E3 2015: Waging War on Hoth in Star Wars: Battlefront
Close your eyes and imagine yourself steeped in the midst of the epic battle on Hoth. Listen to the Y-Wings and TIE Fighters zoom over your head and the pings of laser fire bouncing off of the rocks behind you. Immerse yourself in that world, then open your eyes. Of course you're no longer in that epic and icy struggle, but if you were playing Star Wars Battlefront then what you saw in your mind would match what was happening on screen. The level of detail that went into reproducing this battle is enormous, and all of it pays off into what is a fantastic experience.
The hands-on demo at EA's E3 2015 booth featured a massive battle on the icy slopes of Hoth, pitting twenty players as Rebels against 20 more players representing the Imperial army. The Rebels' objective was to destroy the giant AT-AT walking mechs that threatened the Rebel power generators, while the Imperial forces were tasked with clearing the way for the AT-ATs to destroy said generators. What followed was a massive tug of war taking place over a giant stretch of the ice planet, with every kind of combat imaginable taking place.
Each soldier starts with one of two standard loadouts containing various blaster rifles and pistols, then sets out to attack or defend the objective points. The AT-ATs walk slowly across the map, reaching checkpoints that allow Imperial forces to spawn closer to the objective and force the Rebels to do the same. Think of it as a modified version of Battlefield's Rush mode, only the giant walking mech is unlocking more of the map instead of the players themselves.
During the battle various tokens can be found through the map, granting those who discover them all kinds of perks. In my short playthrough I found one that granted me a high-powered smart missile and another that inserted me into the pilot's seat of an X-Wing soaring high above the battlefield. Taking control of that majestic machine was exhilarating, as I could zoom all throughout the battle and target whichever poor Imperial sap crossed my path. Of course it took a moment to adjust to the X-Wing's control scheme, and I might have nosedived more than once, but once the adjustment set in that's all I wanted to do.
Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle in the battle for Hoth is the disparity in difficulty for each side. The Imperials just have to advance the AT-ATs to a certain point then protect them as they destroy the generators, but the Rebels have a far tougher time. They have to destroy the walkers, but they can only do so after activating enough uplinks to summon a Y-Wing bombing run. After waiting for the bombing run to commence, AT-ATs can then be damaged. I hope there are missions where the Rebels have easier objectives than the Imperial forces, or else anyone playing as the good guys is going to have a real challenge winning on a given map.
No matter what side I was fighting for and what I was using to do so, the atmosphere of the battle felt like it was ripped straight out of the Star Wars films and inserted into a video game. DICE has done an incredible job recreating the world of Star Wars for both the hardcore fan and the less-than-familiar folk, making an experience that is equally fun for both sides. A strong showing like this means that Star Wars Battlefront should be on everyone's watch list come this fall, as it could potentially take the gaming world by storm even with some heavy competition from other games.
Star Wars Battlefront launches Nov. 17 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.