Wot I Think: Battlefield 1

Dice are going back to the twentieth century with Battlefield 1 [official site] and arming players with an assortment of experimental weaponry from the era. Then it’s out of the trenches and into enemy machine guns. Will Brendan survive? Let’s see.

A lot of us have grown up thinking that the Great War was a unique conflict – trapped between old ideas of warfare and new mechanisms of murder. But, if the Battlefield series is anything to go by, the killing fields of World War I aren’t all that different from any war that came afterwards. With Battlefield 1, the series has not changed very much. There are some differences, of course (and some quite good differences) but if you think muddy trenches and mustard gas are going to change anything drastic about the way you storm the next capture point, think again.

I’ll get to the meat of the multiplayer soon but first I wanted to take a look at the campaign mode. If you’re not bothered about this, skip about six paragraphs and reconvene at the phrase “BUT BUT BUT”. The campaign takes the form of ‘War Stories’ which focus on a handful of tales, some latching on to real figures like Laurence of Arabia or battles like Gallipoli, but mostly playing fast and incredibly loose with history. As neatly dressed as these tales are, each sprinkled with their own cinematics, set pieces and spectacles, it’s hard to appreciate them as a whole. At their best they offer a slice of high-octane action and at their lousiest they simply replicate assets from the multiplayer and give you a vague “mission” to perform.

One such operation – a mission in the desert – just populates one of the game’s multiplayer maps (Sinai, from the beta) with a smattering of troops, then chucks you onto a horse and asks you to do an identical task in three of the capture points (kill a commander, take his satchel, release a pigeon). There’s some emphasis on you taking a stealthy approach, sniping from a distance, knifing men in the back and so on. And although I enjoyed these hit and run antics in a brain dead sort of way, when I stood back and recognised the level as having been designed for huge groups of players, the whole thing started to seem like a quickly bundled-together parody of MGSV.

Other characters have more bespoke stories. The tale of a Yankee pilot sees you taking part in air battles which are all spectacle – dogfights above the Alps, bomber escort missions over the western front, heroic rescues from behind enemy lines. The main character of this story – Blackburn – is another thing. The game is desperate for you to understand he’s a ‘lovable rogue’ right from the first moment. While this makes sense by the end of his storyline, it doesn’t stop parts of his self-narration from making your eyeballs do barrel rolls. Some spoilers coming up in the next paragraph.

At one point this pilot crashes in enemy turf and you have to move stealthily through the German trenches. Here he says that he has had “plenty of practice” moving quietly, “out the back of bars” or “bedroom windows”. I actually groaned at my screen. Yes yes, we get it, Blackburn, you’re a scallywag. The story finally reveals the reason for this over-confident chatter – he has been telling fibs all along. So he’s not just the lovable rogue, he also the unreliable narrator! A twist that makes you wonder which clichéd version of the protagonist you dislike more – the maverick who redeemed himself through acts of heroism? Or the murderer who fed you a load of horseshit? I probably like the murderer more.

I’ve seen some preliminary articles floating around that suggest BF1 has actually done singleplayer correctly this time. I can only half agree. The war stories (clichés and ridiculousness notwithstanding) are probably the best singleplayer I’ve seen in a Battlefield game. I’ll admit that. But that is a low bar to pass. Such an accomplishment doesn’t make the stories good by themselves. For a start, they are all disparate, fleeting and skeletal. It’s hard for me to care about Italian Dad and his brother, Twin of Italian Dad, when I’ve only known them both for approximately 30 seconds.

It also shares the same problem with a lot of war stories, be they film or book or whatever. You only play as the winners. You’ll fight against Germans and Turks and Austro-Hungarians but you’ll never see a war story with them as the main character, because they are the baddies. Maybe this isn’t surprising, but it does clash with the opening message of the game, which sees both you – an American – and an enemy soldier lower your guns at the close of a fierce battle, exhausted and unwilling to fight each other. “Look how terrible this war was,” the game seems to say, “for all sides!” Then it’s back to shooting Fritz in the side of the head, or storming a mountain in the Alps dressed in a full suit of prototype armour, killing approximately 100 Austro-Hungarian troops and twenty or so planes along the way. And that’s just level one Italian Dad. In short, Battlefield 1 seems to want to say both these things:

1. Oh my gosh, isn’t war just awful.

2. Oh my gosh, isn’t war great fun!

As a result, the shifting tones of the campaign mode make it a bit of a cringefest. Often the stories just felt like something to muck about in while waiting for the multiplayer portion of the game to download – effectively a really good, really expensive-looking loading screen. But if you expect to find any decent character, plot, or emotion – that’s not what you’re going to get. Just some gorgeous-looking mud.

BUT BUT BUT. Historical accuracy simulator this is not and I have to concede this. It’s a shooty-shooty bang-bang which mostly exists to allow hordes of up to 64 of us to indulge in spectacular multiplayer battles. So let’s look at it from that (much more flattering) angle.

All the usual game modes are present and correct. There’s Conquest, which sees teams fighting to control the most capture points, there’s Domination, Conquest’s younger brother who doesn’t know how to drive, and there’s Deathmatch, which is like the other two but without the flags. There’s also Rush mode which sees teams attack or defend telegraph posts along an advancing frontline. And then there’s … Pigeons?

This mode is basically Briefcase or Oddball or whatever it was called in other FPS games. Your team has to grab and hold a pigeon for as long as it takes to write a message then release it, all before the other team shoots you in the gut and takes the pigeon for themselves. To make matters worse, there’s a slim window when the enemy can shoot your pigeon down after you release it. It’s much more frantic, confined and silly than the other modes. But the best mode is yet to come – Operations. This is where Battlefield 1 feels like it has learned some things from more realistic shooters like Red Orchestra 2.

In Operations, you have an attacker and defender. The huge maps are split up into sectors and once the attacker takes both control points in that sector, they own it. This goes on for between four and seven sectors until either the attackers run out of warm bodies to throw (they have limited respawns) or they capture the final sector. Then it’s onto a second map, and sometimes a third. Unfortunately, the attackers only get three chances to achieve victory – three waves to capture all maps in an Operation. It’s incredibly tough and I have only seen an attacking force succeed once.

