Four Glaring Historical Errors In Otherwise Realistic War Games

Image: Assasins Creed
Image: Assasins Creed

Some of the best video games from recent years have revolved around real wars and historical conflicts, with varying degrees of accuracy. In certain cases, when “alternative history” strays across the line into pure fantasy, it’s hardly worth looking for mistakes – calling out Wolfenstein for including a robot Hitler would be a waste of time.

However, even in games that work hard to maintain a high degree of historical accuracy, some details still slip through the net. From impossible armor to time-travelling flags, here are four details which tripped up otherwise realistic games.

Assassin’s Creed 3 – The Stars and Stripes

The Assassin’s Creed franchise roams so far into the territory of alternative history that it seems almost pointless to go looking for factual inaccuracies in most of the games’ plot lines. However, the world in which the story unfolds is often heavily rooted in real historical conflicts, from the Crusades to the French Revolution and beyond.

When looking at the developers’ representation of real-world events and time periods there’s a lot of detail and accuracy to be commended – making the occasional slip-ups stand out all the more.

One example of this would be the representation of the US flag in Assassin’s Creed 3. This entry in the franchise takes place during American Revolutionary War, as players help the rebels rise up against the rule of the British. Featured prominently throughout the game is an early iteration of the Stars and Stripes, known commonly as the Betsy Ross Flag.

However, this flag didn’t actually make an appearance until considerably after America gained its independence. The flag predominantly used by rebel forces during the time period covered in the game would have been The Continental Colors, also known as the Grand Union Flag.

To underline the stirring tale of the Revolutionary War and the birth of a nation, it’s understandable that the game’s creators wanted to use a recognizably American flag, at the price of historical accuracy.

Medal of Honor: Underground – Bullet-Resistant Armor

There are a number of historically inaccurate elements in Medal of Honor: Underground, as is usually the case with alternative history titles that border on the fantastical. On the whole, though, much of the gameplay does stick fairly close to reality.

One feature, in particular, can be singled out, however, as the Dark Camelot level sees medieval plate armor seemingly holding its own against the rounds of a Second World War sub-machine gun.

In this mission in the game, players must face the dark secrets lurking in Wewelsburg Castle, the real-life site of occultist rituals and the stronghold of the Nazi SS forces. While there, the protagonist is attacked by sinister Nazi knights, dressed in heavy Medieval plate armor and armed with shields and swords.

Not only would this equipment be a tremendous hindrance when up against a more mobile combatant in lighter 20th-century clothing, but the armor itself would be extremely ineffective in warding off bullets.

Medieval: Total War – English Plate Armour

The Total War series has often been praised for its careful adherence to historical detail, something that has set it to the forefront of the turn-based strategy gaming genre. Although with their most recent title – Total War: Warhammer – the franchise has moved into the realms of high fantasy, the majority of the games in the series are impressively accurate when depicting a variety of time periods.

In Medieval: Total War 2, however, there are a number of wrinkles in the otherwise perfectly recreated historical fabric. For example, in every battle each opposing faction has a general on the field, and the English generals throughout the game’s entirety wear heavy plate armor. This is completely out of keeping with what actual Norman soldiers would have worn, regardless of rank.

In the 11th and 12th Centuries, plate armor wasn’t widely favored in England, where fighting men would have been much more likely to wear primarily chain-mail. This is one detail the developers didn’t get quite right, but considering the scale of the game, the time period covered and the different units on offer, it’s probably forgivable.

Battlefield 1 – Too Many Automatic Weapons

After an increasingly monotonous onslaught of games based around futuristic warfare – exemplified by the Call of Duty series and their current progression into the realms of science fiction – first person shooters that tackle real historical combat have enjoyed a new popularity.

With the gaming community frustrated by the announcement of Infinite Warfare in 2016, the release of Battlefield 1 could not have been better timed. The game recreates the nightmare of First World War battlefields around the globe with incredible realism, and the developers have been widely commended for the level of historical accuracy they managed to maintain.

One understandable but nonetheless glaring exception, however, is the inclusion of a suspicious amount of automatic guns. Although a wide range of versatile and completely realistic equipment is available to players, automatic weapons and handheld machine-guns seem to be everywhere in the game, and this is completely unrealistic.

The most common gun to find in the hands of a soldier in the First World War would have been a bolt-action rifle, which demanded a little more tact and accuracy than the modern gamer might be used to.

Malcolm Higgins

Malcolm Higgins is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE