Charge Forward to Victory in Our Hands-On Foxhole Preview

By Jeff Francis
Foxhole hands-on preview

War movies have always been a particular favorite with me. Countless times growing up, I watched classics like The Dirty Dozen, The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, Kelly's Heroes, Patton, and Sergeant York, not to mention more modern fare like Saving Private Ryan and Fury. Sadly, the experience of fighting in a major conflict hasn't been really translated too well to the realm of online games. While there are plenty of mmofps games dealing with conflicts like WW2, they don't capture the true dynamic of being part of an overall army that is working together to achieve both tactical and strategic victory. However, there is a game that is looking to change that: Foxhole. This sandbox wargame/mmo is being developed by Clapfoot, and I was lucky to sit down and get a good look at the game. Pull up a chair for an intel briefing on our hands-on Foxhole preview.

Foxhole outpost

The Foxhole mmo isn't your normal military-themed online game. It combines battlefield action, long term strategic planning, and crafting into an immersive sandbox experience. Each solder in the game is an actual player, and the overall goal is to win the campaign by capturing all of the enemy's Town Halls. These structures serve as the hubs for each side, and naturally, you want to make sure that your Town Halls don't fall into enemy hands. Everything that the players use is crafted by the players, from rifles to vehicles to fortifications. Need to shore up a town's defenses with some pillboxes and machine gun nests? Then build them!

My Foxhole preview experience began with meeting Adam Garib, one of the game's developers. He talked me through the basic controls of the game, which are pretty intuitive. Movement is your standard WASD, and the overall view is of the top-down isometric kind. The player can have their character crouch (especially behind cover, which does help), go prone, and even climb over obstacles like sandbags and low walls. Interacting with buildings (such as supply depots) is done with a keystroke (E) as is vehicles (Q). After my quick boot camp in the Foxhole mmo, it was off to see the war effort.

We began by first building a truck to carry supplies to the forward operating theater so that I could get a quick grasp of the building mechanics in the game. Building is pretty straightforward. The player presses B, which opens up a menu of options. After an option is selected, the player then places the template and then begins using a hammer to build the item. There are several types of materials, which can be harvested, that are needed to construct things. The more complex the item, the longer it takes to build. After building the truck, we loaded it up with supplies (by interacting with the back of the truck) and then drove up to the village that our side was using as a forward base.

Foxhole troops

Let's turn this Foxhole preview to one of the core aspects of the game - combat. Engaging in battle with enemy players is both simple and brutal. The combat system in Foxhole is quite elegant but easily understood. The right mouse button will aim the player's weapon, which will then have a line coming out from it to denote line of sight. The left mouse button fires the weapon. Your character does not have infinite ammo, so if you run out, then you're out until you get resupplied. You will have to reload your weapons. If you're looking for typical mmo fps combat where you can charge in, guns blazing, and be Rambo, then look somewhere else. Such actions will only get your character killed in a hurry. It only takes a few shots from an enemy to drop you. More powerful weapons, such as a mortar, will kill you outright. (As happened to me as I was moving up to check out a fight over a bridge.) An interesting feature of getting dropped is that you don't die immediately. It takes several seconds, which allows for someone acting as a medic the opportunity to help revive you. When you die, all your gear is dropped. One of the coolest things about combat in the Foxhole mmo is that there is friendly fire. If you don't pay attention to where you're shooting, you can end up capping one of your buddies. I accidentally killed a soldier on our side while I was firing at enemy positions on the far side of a bridge. The game will let you know when this happens.

What did I take away from this Foxhole preview? From what I saw, I have to say that Clapfoot has something special here, and there are several reasons for this. One is that the game is totally sandbox in nature as the players are in control of all the action. They harvest resources, build everything, and determine how attacks are made and when. The community of players that I saw were highly engaged with the game and extremely enthusiastic. The world of the Foxhole mmo is persistent. If you build something, it stays until it gets destroyed. You can scavenge the fallen to retrieve their gear and use it. Combat is fun, easy, and quite deadly. The fact that friendly fire exists is awesome as it forces you to think about what you're doing. There are protections in place for douche bags that continually kill friendly players. Once they have enough knocks on them, players can start a vote to kick them off the server and be banned. You can also kill people with vehicles. We almost ran someone over with our supply truck at the start of my Foxhole preview, and we did destroy some minor fortifications that had been put in place on the road. This also means that you can kill enemy players by running them over too. Towards the end of my preview, I was travelling with another developer back to the front line on a motorcycle and sidecar. As I was driving, I got lost and actually went into enemy territory, which the dev noted with some humor. We ran into a patrol, who began to light us up with fire, but before we went down, I mowed one of their guys under our tires. It was pretty sweet.

Foxhole construction

One of the intriguing aspects of the Foxhole mmo is that there's so many different ways to experience it. You can choose which role you want to play. You can choose to act as a scavenger and gatherer of resources while others concentrate on building the arsenal needed for war. You can act as a scout and reconnoiter for enemy movements. You can build and man fortifications, such as pillboxes. Perhaps you want to run supplies from a rear camp up to the front or act as a medic. Or perhaps you just want to fight, but fighting isn't monolithic. The narrative is determined by the players. You can take some friends, hide and wait until the enemy attacks your side, and then do a surprise attack from the flank when they're vulnerable. Perhaps you want to move through the countryside in a commando raid to destroy an enemy camp or cut a supply line. Battles can change drastically. During my Foxhole preview, the entire attack from our side got disrupted when the enemy blew up the bridge that served as the conduit of attack.

In the end, I think the Foxhole mmo has a bright future. The game is currently still in pre-alpha, but the gameplay is smooth and the visuals nicely done. The demo version is available on Steam, and the game will be buy-to-play when it's released. Personally, I think this is a good thing as it keeps the f2p trolls out. The core systems of the game are easily picked up and implemented, but there is a surprising amount of depth to them. This game scratches a lot of itches for players: crafting, intense combat, strategy, immersion, a persistent sandbox world, and so on. I like the emphasis of the player being part of a larger whole, of which they'll need in order to succeed. It's very accessible to new players but offers a lot to those who dive into it. Plus, I like the alternative history feel of the game as it combines elements of WW1 and WW2 together. I highly recommend checking the game out.

I wish to thank Clapfoot and Adam Garib for giving MMO-Play this hands-on Foxhole preview.

Jul202017

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