To make up for their disadvantage, the attackers get a Behemoth as part of their second and third waves. These are the hulking death machines that sometimes appear in other modes if one side is doing really badly and which players can enter and use to make life difficult and explodey for their enemies. In the desert maps it can be a huge armoured train. In others it is an artillery ship just off the coast. The one I hate most is the zeppelin. It has bombs and four gun emplacements for maximum death-doling.

I spent most of my time playing in this mode. It has a far better sense of flow than the others. Because the attackers always need to capture two points to lockdown a sector, there’s a lot of scrabbling and defensive pushbacks. It reminds me of both the best and most frustrating mode of Day of Infamy. But it isn’t without its flaws.

For instance, the best way for the attackers to conserve their limited respawns is to have lots of medics who can revive downed players. But the game is quickfire and fastpaced – you always want to jump back in as soon as possible. There’s no reason to hang about when you’re dead. You can’t fiddle with your loadout or look around or watch the action through another players eyes. You can’t even move your view around your own dead body to get an idea of how the battle is going nearby your own corpse. You’re locked in.

This means that lying there waiting to see if a medic will come your way is an exercise in patience. You just sit there watching your cadaver jerk around like a ragdoll with a vibrator hidden inside it. This is a little true for the other game modes but during an Operation, you really do feel like you should give a medic the chance to reach you. And this leads to a lot of needless downtime. Conversely, while playing as a medic, most players aren’t gracious enough to wait and will immediately and thoughtlessly respawn, completely wasting your revival talent as well as a precious respawn ticket.

There are other issues. One Operation saw my team pushed back to our final bunker in the Alps, while the attackers brought their zeppelin over to pummel us into submission. This match saw both sides constantly bickering in the chat, each arguing that the other side was overpowered. The bunker was too hard and easily defended, said the attackers. Meanwhile our own squaddies were moaning that any time they left said bunker, they got torn to shreds by the two underside guns of the zeppelin. I too was starting to get sick of dying every thirty seconds to a “fucking blimp”. I died, respawned, died again, and waited for the eventual message of loss. Then the game ended: we had won. The chat filled up with surprised blues, saying “haha wat” and “lol we won!?!?”

It’s not unusual for the losing side to get frustrated in an FPS, but when both sides feel like they’re losing just based on how many times they’ve died in an annoying way, there might be something a bit overwhelming about the design of your battles. Making everybody feel like a loser might be an appropriate atmosphere to evoke in a game about one of the most futile conflicts in human history, but it also results in some hit-and-miss face-offs.

Still, I had a lot of fun playing as a bi-plane gunner scrambling from one end of the bomber to another over the mountains of Italy, or partaking in a hugely satisfying and almost always suicidal bayonet charge. It’s been years since I had the dexterity to thrive amid the chaos of a 64-person warzone, but it’s still interesting to try and find the tiny differences between sequels and to attempt to settle myself into a niche – cowardly medic, kamikaze assault, dedicated tail gunner.

In this case, I was happy to spend a lot of time hanging back from the firefights and mustard gas of the frontlines so I could take shelter behind a wall and peep over it with my scout’s periscope. This device has some of the highest magnification in the game, and you can use it along with the ‘Q’ button to mark as many enemy troops as you can. This way my twitchier, combat-ready team mates could see their foes and finish the job. I supplemented this by planting sniper decoys – dummy heads on the ends of sticks – amid rocky outcroppings and the odd shrub. When enemies fire at these it marks the shooter as spotted too. I thought I was being clever when I ran into a cottage on top of a hill and placed two of these dummies in a pair of cottage’s windows. But they turned out to be a little too convincing. A tank levelled the whole cottage while I was still on my way out, killing me and my precious mannequins in the process.

The destructible environments, as you can see, are back. It wouldn’t really be Battlefield without them. Although I’ve always been miffed by Dice’s approach to destruction, since they seem to get away with saying their environments are “fully destructible”, when everyone knows this is nonsense. Some walls fall away like wet cake, and others stay firm no matter how many times you mortar them. And because there’s no markings or signposting to show which is which, it’s often hard to know which type of wall you’re firing your rocket gun at. Short of learning entire maps by destructibility, you just have to accept the odd wasted round, or wasted seconds spent trying to blast something away that simply isn’t meant to come down.

Aside from the sniper’s dummies and periscope, there are other additions. Mustard gas poisons players and forces them to put on their gas masks, hammering the ‘T’ key in a panic. This restricts your hearing, your peripheral vision and, crucially, it means you can’t aim down your gun’s sights, forcing you to fire inaccurately from the hip. If I hate anything more than the zeppelin, it’s the gas. And the only thing I hate more than the gas is when the map’s weather suddenly turns and everything becomes foggy. My periscope becomes useless and the mortar – a weapon I turn to when I want to be a more aggressive type of coward – becomes obsolete. There are other forms of this – a sandstorm in the desert, a haze above the trenches – but they are all twists on the same thing. It sometimes becomes hard to see things.

For the most part I enjoyed all this. Pushing back and forth over mucky countryside as shells and grenades go off around you is hugely atmospheric. And the game looks fantastic – moonlight bouncing off muddy boards, roofs collapsing under tank fire. I definitely prefer this pre-helicopter period of history in terms of the setting. The game’s biggest risk is that of being annoying. The gas, the mist, the behemoths – they are all examples of disruptive events that force you to change the way you are playing and at times this has the effect of being irritating, not dramatic. “Ugh,” you say as another bank of fog rolls in. “Better switch class again.” The game sometimes throws you a bone by announcing that there’s a freshly spawned cache nearby with special weapons inside – a flamethrower, an anti-vehicle rocket gun, a full suit of Italian Dad armour. And these are fun to use and abuse. But compared to the huge battleships or sandstorms these are short-lived advantages.

