Yesterday we played Crytek's Ryse: Son of Rome and got a feel for the basics of combat and the execution-based perks system. Today at a pre-Gamescom 2013 event in Cologne, Germany, we tested out the two-player co-op mode. Another player and I stepped into the arena and faced waves of enemies while satisfying simple mission objectives.

Combat in Ryse revolves around slashing enemies with your sword, bashing them with your shield, and blocking incoming attacks Each player begins by selecting one of Ryse’s four perks (XP boost, health regen, damage gain, and a smart bomb-esque attack speed power). The co-op gameplay takes place inside a big gladiatorial arena, but the environments within replicate swampy villages or have traps strewn among crumbling pillars. The idea of changing terrain between rounds reminds me of the Pokémon Stadium stage in Super Smash Bros. In one instance I was trapped in a prison of tall spikes and had to slash my way to freedom. Sometimes you and your armored friend have to simply defeat a required number of barbarians, but one round required us to burn their tents by knocking over fiery cauldrons. The enemies will just keep coming until you set their camp ablaze, so it’s worth dodging them and heading straight for the cauldrons.

Interactions with my co-op partner were limited. If one player dies, the other can revive them, and weakening foes together softens them up for faster executions. Performing executions activates perks and earns XP. During the more frantic fights I noticed problems with Ryse’s zoomed-in third-person camera involving the player character obscures the action. Hit detection was also off. I swung my sword at enemies that were nowhere near me and was surprised to see the attacks register. Enemies also tend to clip through objects in the environment during the slow motion executions, which strips the moment of drama. This is an early version of the Xbox One launch game, but I’m a little worried given how close we are to the console’s release.