The Battle of Hoth: The History of the AT-AT Takedown
How many times has the Battle of Hoth featured in a video game? From the second you see the AT-ATs, you knew the rebels were in real trouble. What I love about the battle of Hoth is that it ramps up the drama early on and keeps it there. From then on, you had no idea what to expect. It’s classic Star Wars too. An asymmetric battle with the immense technological superiority of The Empire on one side and the plucky rebels on the backfoot, having to survive with grit and determination. Hoth also game us two more iconic Star Wars vehicles. The Imperial Walker and the Rebel Snowspeeder. Easily up there with the X-Wing and TIE Fighter as must-own toys, these two might even rate higher for me if I had to rank all the Star Wars vehicles.
Of course all this means is that Hoth translates to an excellent game. We all recreated it using our Star Wars toys and the sofa cushions. It’s no surprise really that the game developers wanted to tap into that, and so have whacked this one scene into so many Star Wars video games. Flying your own snowspeeder and bringing down an AT-AT yourself became equally as nostalgic as watching the film in the first place.
Not every game captured the sensation perfectly, there’s a few swings and misses. But where there’s a will there’s a way and once they got the formula down, taking down an AT-AT just like Wedge and Wes became a powerful gaming memory for so many of us. And here they all are, listed and played in order. Hello, my name is Matty, you’re watching The Game Show and this is the history of the AT-AT takedown in computer games.
Empire Strikes Back, Atari 2600
The first game to attempt the battle of Hoth scene was in fact the very first Star Wars game ever. The Empire Strikes back by Parker Bros was released in 1982 for the Intellivision and the Atari 2600. It’s a decent enough Defender clone where you fly your little Snowspeeder (which is what, 15 pixels) left and right and try to shoot down a load of AT-ATs. Like pretty much all games from this era, ESB is hard as all balls and there’s no win state. The AT-ATs just keep respawning until you run out of lives. There’s no tow cables so it’s not exactly a screen-accurate representation but considering the game is less than 4kb I’d say Parker Bros did a pretty solid job. Three wampas for effort.
Empire Strikes Back, Arcade
Atari’s Star Wars Arcade game was a real big hitter back in 1983 and it’s still regarded as one of the all-time great arcade machines. Two years after it hit the arcades, Atari released a conversion kit to keep the punters interested, this time taking inspiration from the Battle of Hoth. The game was ported to home computers and I’m playing the pretty ropey Amiga version here. As you can see, you are firing cables at the AT-ATs legs but it’s more like a giant version of Boba Fett’s fibrecord whip than the tow-rope sequence we’re given in the films. It was a step towards the real thing, but we weren’t quite there yet.
Empire Strikes Back, NES
Next up is 1991’s The Empire Strikes back on the NES. Like a lot of NES games, the Star Wars NES games are hard AF. In the Hoth level you are circling the AT-ATs which is pretty cool, but it’s a step back as you’re back to just blasting them like the 2600 game. One thing which is cool though is that if your snowspeeder gets destroyed (RIP Dak), Luke can rappel up underneath the AT-ATs and grenade them! The screen accuracy gives with one hand and takes with another here. There was a surprisingly good Game Boy port of this one too, which does all the same stuff impressively well on that little screen.
Super Empire Strikes Back, SNES
You wanna talk about hard games, you should check out the Super Star Wars trilogy on the SNES. If it wasn’t for emulation and save states, I would never have seen the later levels in these games. The Hoth stage in Super Empire is hard, but it’s the first proper breakthrough to realising the screen-accurate AT-AT takedown. Dropping the tow cable and looping around the AT-AT. It’s here but it’s way harder than it needs to be. The controls are partly at fault here as is the primitive depth of field. But considering this is all being done with Mode 7 sprite scaling on a 16-bit console, this is still a real technical achievement. The SNES was a little beast and looking back, Super Empire looks way better than it really has any right to. Super Empire was also the first game to get the sound and music on point too, so this is a massive step toward recreating the Battle of Hoth in a computer game. Good on ‘em, this is the best so far.