For many, the race for new guns, gadgets and grenades will be enough to keep you going. Every level you get awards you war bonds – money to buy new bits of kit. I only wish they awarded supporting actions like assists, spots, healing and resupplying a little more generously, because for those lacking the reflexes of a wildcat this is often where the bulk of our usefulness lies. The class system of Battlefield has always been geared toward encouraging a high kill count, even if all the surrounding medic guff suggests otherwise. You are your primary weapon, and a person who can kill fast and die slow will always outrank a person who can heal dozens of his team mates. I wish more emphasis was placed on the supporting classes as true support. The medic, for instance, still feels like a normal soldier who also happens to have a magic syringe, someone who’s there to kill first and cure second. I don’t want them to turn it into Overwatch (although, imagine that). But there’s surely something more clever they could do with these four classes. Right now, it all seems very safe.

That’s more or less how I feel about the whole game. It is safely good. Even with the addition of Operations mode and the behemoths and the return to a more instinctively dramatic setting, it still feels like Battlefield. There’s capture points and there’s guns. There’s deathmatch and there’s conquest. There’s grenade spam and sniper alleys and miraculous dive-bombing pilots who somehow manage to use the terrible flight controls. The Great War might have been unique, but Battlefield 1 isn’t. For some, that won’t be a problem. For others, it might be time to sue for peace.

Battlefield 1 is out tomorrow on Windows via Origin for £50/$60.

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110 Comments

  1. GameCat says:

    Awww, I’ve really hoped that single player will be better.

  2. Mr.Bats says:

    Disappointed that the Central Powers are treated like “baddies”. After almost a 100 years, the propaganda is still going strong.

    • karnak says:

      Yep. And insulting to all the millions of germans, austrians and turks who died in one of the most pointless and absurd wars in human history.

      • Laurentius says:

        Calling soldiers fighting in Austro-Hungarian army austrians is also ignorant and insensitive.

        • shde2e says:

          You have a point, though you could extend the same to the French and British (and to a lesser extend, the Germans) through all the colonial troops and such.

          Also, many of the troops would consider themselves neither Austrians nor Hungarians, and if we summed them all up we’d be here for a while :)

          “Austrian” is still rather misleading though. Lets just stick to Austro-Hungarian?

        • immaletufinishbut says:

          Holy shit, nobody cares anymore.

          RPS commenters, what happened to y’all? You don’t have to get triggered for every little thing, jeebus christ.

          See, now you’ve made me a hypocrite. FU. :(

    • Silverchain says:

      Mmm, it’s not as if the Kaiser was a megalomaniac loon with an unfortunate weakness for battleships. ^^

    • Poor People says:

      Assuring to know that my prediction that the game spits in the faces of everyone who fought the Great War turned out to be true.

      We need a wake up call. WW3 when?

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        That’s not a wakeup call, that’s a glass of milk before bed.

        • Poor People says:

          Well, war is almost integral to human nature; if it’s not happening in the West, it’s always happening somewhere else. Plus large-scale, protracted wars happen at least once every century the past 500 years. Either we’re overdue for another one, or the way the geopolitics works now makes total war less feasible (asymmetric warfare and proxy wars seem to be the norm now).

          Either that, or you meant a nuclear holocaust by “getting in bed”.

      • Crane says:

        As far as I’m aware, every person who fought in the great war is now dead, and rather past being concerned about spit.
        The people who would die in the third world war you seem to desire are not.
        Are their lives less important to you than the pride of the dead?

        • Poor People says:

          Actually, yes. Whereas the Cold War stayed cold due to hard lessons from World War II, recent generations in the West, having grown up in relative peace at the homefront for decades (barring terrorist attacks, which don’t quality), are increasingly disconnected from the causes of full-scale war in the early 20th century and the true horrors of full-blown battles, viewing it a diluted, distorted manner through modern media.

          If the majority of the current generation fail to contextualize the mistakes of past they are bound to make the same mistakes in the future, and the only way to truly learn is to live the resulting hardship themselves.

    • fish99 says:

      Individual axis troops may not have been ‘baddies’, but the regimes directing them were.

      • inspiredhandle says:

        Go on…

      • Comintern1919 says:

        Wrong war, the Axis was part of WW2, in WW1 there were the Central Powers. Huge difference, since the Axis was way more obviously bad than the Central Powers, who weren’t much worse than the Allies (still worse, but the Allies in WW1 weren’t in any way good either).

      • Zamn10210 says:

        The Russian Tsardom was certainly the most unpleasant of the regimes involved in the war, albeit slowly beginning to reform. Germany and Austria-Hungary were both fairly benign semi-democratic constitutional monarchies by this point. And while Britain and France may have been democracies (at least for men) at home, they both controlled very undemocratic and unsavoury colonial empires. Plucky little Belgium, meanwhile, was responsible for a truly horrifying regime in the Congo.

        So, sorry, no easy goodies and baddies here I’m afraid.

    • MrUnimport says:

      Fears of jingoism seem to be mildly unfounded, at least with respect to the Gallipoli mission which includes this among its historical context cards: link to i.imgur.com

      Of course it is a little weird to memorialize the Turkish casualties immediately after the player causes several dozen of them, but arguably that goes more towards glorification of war than towards jingoism per se.

  3. Rumpelstiltskin says:

    Waiting for a medic who never comes, while your body twitches helplessly on the ground is possibly the most authentic WW1 experience. No one can say Dice glorified the war now.

    • Someoldguy says:

      I’m waiting for the ‘freeze all night in your trench before being deafened by a sustained artillery barrage at 6am, followed by a short pause curtailed by the shrill blast of a whistle. Then it’s over the top at a steady walk toward the enemy trench as we wonder how long it will take for the enemy machinegunners to recover and start firing’ mode.

    • brulleks says:

      Does this mean you can’t call for a medic, as you could in Battlefield 2? If so, it seems that this iteration has reintroduced a problem that was successfully fixed over ten years ago.

