After only a couple of minutes with its co-op mode, Survival, playing Star Wars: Battlefront felt like being part of its wider universe. But at the end of the demo, when the magic begins to wear off, I began to lose interest in the gameplay.
And yet, from sound design to animations, Battlefront nails the "Star Wars" feel. The stormtroopers move in that familiar, semi-robotic, a-little-bit-clumsy way, like their armor is a half size too big. The blaster sounds like it was lifted straight from "A New Hope." When my shots hit one of the troopers, the impact and shower of sparks mirrored the Rebels' when they fought hordes of Imperial soldiers in the films. The AT-STs are big, hulking, menacing machines. They stomp around corners, sending massive blasts to take me out when they catch sight of me.
It's rare and pleasant to see a game set in a movie universe encompass the essence of that movie so well.
The same cannot be said for Battlefront's co-op mode. In this game type, you take on waves of enemies and try to survive for as many rounds as possible. In other words, it's a take on Horde mode. For this kind of mode to stand out at this point, it has to do something special.
Battlefront seems to rely on the "Star Wars" universe to provide that hook. Its co-op is par for the course, featuring 15 increasingly difficult rounds that you and a partner have to fight through. My demo was capped at six rounds, and it began with a wave of simple footsoldiers and ended with a mix of infantry, jetpack troopers and an AT-ST.
A representative of developer DICE assured me that there would be more enemy types in the final game, but I saw only a few during my time with this version. Intelligent AI makes up for a lack of sheer variety, but at the end of my six rounds I was ready for a new challenge. Periodic drops that we had to claim and protect did little to shake up the gameplay. After a couple without any substantial reward, we gave up trying to claim them.
Additionally, split-screen co-op seemed frustratingly limited in visual scope on the map that I played on. I expected the usual problems that come with split-screen, but this was particularly egregious. We played on a map set in a canyon with a good deal of verticality. In the limited perspective of split-screen, I was constantly swinging around, trying and failing to pinpoint the enemy that was shooting from far above me. There just was not enough room on the screen to sufficiently play the game on that map.
For all that, however, I still had fun. I still loved watching the stormtroopers racing around and flanking me and my teammate. The blaster felt great to shoot, and the perks we had gave a little color to the running and gunning. I had access to a shield, a rocket launcher and a jetpack, and I was surprised at how satisfying it felt to simply jet up to the top level of the canyon.
What impressed me the most, though, was that Battlefront does not feel like the single-player in Battlefield, Dice's other shooter franchise. It does not have destruction, nor does it have the same sort of hectic and high-octane atmosphere. Battlefront is, at its core, a "Star Wars" game, and its enemies, weapons and sound go a long way to helping it feel like it has a place in the "Star Wars" universe.
At the end of the demo, I didn't think that the co-op mode itself was anything special. But the promise of joining up with a friend and taking on an AT-ST and a wave of stormtroopers together is something I cannot ignore.
You'll be able to play Battlefront's co-op mode either split-screen or online when the game launches on November 17.