Star Wars: Battlefront Impressions: Learning to Survive or Die Together

The upcoming Star Wars Battlefront isn't just about Rebel vs. Empire multiplayer battles. As revealed at this year's E3, the game will include a cooperative multiplayer mode, where up to two players work together to repel waves of incoming Stormtroopers. We put our rebellious teamwork skills to work at the EA Summer Showcase in New York City. We'll either escape the Empire's efforts to crush us, or take out as many of them as we can before our epic death scene monologues.

At the start of the match, players get to choose their equipment, such as your main weapon and a star card. The star cards determines your special equipment loadout, and we were shown two at the demonstration. The first is designed for defensive play and includes an Ion Torpedo that homes in on enemy vehicles like the AT-ST, a jump pack for getting to higher ground, and a personal shield that renders the player temporarily invincible can unable to fire. Also, players can't shoot while the jump pack is in use. The second card is for more offensive players, and has the Barrage grenade launcher and Ion Shot, which temporarily enhances your main blaster to make it more effective against vehicles.

The scenario we played was pretty straightforward. Two Rebels crash land on Tatooine and must survive against incoming waves until help comes to pick them up. As expected, the area has a lot of rocks and ridges to run or jump on, with opportunities for enemies to come streaming in from almost all sides. The mode supports up to two players in either couch co-op through split-screen or online. Less social players may also choose to play the mode solo.

Generally speaking, there isn't a whole lot to the mode. You and a teammate must hold out while a ridiculous number of Imperial forces come running in to kill two people. There are a fixed number of lives shared between the two players, and one can choose whether or not to respawn during a wave or wait for the wave to end so that they'll be revived for free. Stormtroopers generally try to win with their overwhelming numbers, but they come in many varieties. They also come running from unexpected places. For example, while I was busy shooting at the bulk of Stormtroopers coming in from the top of a ridge, a trooper took a moment to ambush me from the bottom. Snipers enter the picture during later waves, camping from afar and waiting for you be caught unaware.

Additionally, some of the Stormtroopers are equipped with some of the same gadgets you have. Stormtroopers would hit their personal shields immediately upon seeing us, which can get really annoying, because they continue to run straight up next to you to... what? Block your shots and protect their squad mates? Have a staring contest? Whatever the reason, there can be three shielded troopers up in your face, and your only option is to put up with them until their shield timers run out.

Every once in a while, a task will be presented to players, like scanning a nearby drop pod for supplies, Of course, these pods are almost always located in an open space where Stormtroopers can easily surround you, but successfully scanning one gives the player a unique special weapon like calling in an orbital strike or a powerful grenade to quickly take out a group of Stormtroopers. Each pod has a selection of three different weapons to pick up. These special weapons carry over from one wave to the next, so there's no pressure to use them unless you have to.

AT-STs start walking in during the final waves. It can feel like the Ion Torpedo takes an inordinately long time to get a lock, especially when you're dodging blaster fire or just trying to avoid the tall vehicle's notice. Additionally, it takes more than one shot to take one down, which made me wonder if we weren't better off setting up some sort of Ewok inspired trip wire trap.

I ended up dying a lot, and we had to restart a few times, but we eventually managed to survive across 10 waves. I also learned the hard way that there is falling damage if you boost jump too high. In the end, it was worth it, because we made it to victory and escaped the desert planet with a pile of Stormtrooper bodies in our wake.

The cooperative mode might be a little on the simple side, even with the challenging number of Stormtroopers looking to overwhelm you, but the developers promise that more mission modes will become available. Each Survival scenario will involve two Rebels fighting against ten waves of Imperial Stormtroopers. Furthermore, playing in cooperative mode contributes towards character progression, like unlocking more star cards.

We'll find out if additional missions help add more complexity to an otherwise straightforward wave survival scenario as we draw closer to the Star Wars Battlefront release this fall.

Star Wars Battlefront will arrive on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on November 17.

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