      • Leidan Wing says:

        Well, medics see a skull icon surrounded with a circle marking the countdown until final death, so there’s not much need for calling a medic when you’ve been killed, they already see you’re dead. You can still call for a medic while you’re still alive (though not many medics seem to ‘hear’ that call. Same goes with ammo :P). By the way, I have to disagree a little bit with the review here regarding the medics. I think DICE made a good choice by giving the medic a semi-automatic rifle by default, which is very hard to use at close range, I think this forces the medic to take second-line positions and incentivates the use of their healing capabilities.

  4. Laurentius says:

    I hate this game with burning passion. I gave up on WWII presentation in video games, so Americans turned Omaha Beach into theme park ride, fine, now they are doing the same with WWI, it’s disgusting.

    • GardenOfSun says:

      I must admit that, after seeing TB’s vid on it, and also considering my ever-increasing cynicism against anglo-american (pop?) culture, I can totally share your sentiment here.

      The lack of decency displayed over the last decade by “modern military shooters” has been so off the charts that it’d be understandable if many people, by now, would be much more enticed by an historical fps in which you can mow down US soldiers. I, for one, would at least be curious about such a thing.

      • shde2e says:

        Making the US the villain would certainly pique my interest (and not with some rogue group or “man behind the man” twist).
        For one to see how they would handle it, and for another just because it’s something different than the endless supply of Russians/Nazi’s/Brown-towelhead-terrorists with an occasional seasoning of evil chinks, rogue groups and (in one notable case) all of South-America.

        • April March says:

          For what it’s worth, I always played against the US in any of the recent Battlefield game. American pig scum, etc.

    • Geebs says:

      Regardless of how terrible the USA and UK’s obsession with violence as entertainment might be, your argument might be better supported if DICE weren’t Swedish.

      • GardenOfSun says:

        We stand corrected about DICE (though, as someone pointed out, it’s not like they aren’t owned by a through and through US company…), but I doubt that we stand corrected about either the trends in the genre or their effect on both the sensitive side of the public (contempt for an ever more nauseating jingoism) and the (not necessarily disjuncted) playful side of the public (a growing desire to finally slaughter from the opposite perspective).

        • supadave810 says:

          EA didn’t own a majority stake in DICE (2005) until after Battlefield 1942 was released (2002). So, while EA has influence over all later Battlefield installments, they didn’t have much input on the original.

    • SaunteringLion says:

      Those Swedish speaking, Swedish descended, Sweden born, Sweden residing Americans. They ruined another game!

    • Janichsan says:

      While the other commentators have a point about DICE being Swedish (thus making part of your argument invalid), I agree with you about the “theme park” complaint. The game is basically Michael Bay’s World War I.

    • OmNomNom says:

      Why so sensitive? It’s only a game, innit.

  5. Jediben says:

    So can you shoot Speckled Jim and eat him for dinner?

  6. Earl-Grey says:

    I died in hell, they called it awesome.

  7. Keasar says:

    “It also shares the same problem with a lot of war stories, be they film or book or whatever. You only play as the winners.”

    Thank you! This is probably the only article I’ve read so far on any game news site that actually pointed this glaring omission out.

    Also I do agree on the single player, one mission actually showed potential, the one called “Through Mud and Blood” which has been repeatedly shown to people. It is a very sudden and obvious dip in quality and scale after that though, all the missions henceforth are too short, often boring designed, two plays on multiplayer maps, the one with airplanes instead of using the usual multiplayer controls of planes dumbs it down to the Battlefront style of “point and shoot” controls and have shallow character exposition.

    I wish that people would now for once give up on that DICE should make single player for their games, it’s never good and is never worth the price of the game or developing it.

    • Shinard says:

      Not all war stories. All Quiet on the Western Front, for example.

      But, yeah, can’t really think of any war games where you play the losing side. There was one campaign in the Tales of Valour expansion to Company of Heroes, I think, but that’s about it.

      • Blurqe says:

        All Quiet on the Western Front, being written by a German WW1 veteran, couldn’t very well have been from anyone’s perspective, though, could it? I think war stories by people who participated in the war should be regarded in a category of their own, as they generally have a very different tone from those by civilians. I’m still looking for more decent war stories from a German perspective myself; the persistence of Entente propaganda to this day drives me up the wall.

        • TheOx129 says:

          Have you read Ernst Jünger’s memoir, Storm of Steel?

          I’ve personally not yet read it, but it’s usually considered an essential work to come out of World War I. Besides offering the perspective of a German soldier, it also provides a valuable counterpoint to a lot of the literature that came out of WWI.

          In contrast to the strongly anti-war message found in the poems of Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon, a core theme of the work is that war can provide meaning to one’s life in the form of fighting for a cause greater than one’s self. Jünger was actually viewed with suspicion after WWII, as he was seen as a fellow traveler of the Nazis due to the views expressed in the memoir.

          However, it’s important to mention that Jünger himself revised the book several times over the course of his life; and, notably, these overtly nationalistic and militaristic elements were softened or removed with each subsequent revision. Whether this was to make the book more palatable to international audiences (the first revision was in 1934, IIRC, and the book was first published in 1920) or was the result of Jünger realizing his youthful hubris and trying to “make amends” so to speak is up for debate, though I think his move into a traditionalist conservative political commentator as time went on – as opposed to an ardent nationalist – probably makes the latter somewhat more likely than the former.

          • inspiredhandle says:

            “War is a racket” by Smedley Darlington Butler is a good read. Though written by a U.S. General, it speaks of the reasons behind wars in general, rather than from any specific side.

            The perspective is not important. The reasons for war are. Each nation’s interests were, and are still are the same, increased influence and wealth at the expense of other nations. Everything else is just spin…

            Although killing Americans for a change would indeed be cathartic.

          • Dave Tosser says:

            Not a fair assessment of Jünger to call him a “fellow traveller” given that he was viewed with suspicion by the Nazis for his anarchistic views (he referred to himself as an “anarch”, and his political philosophy celebrated lone free agents existing in but not aligned with their societies) and, if he hadn’t been one of Germany’s most celebrated war heroes, probably would’ve ended up somewhere nasty.

