‘Foxhole’ review: an immersive, player-built spectacle

War is hella fun

Foxhole is a lot of things. An isometric shooter. A vast World War 2-era MMO. Part social experiment. But most of all? It’s a big, gory meat grinder that you won’t be able to stay away from – and by the time you’ve got to grips with developer Siege Camp‘s keenly ambitious military sim, you’ll begin to love every death.

There are a couple of big features that distinguish Foxhole from other WW2 shooters like Hell Let Loose. The most obvious is Foxhole‘s isometric viewpoint – you’ll control your soldier from above, firing your gun by lining up a ghostly white line that shows if terrain or cover will block your shot.

Apart from that, the biggest difference is that Foxhole‘s wars don’t wrap up in neat little matches. One war can take several weeks – sometimes over a month – to conclude, and once you’ve chosen between two factions (the Colonials or Wardens), you’re locked to your side for the foreseeable future.  As the war wages on, tech upgrades take the war from the trench warfare of the first World War, to the open warfare and enhanced mobility of World War 2.

Foxhole. Credit: Siege Camp.
Foxhole. Credit: Siege Camp.

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Each war in Foxhole takes so long because the game has nearly 40 connected hexes – large areas of a massive map – to scrap over. Combined with Foxhole‘s MMO-scale player base, taking a single bridge, let alone an entire hex, is an evening-devouring task. While “winning” in Foxhole can’t be achieved in a day, you’ll come away from a few hours in Siege Camp’s world brimming with memorable stories to regale. Foxhole is similar to Eve Online, in that the game is truly brought to life by those who play it – from ensuring soldiers are supplied to healing players and making sure the trains run on time, everything is down to the players to control.

In one pitched battle, we fought for four hours over a single winding valley that had been carved into a killing ground, teeming with player-dug trenches and machine gun emplacements. If not for the torrent of bullets and explosions, you could’ve walked along the road in about five minutes – but because of its geographical importance, the valley had been transformed into a battle for inches. Every speck of the battlefield looked like a setpiece from a blockbuster war film: a delivery of grenade launchers meant our squad up on the cliffs could clear the enemy out from their nearest trenches, which allowed our own troops in the trenches to charge over-the-top to take the enemy’s dugouts for our own.

Foxhole. Credit: Siege Camp.
Foxhole. Credit: Siege Camp.

It was a battle filled with heroics – players carrying wounded comrades through gunfire in search of a medic, collective cheers when a grenade found its bloody mark. Though it raged for hours, it never stopped being a thrill.

Unfortunately, this particular tale didn’t have a happy ending. Foxhole‘s dynamic weather system meant that the area was in the grip of a blizzard, which had frozen a huge lake running parallel to the valley. At first, this was a makeshift arena for would-be partisans and spies to try and sneak through to each other’s bases, or to fight and die on the ice. Eventually, our enemy – struggling for purchase on the frontline – used the temporary freeze to its advantage in a way we hadn’t prepared for, attacking from the flank and causing a panicked retreat from everything we’d spent hours fighting and bleeding for. If that sounds frustrating, perhaps Foxhole isn’t for you – but if the thought of getting thoroughly lost in the most immersive shootout you’ve ever played sounds good, then Foxhole is designed with you in mind.

Foxhole. Credit: Siege Camp.
Foxhole. Credit: Siege Camp.

If the life of a grunt on the frontlines doesn’t suit you, there are plenty of other ways for you to contribute to the victory effort. You could salvage scrap far from the frontlines and keep the player-run factories well-stocked, or you could go a step further and get behind the wheel of a truck, ship or train to get each manufacturer’s supplies to the frontline. If the thought of pacificism appalls you, there’s always the partisan route to follow – which entails sneaking through to enemy territory and wreaking havoc on their backlines. What you choose will be down to personal preference, but this quickly became a personal favourite. There was a rush to finding the right gap in the frontlines to slip through, a thrill that’s amplified tenfold when it leads to the flawless ambush of an ill-prepared artillery crew.

On one memorable afternoon, myself and a handful of partisans made our home in a ruined town on the border of both armies’ territories. While the enemy probably thought it was a well-defended fortress, it was secretly just our motley crew of murderers laying mines and picking off anyone who wandered into the labyrinthine ruins of bombed-out buildings.

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However, none of our success would have been possible if not for Foxhole‘s wonderful community. In this particular case, a grizzled partisan took us under his wing to teach us his bloody trade – how to hide from bigger patrols, where to plant mines, and how to use cover in relation to Foxhole‘s isometric shooting system. Elsewhere, tens of friendly players – likely clocking that I was new – took time to teach me the game’s basics, like setting up a mounted machine gun or providing medical aid. Going into Foxhole, the game’s depth was intimidating – and I was worried that from my time playing it in Early Access, it would be difficult to learn. Thanks to the game’s wonderful community, that was never an issue – in fact, Foxhole is surprisingly easy to understand and jump into.

And jumping in is exactly what you should be doing. Foxhole is brilliantly unique, and juggles intense moment-to-moment action with an immense bigger-picture scale. That feeling of fighting for the bigger picture means that although you will die hundreds of times, you’ll find yourself sat on the next front-bound troop carrier just as often.

Foxhole is out now, and is available on PC.

The Verdict

An immersive and bombastic military sim, Foxhole is a fantasy brought to life. Foxhole‘s player-built sandbox means there’s a role for everyone to play, while the sheer amount of players in each server makes each firefight a cinematic and thrilling spectacle.

Pros

  • Some of the most immersive warfare in video games
  • A friendly community makes Foxhole welcoming and easy to learn
  • Each conflict promises memorable stories

Cons

  • If the thought of spending weeks in the same war doesn’t appeal to you, Foxhole isn’t for you
  • The wider in-game text chat is poorly moderated and can be a little rough at peak hours
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