The decision to create a game on the often overlooked first World War sets Battlefield apart in the crowded shooter genre. DICE has produced a visually stunning, visceral combat experience that compelled me to grab friends and show them the experience via livestream. During our recent Operation Supply Drop charity event, Battlefield 1 was the game of choice for streaming. Multiplayer and singleplayer campaign both featured prominently. The spectacle and brutality of Battlefield 1, the somber subject matter and time period draws people in. Battlefield 1 delivers on a paradoxical message that War is both Hell and grimly fascinating. The madness, spectacle and carnage inevitably leads to hard questions: how did the War start, why? Could this happen again?
The single player campaign experience left me asking the question is Battlefield 1 inherently an anti-war game?
“What follows is frontline combat. You are not expected to survive.” – Battlefield 1 Prologue
My immediate reaction to having played through the opening prologue campaign was that Dice and EA have succeeded in creating respectful, grim and somber experience to such an extent that Battlefield may be an anti war – war game? The opening experience drives home the hopelessness and futility of trench warfare on the Western Front. Many prominent livestreamers with vast first person shooter experience struggled to come to terms with the unwinnable reality of the campaign. There is no possibility of survival. The story progresses only after the soldier you are playing, actual WW1 soldiers with names and born and die dates, are killed. As a player you are forced to die over and over again. All of the soldiers are young, there are no appreciable gains. The battlefield itself is a cratered, muddy, apocalyptic wasteland heaped with wreckage. DICE takes an appropriately sober approach to what is extremely difficult, but absolutely critically relevant content.
The reaction of one of our community directors puts the prologue experience into some perspective:
“Have you come to possess these poor doomed men in their last violent moments?” – Lazeris
The experience left members of our guild community asking questions about the war. Why was it fought? Was it really that bad? Any game that leaves young people asking about the Draft and weather or not they would be called to fight clearly having an impact. The single player campaign focusing on the Western Front has a significant emmotional impact. Shell shocked soldiers wandering lost through the endless shelling crossfire and gas attacks surrounded by their desperate doomed comrades leaves an impression of the enormity, waste and pointlessness of the conflict. The initial first ten minutes of the campaign left an impression of loss and futility. Battlefield has matured as a series, graduating from hypothetical future war scenarios to wrestling with the low point in human history that World War 1 rightly occupies.
The Web comic Dorkly has published a Battlefield 1 response that accurately sums up the subject matter: Battlefield 1
Battlefield 1 actually works. A relief following technical issues that plagued Battlefield 4. The single player campaign consists of six stories, following individuals and small groups of soldiers involved in different theaters of the War. Battlefield 1 is undeniably visually stunning with visceral audio that brings the chaos and madness of the fighting into crisp focus.
There are a variety of different combat environments and scenarios acting as an introduction to the different multiplayer scenarios. Most of the maps are very large offering near total freedom for decision making on how to best complete objectives. Stealthy or more direct approaches, use of vehicles or heavy artillery versus long range marksmanship or close range melee combat are entirely up to the player. Though not as ambitious as Skyrim or Metal Gear Solid V the open world environment for campaigns has clearly been influenced.
As in other Battlefield games multiplayer and particularly the Conquest mode remains the most compelling and popular aspect of the game. DICE has introduced new takes on player classes to better reflect the first world war time setting. Vehicles and their associated support classes continue to play an essential central role on the battlefield. Tanks have an enormous presence on the battlefield, requiring specific countermeasures in order to defeat. More traditional classes are also present: assault, medic, scout sniper.
Interestingly the mortality of the first world war is undeniable even in multiplayer matches. Though victory is possible, combat for individual soldiers is not ultimately survivable. This is not Halo. Death is a constant presence. Death comes every few moments for most players. Opposing teams of equivalent experience and skill drive home the devastating potential of tanks, heavy artillery and aircraft during matches even further. Zeppelins and heavy naval dreadnoughts add to the chaos. Fully destructible structures and terrain add additional uncertainty and chaos to the battlefield. Even reinforced stone structures and concrete do not provide reliable cover against high explosives, heavy artillery and aircraft.
A soldier’s average life expectancy while in the trenches was six weeks. Some of the people who were mostly at risk of early death were the junior officers and the stretcher bearers.
5. About 6,000 men were killed on daily basis during WWI. This amounted to over 9 million deaths throughout the 7. Over 25 million miles of trenches were dug and zigzagged through the Western Front alone. A number of these trenches were nicknamed Bond Street or Death Valley while the German lines were dubbed as Pilsen Trench, so on.