From the early days of couch co-op, gaming has been a social activity. Even so, it can be hard to find a co-op game that appeals to players of different skill levels and interests. The folks at Piece of Cake Studios may have found a solution in their new Early Access title, Hacktag.
Many games offer co-op capabilities, but typically as an addition to a solidly first-person narrative. This means both players are essentially playing the “main character” with all the same objectives, motivations, and abilities. For the most part this works great and can be tremendous fun, but it barely scratches the surface of a true cooperative experience.
In Hacktag the co-op is built into the core gameplay. As such, players share an objective, but have character specific abilities to carry it out. Playing as either a stealth agent or hacker, players must infiltrate and conduct espionage missions against various corporations. Hacktag is unique in that it gives players with vastly different play-styles and preferences the ability to work together.
The stealth agent explores the level in an isometric 3D view, manually downloading data and avoiding guards. Meanwhile, the hacker uses a holographic blueprint of the level to navigate the building’s virtual network. Both characters have their own version of mini-game skill checks to complete to carry out objectives and can aid each other through different interactions. It’s the same game, but it caters to different styles of play.
Now, Hacktag isn’t the first to try this idea (although they are probably the first to do it with animals). Logic Artists tried a similar premise in their asymmetrical stealth/hacker, Clandestine. Where Clandestine attempted a more realistic approach, Hacktag instead focuses on presenting users with a clean, easy to use interface. This keeps both players more actively engaged in the action rather than watching the agent have all the fun.
Splitting The Difference
The just released early access build can be played online or locally with split-screen for both action/analytical minded co-op teams. This first version features 9 playable levels, an experience system, and some of the planned customization options. The devs plan to add more maps weekly leading up to a procedurally generated level system in the future.
Hacktag retails for $14.99 on Steam Early Access, but is on sale during its launch week for 25% off.