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E3 preview: Star Wars Battlefront’s Hoth leaves us cold

Star Wars Battlefront PC

Let’s be completely clear: Star Wars: Battlefront is, on the face of it, the most exciting game in the world right now. It is a hype train we are happy to board. Just look at it! There’s the AT-ATs and everything! Luke shows up at the end for some reason! Oh wait, he’s wearing clothes he doesn’t on Hoth in the canon, I’ll… actually forget that it still looks brilliant!

That hype train, at E3, turned into a hype queue: hundreds of humans waiting for their chance to touch the game. I was with them. And it was… okay. 

The map EA were showing was set on ice planet of Hoth. The goal: players have to capture or defend control points—with the Empire winning for keeping two AT-ATs alive, and the Rebels winning by managing to disable the AT-ATs via scripted Y-Wing bombing runs and then destroying them with whatever weapon comes to hand (you can even do the tow-cable thing, if you’re lucky enough to be in a snowspeeder at the right time) the Hoth demo was as perfect a representation of the final game as you can hope to get at E3.

It just… it just left me a bit cold. Despite looking and sounding like Star Wars, it didn’t feel like Star Wars. It felt like… another Battlefield.

The clue in what has happened with Star Wars Battlefront is in the studio that’s behind it: DICE. While the original Star Wars Battlefront games were developed by the (now defunct) Pandemic Studios, Star Wars Battlefront is developed by the studio that’s brought us countless iterations of the Battlefield series. As a result, DICE aren’t going to “fix what’s broken” with Battlefield for Battlefront, and as a result this is absolutely Star Wars Battlefield in all but name.

If you love and play Battlefield a lot, this is actually great. Because you can slot right into playing Star Wars Battlefront without blinking; it plays so much like a version of Battlefield with an (incredibly impressive) Star Wars skin that it’s actually rather jarring. The guns feel like Battlefield guns, but they go “pew pew” instead of “bang bang”. Movement feels like moving around in Battlefield. And the special (disappointingly limited) uses of X-Wings and TIE Fighters? If you want, just re-arrange this brain-teaser: “Battlefield, feels like.”

If this all sounds rather harsh (after all, if you ignore the absolutely terrible state Battlefield 4 shipped in, Battlefield is great!) maybe it is. But after a ten year break and impressive hype, it’s strange to be playing in what should be the playground of my dreams—the most accurately realised attack on Hoth I’ve ever seen in a game—and to find it utterly un-cinematic and instead deeply normal, like playing Battlefield 4 with the Star Wars score on in the background.

Walking away from Star Wars Battlefront felt like seeing Episode I for the first time; that experience of walking away with a group of people, all trying to convince yourselves that you saw something more exciting than you did. And while it is, obviously, better than Episode I, it still feels like there’s something missing. Will I still buy it, in the hope that the Star Wars magic is in there somewhere? Probably, yeah. It does look amazing.

Check our guide to the bestStar Wars PC gamesyou can play right now.