Fares and Hazelight Studios are attempting to prove that couch co-op's popularity is largely genre agnostic. A Way Out and It Takes Two couldn't be any more different in scale, scope, narrative design, and aesthetic, but the titular gameplay framework and mechanics are equally enticing.
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