It Takes Two to Co-Op Operation: Tango – The Hacker’s Side

"I'm in."

[Operation: Tango is an asymmetrical co-op game where two players fill the role of Agent and Hacker. I played all six of the game’s missions with Destructoid Senior News Reporter and my Normandy FM co-host Eric Van Allen. Rather than play through the game twice in both roles, we thought it would be fun to give our respective thoughts on the game as we played it like a cooperative impressions piece. The following is my thoughts on the Hacker role, you can check out his feelings on the Agent role over at Destructoid]

It’s strange to say that, after completing Operation: Tango, I still haven’t seen much of its world. That’s because I spent the cooperative spy game as “the guy in the chair.” While my co-op partner, Destructoid’s Eric Van Allen, took to the field, I sat behind a computer, providing intel, hacking through obstacles, and filling the support role in one of the most involved co-op experiences I’ve ever played.

Playing as Alistair, the asymmetrical Hacker character in Operation: Tango, brought the repeated whiplash of feeling like a techno-god manipulating the environments my partner stealthed through. Only to find myself, minutes later, feeling like an absolute buffoon as we struggled to understand just what the game wanted us to do. We usually resolved this by just telling each other what we saw — either in Eric’s physical surroundings, as the Agent, or on my in-game computer’s UI. It took a few such “a-ha” moments to really appreciate how much we relied on each other.

I went in expecting just to hack some mainframes, playing various mini-games to help Eric the Agent get through every infiltration unscathed. What I got was something even more collaborative. Even with all the information in front of me, I seldom knew how it would factor into a given mission. Not until my partner relayed what he saw, and it suddenly made some tool at my disposal click into place. 

Even playing the support role, Operation: Tango never let me get too comfortable with a setup, either. There were occasional throughlines between each mission, such as hacking into cameras or sending my Agent a fake ID to access restricted areas. More often than not, though, I found myself doing something completely different with each mission that followed. 

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The way the game shakes things up did result in some clarity issues, however. The final mission, which involved finding a bomb in the midst of a festival, introduced so many mechanics at once that it took a much longer time to actually suss out the core problem, eventually pushing us to access the game’s hint system. It was a disappointing note to conclude on, but even looking back, I’m still amazed how well Operation: Tango slaps in new plates to spin while still maintaining the cooperative, communicative core. We both learned on the fly and worked together to progress.

One standout mission had us stop a runaway train from crashing. That was after it had been sabotaged by the baddy we were chasing, of course, which is the pillar behind all your spy hijinks. As Eric moved to stop it, it was up to me to unlock cart doors while reading off instructions on my end. At the same time, he had to relay the train controls back to me to work from. The pressure was on. I could only explain procedures to him if I knew exactly what to look for. It was often something as simple as the color of a wire or which order symbols appeared on a control panel. Just plugging away at any solution would be catastrophic; we had to be clear and concise with each other. Otherwise, we’d never stop the train and save everyone on it in time.

I think that’s what I took away most from Operation: Tango. When I decided to play as the Hacker, I thought it would be like seeing into the Matrix. I thought I’d have all the answers to get the Agent where they needed. But being the guy in the chair wasn’t just about having answers; it was being one half of a well-oiled machine, working in tandem with one in the field. I’m not sure the magic of figuring it all out together is something that can be recreated. Not even by switching roles. But if Operation: Tango ever sees new missions, I think I’m comfortable sitting behind the computer again. Though I can’t imagine playing it without the Agent I trust most.