            Besides, Jünger’s views are more in line with pagan views of war than either WW1 Prussian militarism or the industrialised Nazi meat grinder. Eumeswil’s a pretty tame book for someone who’s basically a reactionary.

            As for BF1: The First World War is a sacred thing to me and I think the attempts to sex it up with dieselpunk seem completely off colour. Either present it as it was (a time of soulsucking human carnage we never really recovered from) or just make games about shooting lots of space men or whatever the fad is.

            Bear in mind I adored Ring of Red and a bunch of other alternative history shit, but something about the First World War makes it completely untouchable in my mind. I’d sooner see games about Sino-Japanese war crimes if you gave me a choice.

      • shde2e says:

        I’ve run into a few games where you could play as the losers in a non-fictional story.

        All of them were strategy games, and often they were less developed than the “main” campaign (see for example CoH2, where you can play indiviual scenario’s as the Germans but the campaign is still Soviet only).

        And the fact that the only stories like that we can find were written by actual war veterans almost a century ago is really sad.

      • JFS says:

        Many war movies and books feature the losers. Stalingrad by Vilsmaier, Das Boot, the mentioned All Quiet…, In Stahlgewittern, Der Wanderer zwischen beiden Welten, Die Brücke, Der Untergang, plus many, many memoir books. However, the prerequisite to actually know them is probably to be of the same nationality as the losers. WW1 might be a little different, the French books such as La Peur, Le Feu or Un long dimanche de fiançailles are very close to the works from the “loser” side. There were no real winners in the Geat War.

        Wargames are even clearer, that is, when you look at wargames in the closer sense, not just mainstream games about war. A ton of board and video games let you play as the losers of both wars as well, especially as the Germans. Just look at Slitherine’s webpage or Boardgamegeeks respective category.

        • Blurqe says:

          First off, let me say thank you for bringing up a number of things I haven’t seen or read before; I’ll promptly look into the works you’ve suggested.

          As to the wargame thing, I don’t really think that addresses the original complaint. I love wargames, don’t get me wrong, but they need two sides. Someone necessarily has to play the losers of history in order to have a game. As a result, their presence does nothing to refute the tendency on the part of the makers of games tailored for a single-player experience to glorify the winners and cast the losers as villains to be massacred in sequence.

          • JFS says:

            Your welcome. I’m not sure I understand the second part. I though the originall call was for being able to play as the losers, but apparently that’s not what you meant or what was expressed in the article?

          • JFS says:

            *you’re

          • shde2e says:

            I think what he meant was more to experience the viewpoint of the losers.

            In a wargame, you’re more or less completely detached from the story, since you have such a high-level view of the situation.

            For all the many good points of these games, you could swap the Americans for Ottomans and get more or less the same experience.

            Presumably he meant a more boots-on-the-ground viewpoint, on an individual or squad level, where you could get a personal story where things like culture, zeitgeist etc come into play.

          • JFS says:

            Okay, I see. That’s probably true. I find that games struggle with that in general, but especially in the war setting, which mostly amounts to action gaming.

            I’d like to add one movie to the list of French WW1 works that I found impressive: Les Fragments d’Antonin. It features loser perspective right there, at least if you’re willing to go with my assessment of there being only losers in WW1 (it’s about a French soldier).

        • McCabbe says:

          Also, the brilliant Cross of Iron…

        • CartonofMilk says:

          Die Brucke was an important book to me in my teen years. The film is pretty good too though i’d recommend the book before it. It was as a 14 years old i believe the first WWII story i’d been made aware of that was from an axis perspective. I was gonna mention it and then was surprised somebody had already. It’s the (fictional but in so many ways obviously “genuine”) story about a group of german teenagers who are tasked with defending their small town’s bridge from the invading americans at the end of the war. The film won a golden globe in 1959 and was a foreign film academy award nominee but pretty much nobody talks about it nowadays. I would myself not see it until maybe 15 years after id read the book which i only happened upon because it was among the few books my dad had owned in his early 20s, left somewhere on a shelf in the attic for me to discover. It is a succinct and poignant story about the foolishness and pointlessness of war down to its smallest detail. It’s also a coming of age story. well….for those who were lucky enough to come of age instead of just dying.

      • WladTapas says:

        Also in CoH’s first expansion, Opposing Fronts. Both new factions, the Brits and the Panzer Elite, got a campaign.

        And I think most if not all Combat Mission games have campaigns for both sides.

      • kaisergav says:

        The excellent (and punishing) Codename: Panzers had you invading Warsaw.

        But then, do we regard strategy games as being separate (mainly, less personal) in this regard than FPS/RPGs?

        Edit: just read some of the other comments, that are addressing this.

  8. Weenie Hut General says:

    I’ve had a different experience with the multiplayer. I’ve consistently ranked very high on my team as a competent medic who continually attacks with a squad, throws packets, and picks up whoever has the patience to wait.

    I’m actually loving this multiplayer, but I’ve been a long-time BF fanboy. The weapons force a slightly slower game, but everything is obviously over-the-top (no WWI pun intended) and grossly unreal.

    Like usual, I hide chat, avoid communicating with the community, and focus on playing the game. As someone who cares little about the preservation of history, realism, or respect in my video games, I find this a damn good time in a Sepia-toned Michael Bay sort of way.

  9. Epicedion says:

    As a Battlefield game, BF1 is quite good. The maps are quite beautiful, the engine works well, and there are no IRNV frag-round shotguns. It’s a fast-paced, beautiful romp through the countryside, with guns.

    As for the idea that the setting should somehow be more sacrosanct than other settings, this sort of thing isn’t a sign of depravity. Reenacting horrible past events in fantastical ways has always been a part of human culture, and it’s actually a good thing that for the most part we can keep that confined to a completely virtual space — if we had the values of ancient Rome we’d be digging trenches in the Colosseum and getting a bunch of people injured or killed for our amusement. To be fair, complaining about this game’s take on WW1 would be a bit like complaining that piracy was very real and awful, so the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are shameful for their poor handling of such a serious subject matter.