Star Wars Rebel Assault, DOS & Mega CD
God I wish I didn’t have to play this. Released the same year as Super Empire on the SNES, Rebel Assault is a good idea really badly realised. I actually gave away my boxed DOS copies of Rebel Assault 1 & 2 because they’re just so awful. The Nostalgia lads among us who remember the dawn of the CD-ROM era will probably also remember the fashion for FMV rail shooters. PC and consoles were full of them. Almost none of these FMV games have aged well and Rebel Assault was already pretty rubbish even when it was new. There is a battle of Hoth sequence in Rebel Assault, but all you’re doing is smashing fire while a video plays in the background. It’s like playing one of those rotating screen car toys, or having a go at being the baddies when your big brother is playing Sonic. It’s barely a game and honestly the least fun of any game on this list. It’s a huge step back and not recommended!
Shadows of the Empire, Windows & N64
Look I’m going to say it, but hold off on hitting that dislike button. Shadows of the Empire is a real arsehole to play nowadays, mostly because the controls are shocking. The PC version isn’t any better than the N64 either. BUT I still rate this game because of my boi Dash Rendar. Also, even if the rest of the game is a bit shit, the opening level is a banger. This was the first time the Battle of Hoth was properly realised. A proper 3D space, top graphics, authentic music and sound. LucasArts did a hell of a job. Releasing the tow cable and circling the AT-AT is spot on. An incredible achievement for 1996. It takes a while to figure out the controls, you’re mostly going to be wobbling about like my mum when she tries to play anything newer than Tetris. As if I care though! Nah, Shadows was the one we were talking about in school. IT MAKES YOU REALLY FEEL LIKE WEDGE ANTILLES.
Star Wars Trilogy, Arcade
This one was a new one to me. Trilogy Arcade was a SEGA arcade game, based on the Sega Model 3 board. Co-developed by Lockheed Martin, the Model 3 is the same board used on Daytona 2 and Virtua Fighter 3 and was the most powerful arcade board the world had seen. It shows. This game came out the same year as Banjo Kazooie. You don’t get to actually take down the AT-ATs in the battle of Hoth which is a shame but boy oh boy, is this a beautiful game.
Rogue Squadron, N64
Rogue Squadron is a banger, one of the N64 greats. The AT-AT takedown isn’t quite as well-realised as Shadows, it’s still a bit janky, but come on hands up who remembers fighting against these controls and the feeling of pride and accomplishment that can only come from a well-realised Star Wars game? It used to be impossible to emulate Rogue Squadron, but recent strides have the game working near-flawlessly in your favourite emulators. The PC version is even better because it has joystick support. Now, if you thought Rogue Squadron was good, get a new pair of socks ready because the sequel is blowing yours right off.
Rogue Squadron 2, Gamecube
This is the one. The big banana. The big shaqtus. The big eQuotatious. Rogue Squadron 2 on the GameCube is one of the all-time great Star Wars games. Get this running with all the settings maxed in Dolphin, and it’s hard to believe it’s 20 years old. The battle of Hoth sequence here is pretty much perfect. The Snowspeeder deploying its cable, the looping round the AT-AT’s legs. It’s flawless. In my opinion this is the pinnacle of the AT-AT takedown. I’m not saying I think it’s got any worse, I just think Rogue Leader is fantastic and can’t be beaten. Absolutely quality game mate.
Rogue Squadron 3, Gamecube
A tip of the old fur-lined Rebel hat to Rebel Strike here. In some ways Rogue Squadron 3 has the best gameplay in the series. What’s cool is that I think this is the only other game to let us take down an AT-AT as Luke with his little grappling hook and grenade combo. Fun little thing.
2004’s Star Wars Battlefront by Pandemic is a real favourite on this channel and its sequel even more so. Both games feature a battle of Hoth map complete with AT-ATs and snowspeeders. What’s really brilliant about Battlefront is that not only do you use the tow cables to bring down the AT-ATs, but you need two players to do it. One to fly the speeder, one to aim the tow cable. That’s wicked but please can I mention that it’s mega hard! Well done to Pandemic for adding a new dimension to what could quite easily feel like well-trodden ground by this point. IT MAKES YOU REALLY FEEL LIKE DAK RALTER.
