Forty-one minutes after the first shots were fired, an explosive charge put an end to one of the longest games of Battlefield 1 [official site] I’ve ever played. This is the new Frontlines mode, which came with the shooter’s first batch of DLC. Thanks to the rules of this mode, the feverish WWI battles have become long back-and-forth fights over long tracts of land. Many players are reporting obscenely lengthy matches with some even lasting almost three hours. So I decided to jump in. Not to scramble with the other soldiers to the frontlines. No, no, no. But to stay far back and see if I could find a nice cottage in the French countryside. Here's a blow by blow account (plus video) of what happened.
2 minutes – I spend the first few minutes of the game mindlessly running forward out of habit. When I remember what I’m supposed to be doing (hanging back), I do what any red-blooded young man would do in my position, and immediately hide in a bush. Three enemy soldiers pass me right by, within metres. The fourth stops. He must have noticed there is a Frenchman lying in the shrubbery, because he promptly shoots me in the belly.
4 mins – I discover a pleasant town house. It has a table, chairs and a cosy looking attic with a couch covered in a sheet. I decide this is a good place to hunker down until the war is over. Our boys have charged forward with daring and courage. It will probably all be done soon.
5 mins – A soldier spawns beside me. I say hello. He runs through my new home smashing all the windows with a spade.
7 mins – I’ve gone to discover a new home, one without broken windows. And boy did I hit the jackpot. A lovely farmhouse, far from the fighting. Complete with fireplace, balcony, a fully-functioning water mill and adjacent tree house. It’s got a bit of a machine gun problem on the upper floor and a giant howitzer has settled itself in the gateway of the mill. But otherwise, it’s picturesque. An estate agent would call it “idyllic” and would ask you to ignore the mustard gas discolouring the horizon.
8 mins – “We’re being pushed back,” says the announcer, suggesting that our boys are experiencing some sort of impediment. That’s to be expected. It’s probably nothing.
12 mins – A loud bang nearby forces me to come downstairs to investigate, leaving the comfort of my new home. It’s one of our boys, behind the barn. He’s inside a tank and is firing shells into the distance. There’s absolutely nothing there for him to shoot at. I don’t know why he’s doing this.
12 mins 45 secs – A second tank rolls around the corner of the mill. He displays a demoralising disregard for private property, as he has driven straight through my storage building, demolishing two of the walls.
14 mins – There are some shady figures on the hillside. I can just about make them out with my periscope. Germans. But they are quite far away. Here, there are birds singing.
15 mins – I go back inside and discover that my millstone has stopped turning. I briefly wonder if this is a glitch but when I head out the backdoor to investigate I see that the water wheel has been totally destroyed. Another vandal has taken a pot shot at it on the way to the front, destroying the property of an ordinary French citizen for nothing but his own puerile entertainment. I’m a proud supporter of our boys but I wish they’d stop this.
17 mins – Well at least they are giving it to Fritz. Distant gun shots and the announcer tell me that a recent counter-charge has been successful. I climb the tree house to get a better view of what’s happening in the distance. Tanks, soldiers, all fighting far, far away. It’s probably safe to go back and explore the town now.
20 mins - “We are being pushed back,” says the announcer, who I ignore. The town is a very nice place. There’s a dusty bridge across the stream, cobblestone streets, a library and a gorgeous townhouse whose floorplan is more or less identical to my own. “Idyllic”.
21 mins – The sound of gunfire is growing louder, for some reason. I stand in the middle of the cobblestone street, inspecting the smoking hillsides in the distance through my periscope. Suddenly, a German appears within 50 meters of me. That’s about 200 meters too close! He’s firing at something in the opposite direction though, and doesn’t see me slithering away like a panicked newt.
22 mins 15 secs – Having put some distance between myself and the gunfire, I turn to look again at the hillsides. There is a rifleman in the hazy distance. He has stopped on top of the hill and is looking toward the town, but probably not at me.
22 mins 16 secs – The rifleman has shot at me.
23 mins – Arrived back home after a brisk jog. Tanks and cavalry pass me by on the dirt road. They seem in a rush. One of them stops, as if to say “hop in!” but quickly starts back on the road when he sees that I’m happy enough where I am.
27 mins – “We are being pushed back,” says the announcer as I relax in the farmhouse. Again!? What are our boys doing out there? Making daisy chains? Come on lads.
28 mins – I have climbed the tree house to see what these lads are playing at. Yes, the town seems a bit more smokey than usual, and yes there are some tanks I don’t recognise in those nearby fields, but this shouldn’t be so difficult to handle. I shout some encouragement at a passing tank, telling him to “get in there” and “do something about this”. Then go back to looking through my periscope.
29 mins – A German cavalryman has abandoned his horse on the roof of an outhouse, which is absolutely savage.
30 mins – A shell shakes the whole platform I’m standing on. They’re trying to take down the tree! But I’m still in it! Disgraceful behaviour. I quickly clamber down the ladders and walk at a fast but firm pace back to the farm.
34 mins – A lot of our lads and machinery passing through the farm now. I’m trying to mind my own business, sitting quietly on a bench (well kind of, like, crouching above it) and looking downstream toward the town, but it’s getting very loud. I’ve also noticed there are some large telegram stations installed in the courtyard, which I believe are significant.
34 mins 30 secs – Someone is shooting at me.
35 mins – I’ve ducked inside. With any luck this will pass over. Our boys will go for another big push and take Jerry back to the town, then back to the hillside, then all the way back to God knows where. There’s little chance of the Germans coming in here. I’ve closed all the doors.
35 mins 30 secs – Turns out the Germans aren’t the ones to worry about. Our boys have spawned in with me and have commandeered the whole building. A sniper is peeping out the upper floor window. And there’s a man on the machine gun who won’t stop firing it no matter how many times I tell him it is for decoration only. Everything has become very, very loud. I can’t hear the birds singing any more, or the stream flowing. Every time a soldier runs through the house I have to close the doors behind them. They are very disrespectful.
38 mins – I am trying to tell the two troopers on the upper floor that they have to leave. This is private property. They don’t seem to care about anything I’m saying, and spend most of their time shooting at things I can’t see. I know we need to support the lads and all but--
38 mins 1 sec – The sniper is killed by an explosive shell, which also puts a massive hole in the window, an action which has almost certainly lowered the property value of the farmhouse.
38 mins 4 secs – The gunner is blown to pieces by a second explosive shell, rendering the decorative machine gun and a large portion of the upper floor uninhabitable.
38 mins 10 secs – I’ve left by the backdoor and am on my way to visit the neighbours. An affordable cottage just across a small bridge and further up the hill. There’s nobody there, obviously, so I’ll be able to stay as a guest without trouble. I can hear bullets whizzing past me on the way. I don’t think Jerry realises that I'm not part of the army. “We have lost objective Butter,” says the announcer, which I have interpreted as a bad sign.
39 mins and 50 secs – I’m standing on a hill and looking at what they’re doing to my farm. It’s an absolute shocker. One of our lads spawns beside me and immediately immolates himself for no discernible reason. It’s no wonder Bosch is winning, with an attitude like that.
40 mins 15 secs – As I watch parts of my dream farmhouse collapse into bricks and dust, the news comes. We have lost the battle. An explosion by the second radio sends the whole farm up in smoke. It's over. Our boys have fought valiantly, but were ultimately defeated. Despite this I have every faith in them for whatever battle comes next. Come on lads, I’m behind you all the way.