    • shde2e says:

      Certainly true. I think the reactions are more severe than usual for a few reasons though:

      – WW1 is massively underrepresented. We have more popular games about the American civil war than about WW1, meaning that a lot of people were a lot more dissapointed than usual.

      – The usual run-n-gun style of these games is ill-fitting for wars like WW2 or more modern wars, but for WW1 (especially for trench warfare) even more so.

      – WW1 had a lot of variety. It was a real transitionary area (it’s where most of the combatants changed from napoleonic style armies to proto-ww2 armies). Battlefield 1 ignores pretty much all of that for what amounts to WW2 all over again.

      – WW1 is generally seen, above all, as a great tragedy. Making popcorn fun out of it isn’t quite on the level of, say, the Holocast, but it’s generally considered a lot more in poor taste than when you do it with, say, ww2. It doesn’t help that we’ve gotten used to it with more modern wars.

      • JFS says:

        WW2 was just as tragic, but the US were more involved and thus got there earlier to turn it into Hollywood. It appears they’re finally coming round to take this mainly European tragedy out of our hands as well.

        • Laurentius says:

          It’s more then that, interwar period was full of disillusionment, rise and spread of totalitarisms, economical crisis, so tragedy of WWII was a bit “expected”, people feared war and knew knew that it wil be terrible (they didn’t expect how horrible it will be). Before 1914, Europe has a lot of politcal problems but at the same time was moving up economically and technologically and then turned all that wealth and resources into mass war.

      • TheOx129 says:

        – WW1 is generally seen, above all, as a great tragedy. Making popcorn fun out of it isn’t quite on the level of, say, the Holocast, but it’s generally considered a lot more in poor taste than when you do it with, say, ww2. It doesn’t help that we’ve gotten used to it with more modern wars.

        With this aspect in particular, part of me can’t help but wonder if it is at least partially due to various popular myths that have proven to be quite enduring: e.g., “lions led by donkeys,” the idea of it being an utterly pointless meatgrinder, etc.

        There’s always going to be a divide between the academic and popular understandings and memories of historical events, but it’s particularly noticeable with WWI I’ve found.

        Personally, I’ve always found the great tragedy – and lesson – of WWI is that it showed just how far things can go when every actor chooses to escalate at every opportunity in a period of growing tensions: you eventually reach a point where no side can back down due to the loss of prestige, so instead you get four years of global conflict.

        • Titler says:

          Except they weren’t myths; from Lord Kitchener’s rejection of the machine gun and tank as being nothing more than pretty toys, to the deliberate ignorance of the endless reports from trench raids that the Germans were too deeply dug in to be driven out by massed shell fire, to the ideological belief that Shell Shock (what we now call PTSD) was just moral cowardice and required people be shot for it, to the appalling violence directed against conscientious objectors and the pressure of women with White Feathers encouraging red blood to be shed abroad… the fact that WW1 was fought at the command level by donkeys (on all sides) is pretty much objective fact.

          Rather, the constant effort by right wing revisionism, which seems to be currently popular again now the alt-right is resurgent, is to fight to recreate their own myths in the face of historical fact; that even a single war was ever seen as anything but a wonderful expression of National strength and glory offends them. And it’s the puncturing of their own myths that they find intolerable, not the colossal waste and horror of the war itself, rather than any new historical facts that might encourage it.

          And this ties into why Battlefield 1 looks such a disaster, and something like Verdun is so much more interesting to play. Because BF1 is just replicating the same tired old revisionism, “No really, WW1 was full of amazing heroics and a just cause and…” Same as every other war game for war fetishists, then? TotalBiscuit talking about you being a Space Marine in metal armour is spot on; BF1 could be any war anywhere in any time or fictional universe. The Air combat looks as realistic as Tom Clancy’s Hawx to me in turn.

          Where as in Verdun, which actually attempts to play as a specifically World War One game, you rightfully more often than not end up cowering in muddy shell holes waiting for the machine gunner to look the other way, until you can make a most likely doomed rush forward or back that won’t have any real effect on the combat individually… and now, with a recent patch, with added broken legs slowing you down too!

          And that is so much more accurate to the First World War as it was really felt, if you read the primary sources of those who fought in it, than just yet another boring “Mow down the evil ones for the Fatherland” simulator.

          • TheOx129 says:

            I appreciate the in-depth response, and you raise some very salient points that I’ll address shortly. However, I take significant issue with your assertion that a change in the broad consensus amongst academics constitutes some attempt at “right-wing revisionism” and is somehow connected to the alt-right.

            “Lions led by donkeys” is, without a doubt a myth, insofar as the reality is far more nuanced than such an emotional, pithy phrase would suggest. To be clear, I’m in no way suggesting that incompetence in military command was not widespread or, in some cases, inexcusable – especially early in the war, when the cult of the offensive reigned supreme.

            However, the idea was challenged even as early as it was introduced in the 1960s (by Alan Clark and especially B.H. Liddell Hart) by various mainstream historians (notably John Terraine), and by the 1980s and ’90s, you see the consensus start to shift to a more nuanced interpretation of the war (see Trevor Wilson, Robin Prior and Brian Bond). A good part of this was likely due to access to and better use of archival records to paint a more complete picture of how the war evolved at the operational level. A similar thing happened with WWII after the collapse of the USSR: access to Soviet records really painted a more complete picture and led to a shift in historical consensus – a consensus that previously had, if anything, been slightly biased in favor of the Germans, thanks to Cold War political exigencies and the not-insignificant of number of former Nazi elites that published memoirs to tell their side of the story. Ironically enough, Liddell Hart himself was a major player in these Cold War exigencies: he was instrumental to the creation of the Rommel myth, and, in turn, the broader “clean Wehrmacht” myth.