Battlefront II 2005
2005’s Battlefront II doesn’t change much to be fair, but one significant thing is you get to drive the AT-ATs. So now you can experience first-hand the feeling of your big stompy robot being brought down by a little hovercar and some string.
LEGO Star Wars II
Next up, it’s LEGO. I feel like LEGO games are becoming some sort of Godwin’s Law at this point. Regardless, the AT-AT takedowns in 2006’s LEGO Star Wars II are well worth talking about. Considering by this point bringing down AT-ATs had started to feel a little bit old hat, Traveller’s Tales found a way to keep it fun and to inject that LEGO magic that they seem to add to everything. Also another massive shout-out to the belting GBA version of this game. The game isn’t much to write home about but the cute little isometric battle of Hoth level is wicked.
Disney Infinity 3.0
A real surprise for me was how fun and varied the AT-AT takedowns were in Disney Infinity. I never got into that whole Skylanders, LEGO Universe, Amiibos thing and so I stayed away from Disney Infinity as well. What I missed out on was a really robust and entertaining battle of Hoth level. Developer Team Gobo put in probably more effort than they needed to, to make each takedown its own unique moment. Instead of triggering the same old animation, Disney Infinity takes advantage of physics and stuff to make the AT-ATs fall over in unique ways. They even react to where the tow cable is on the AT-AT’s legs. I don’t want to say it was wasted on a kid’s game, but I would have loved to see this implemented in some of the other games. This was pretty confusing to buy and get running, but the end result was actually really good so cheers to you, YouTube viewers. This was YouTube ad revenue well spent!
Star Wars Battle Pod
Battle Pod – I guess – is Bandai Namco’s answer to Trilogy Arcade. It’s an absolutely sick arcade machine with a 180 degree wraparound screen. In the same tradition of Star Wars arcade and Trilogy, it’s a rail shooter going through the more famous battles in the original trilogy. Like Trilogy Arcade, you’re not taking down the AT-ATs during the Battle of Hoth. But also like Trilogy, this game looks amazing and it’s got all the hallmarks of a classic arcade machine.
Star Wars Battlefront 2015
After a long ol’ gap, we finally got back into the Snowspeeder seat in DICE’s Battlefront 2015. What can I say about Battlefront? The action is great, the game looks fantastic. DICE didn’t add anything to the AT-AT takedown formula in the way LEGO or Disney Infinity did, in fact it’s a lot harder to pull off than both, almost back to the way it was on the 2004 game. In fact slightly worse because you can’t drive the AT-AT either. That’s not necessarily bad all told, and the game does look bloody fantastic. And the beauty of hindsight is knowing that everything bad you could level at Battlefront 2015 would be eclipsed by the sequel, making this game look great by comparison.
Star Wars Battlefront II 2017
I’ve not played Battlefront II. I don’t have anything nice to say about EA. I don’t want to support them. But what I do want is to be a positive person. So I’m not going to wade into the mire on this one. I stole this footage from a YouTuber called DarknessVQ. The battle of Hoth looks fantastic, I can’t fault that. If you played it and liked it then good on you, I’m making no judgments, it’s just not for me. I’m not mad, I’ve still got like 19 other games that let me shoot at Big Roberts on Ice Planet.
Well there we have it. The history of the AT-AT takedown in computer games. Such an evocative scene! It’s appeared in no less than 20 individual games, going right back to some of the earliest computer games ever and right up to some of the most modern. As far as I can see, nobody is saying “I’ve had enough of the battle of Hoth” so there’s obviously something here which resonates with us. Who knows what we’ll get in the future. It will probably be awesome, because bringing down an AT-AT is almost never bad. If you hadn’t figured, my personal favourites will probably always be Rogue Squadron 2 and Shadows of the Empire. Dash Rendar is my boy.