            One of the core issues with “lions led by donkeys” – and you kind of inadvertently touch on it at the very end of your post – is that it tends to disproportionately favor the accounts of soldiers in its portrayal of military leadership. To quote Maurice Genevoix via Hew Strachan: “[i]f it is neither desirable nor good that the professional historian prevail over the veteran; it is also not good that the veteran prevail over the historian.”

            Primary documents of any sort are invaluable to historians, but it is essential that one takes the inevitable biases and limited perspectives into account. To paint the most complete, accurate picture possible, one must ensure that they take into account all sources available, with all the complexity and nuance that results.

            Personally, I believe that the endurance of “lions led by donkeys” in the popular memory has less to do with historians like Liddell Hart and more the sheer quantity of and access to popular accounts of the war (which, as far as I’m aware, was unprecedented) and the general memory and narrative creation surrounding the war on both the political left (“War is a Racket”) and right (Dolchstoßlegende).

          • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

            To be honest I find the faux-morality of the media outlets and gamers playing BF1 to be far more distasteful than the actual content of the game. As if making a game about shooting human beings in the face is OK, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s frankly ridiculous, and marginalises people who fought in the war just as much as the game does, with this patronising, self-serving fake sympathy; “it’s not horrific enough” “lions led by donkeys blah”. It, like almost every hot-topic issue being complained about in games at the moment, is just a series of egotistical fools banging their empty drums in an effort to make the loudest noise, in hope that someone will notice and say “wow, isn’t he great, he cares about stuff! Let’s give him an accolade! Maybe we should have sex with him too!”. It’s hypocritical, and nauseating, especially when we live in a world where we can chuckle at the idea of fucking a prostitute and running her over to get your money back (GTA5 not irl obviously).

          • klops says:

            “BF1 could be any war anywhere in any time or fictional universe.”

            So? BF is a series of entertaining wargames that hasn’t changed its consept since the first game. It’s not right-wing revisionism for Dice not to suddenly change the whole brand and make their (this time WW1 themed) shooter something completely different.

      • Ytzen says:

        The only reason you think its okay to make ww2 games and movies, is because of hollywood and the gaming industry.

  10. Jerppa says:

    Do you get to kill Ruskies in the campaign?

    • shde2e says:

      No, that would require interesting settings like the civil war, or playing as a “baddie”.

      You do get to shoot lots of not-really-nazi’s-but-lets-pretend-they-are-mkay and a whole bunch of brown people from the middle-east.

  11. KDR_11k says:

    The description of the first mission on the Cooptional Podcast makes it sound about as accurate as Necrovision.

  12. oggnogg says:

    “It is safely good.”
    Well, that’s how corporations work IMHO. Maximize the chance to make money. You do that more often by using what worked before (and trying to keep it interesting) than taking risks by doing something different. That’s why in Hollywood you get more funding for a sequel to something that worked than for something original.
    On the other hand the small players have less resources and thus try out something new. If it works they get bought up, and later a sequel is made :)

  13. shagen454 says:

    After the first Battlefield & Call of Duty – there was an absolute deluge of WW shooters before that there were a few pretty good mp mods for Quake, Quake 2 & Half-Life so even before Call of Duty it was a little saturated. After Call of Duty I did not play any of them after that. The original Call of Duty was incredible for it’s time, no doubt but that became the mainstream cash cow. That means it’s been fucking 13 years since I played a 3D game having to do with the world wars (or a decade of being world war game free since Company of Heroes). Definitely excited to pick this up.

  14. renzollama says:

    Bad Company 2 single player experience was low bar? You have crazy standards for single player military FPS experiences.

  15. Pizzzahut says:

    Just watching Total Biscuit’s Single Player Review. It’s very offensive and I think they kinda need to apologise for representing WW1 like this.

  16. Deptfordx says:

    I was amused by the depiction of you fighting on the Italian Front in ‘Experimental Armour’.

    Here’s a typical account of how that actually played out.

    link to makersley.com

    Go down to ‘Emilo’

    • kincajou says:

      Emilio Lussu’s “Sardinian Brigade”/”A soldier on the southern front”/”Un anno sull’altipiano” Is an exceptional book! If you haven’t had the chance to read it i would truly recommend it as a snapshot of what the first world war was from the italian perspective.

      • Pravin Lal's Nuclear Arsenal says:

        Haven’t read the book, but the movie “Uomini Contro” (Many Wars Ago is the international title) is directly based on it and it’s pretty great.

        Here’s the scene about the space marine armor and its effectiveness:
        link to youtube.com
        It’s in Italian, but, you know, bullets have a way to cross any linguistic barrier.

  17. maninahat says:

    One big area of contention online (because of course it is) is that one of the playable characters is a Bedouin woman, and people are arguing she is a-historical. Is that apparent from her story, or is she based on a real figure?

    • A Wanderer says:

      IIRC, the Bedouin had a sligthly more open opinion towards women, and they have been known to give them more freedom than their neighbours and occasionnaly having them fight in raids or defense. I don’t know if a Bedouin woman actually fought alongside Lawrence of Arabia, but it’s possible.
      As a side note, I’ve followed this painful debate and something struck me. There is a beautiful double standard at work :

      -Biplanes handling like jets, tanks that feel like WWII tanks, submachine guns everywhere ? “Calm down man, it’s just a game, it’s not supposed to be realistic.”

      -One single female character : “OMAGAD HISTORICAL ACCURACY FUCK PC BULLSHIT !”

      • MrUnimport says:

        While I have no concern about a playable Bedouin heroine, I think there is a meaningful distinction to be drawn between depictions that are merely physically ahistorical and depictions that are politically ahistorical. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to imagine alterations to history that they would find unacceptable in a serious narrative.

        And I feel compelled to point out that there have been many people indeed complaining about all the nonstandard kit in the game. One can’t read a BF1 thread without wading through pages of such complaints.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      It’s been awhile since I read Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence, but there’s no women in there that I recall in any active role beyond cooking and bringing tea to the men in their tents.

  18. Xyvik says:

    But the most important question: are there bots for the multiplayer modes? Have we returned, at least partially, to the glory days of Battlefield when we could LAN party it up? Or is it sticking to the BF3 onward of online-only multiplayer filled with tons of morons?

  19. baud001 says:

    I am angry they did not include the French army. Especially with the action taking place in France.

  20. Cimeries says:

    Expecting EA to put out a thoughtful and balanced WW1 game is like expecting McDonald’s to put something healthy and tasty on their menu. Of course you don’t play as the baddies. Of course the glorification of war rubs up against the tragic framing. Of course its basically WW2 with horses and swords.

    If you want realism and balanced storytelling, or even basic historic sensitivity, you’ve come to the wrong place. You’re free to want more from your media, but to ask it from EA is just asking for disappointment.

    It looks super fun so I’m gonna play it. Mass media is always going to be aimed at the intellect of the lowest common denominator though, same as TV soaps and crime thrillers. Doesn’t mean there’s nothing of value there, just nothing that you value perhaps.

    I for one am just glad that people will now understand that WW1 was a world war, not just trenches in western Europe. That is a big step in the right direction for understanding the war for the people the story of this is aimed at, so I’m willing to forgive the rest – or at least look away because it doesn’t matter to me.

    We wouldn’t have to worry about what people are being taught by videogames if we had competent education provision. That’s the problem, not a massive corporation acting like a massive corporation. That’s what it does. That’s how it works.

  21. wengart says:

    It is largely a myth though.

    World War One was an flexible war where combat tactics and strategy were developed on the fly to counter the problems posed by modern warfare. Commanders at the time did not have the hindsight enjoyed today and attempted to solve combat problems at both a strategic and tactical level with what was on hand.

    and just as a comparison. Total military dead on all fronts amounted to something like 11 million in the Great War. However, military dead on the Western Front of World War 2 hit 8 million.

  22. Jovian09 says:

    I’d love to get this, but fifty quid… Jesus Christ EA.

  23. CartonofMilk says:

    here’s the thing with regards to making this war look like a fun exciting ride for all involved or what not… yes the first time i saw footage i thought hmm yeah no this is not in any way an accurate depiction of how WWI was fought but the only reason we truly care, let’s face it, is it’s still fairly recent in our minds.

    Because if they’re having a depiction of some war that happened in the 1200’s in a game, aside form a few history nuts possibly, nobody cares if it’s appropriately depicted with all the proper gravitas and care for historical accuracy.

    If anyone anyway is led to believe playing any game that any war was actually fun, they’ve got issues.

  24. Zankman says:

    So it’s just another Battlefield game.

    Laaaaaaame.

  25. fish99 says:

    Get a grip guys, it’s just a game, and it wouldn’t be the first FPS to make war seem fun, in fact they pretty much all do to a greater or lesser extent. It was never claimed to be an accurate account of WW1, it’s an action movie spin on WW1.

    And you know what, it’s a fun game, even the single player. It also looks and runs really well on my lowly GTX970.

  26. thekelvingreen says:

    Do they do that thing where they make the WWI Germans into Nazis? That’s always a good laugh.

    • FOARP says:

      Yeah, why would anyone think that Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering were Nazis?

      Nothing at all Nazi-like in launching unprovoked invasions of your neighbours with the goal of annexing their territory and enslaving their populations.

  27. Spinkick says:

    To me, this game is more of a steampunk battlefield than actual WW1. The weapons are all mostly obscure versions of what they had. Where are the rifles that cannot go full auto (other than sniper rifles?). Optics are way too good, etc. Tank warfare should be much, much slower.

    • April March says:

      Yeah, this seems like a fair assessment. Especially if you take a look at the link someone posted above about how well the Italian Dad Armor worked in the field (hint: I use the word ‘well’ as a farse). The game seems to be less “What was WWI like?” and more “What if all the crazy stuff they came up with during WWI worked as intended, so that the war didn’t eventually boil down to armies pumping mustard gas down each others’ trenches?”

      • Ytzen says:

        If you guys dont like casual games like BF, you should buy Verdun on steam its a great indie game that gives a more realistic view on WW1

  28. April March says:

    Maybe I have my nostalgia glasses on, but I do recall that on BFBC2 you could level the entire… er… level. There were no indestructible buildings. I remeber that when they released a different game mode for that map that was in a small Chilean town, by the end of a match you’d be playing in a series of piles of rubble.

  29. Ytzen says:

    I really love the war stories, Brendan Caldwell sounds a bit angry maybe he have played to much Battlefield, because i think Dice makes the best shooter you can get, beautiful graphic and amazing gameplay with destruction of landscape and buildings. Ofc if you play battlefield to much it gets boring like every other game. But still you cant denie that they make one of the best shooters.

  30. fdel says:

    History aside. Fact is…There s no diference between COD and Battlefield ans CS it been some time.
    The diference is in the head of the players, pixels and maybe insults quality in the shats, ops chats…gameplay wise it turn into, 90% of the time, headless ducks (when you behead a duck it flies and run till nerves/muscle stop twitching) running amock spitting bullets and/or blood.
    The last games that really tried some inovation with variable degree of Sucess were AAO and Arma series, trying to show that combat is not quite like COD/BF/CS picture it. They should have shown thebullshit endured in the forces to discipline unruly hotheads.
    BF(people involved in franchise) had a chance to redeem itself doing trench war cenarios, heavily defended VS attacking side, gunners nests, maybe put some civilians and the like…but it prefered the selling stuff COD/CS offer… comercially wise, nothing to say here, unrully testosterone. But funwise, no brain no gain game. I m now too old (and maybe gunshot weary)and dont find any fun such it s been a long time.
    So i always watch at the Hipe yearning while reason holds me, and them just watch the chimaera castle crumble as game is released.
    BF1 is merely more of the same.
    On a site note:
    Dead don t care about history.
    History doesn t repeat itself, human stupity does, in the form of greed (power and money) and hope (that someone will find a solution latter to the sh”ts we re doing today).

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