Big budget FPS (first person shooter) games used to be all about the epic WWII, Medal of Honor, Battlefield 1942, Call of Duty; they all had multiple WWII classics. Then people got bored with Normandy landings and wars in the Pacific and modern and future warfare became the norm. Game developer EA/DICE has just announced the plan to not revisit WWII, but to go all the way back to the first World War in their upcoming game.
WWI is not often explored in gaming because many average gamers only have a passing knowledge of the war in general. Most think that any WWI game would be a boring standstill of trench warfare and old bolt-action guns. Basically All Quiet on the Western Front, but in game form with brief excitement and lots of waiting. Most gamers were extremely dismissive of EA/DICE’s possible WWI game until EA/DICE dropped this trailer last Friday:
This epic trailer is not only incredibly exciting, it provides a ton of information to historians and those not well read on the war. Just ten seconds in we see a charging horse riding through the desert. Right there, historians can rest assured that the game won’t just be tied to the European theater. Many people are completely unaware of the Middle Eastern aspect of the war, ranging from the deserts of modern Iraq to the passes of the Caucasus Mountains.
The trailer then goes on to show dogfighting and tanks rolling into battle. the Battlefield series is well known for being a FPS with a focus on vehicle combat. Though tanks and advanced combat planes took a bit to be introduced, they were certainly present in the war and will provide many gameplay options. Also, riding in an epic cavalry charge, complete with air cover, would make for quite the gaming experience. Biplanes offer a very different vehicle experience, soldiers in the trenches could have a chance to bring the planes down with small arms fire. Dogfighting in the game could also evolve from pilots wielding pistols to forward-facing machine guns and a tail gunner.
The trailer featured so much that many people thought it must be a type of alternate history game. Already mentioned are the cavalry charges that so many are unaware of, and also, zeppelins, flamethrowers, medieval-looking body armor, and the epic scale of the trailer made people assume that the game had to have some fictional twist. Simply put, all of the stuff in the trailer existed in some way during the war, granted it is given quite a modern polish in the trailer. People just underestimate the scope of WWI especially with the next war being more global and more recent. Body armor, as in suits of armor, were rare but not unheard of, and could still have been of use. Shrapnel, bayonets, and sabre-wielding cavalry could all be at least slightly countered by a good set of armor.
As far as gameplay, the trailer shows that WWI would be anything but boring. Automatic weapons existed, but bolt action guns still had their place. The lack of electronics means that gameplay will be far more skill based, aiming down sights and precisely throwing grenades. No more activating a drone to automatically seek out and blow up the nearest enemy. No more heat-seeking missiles, you have to properly aim that AA gun to take out those planes, but at least they will be flying slower.
More than anything, Battlefield 1 will be a refreshing change. Everything makes sense for the new setting. We are in the midst of WWI’s 100th anniversary, with the game’s planned release coming on the eve of the anniversary of American involvement in the war. A major Hollywood movie is planned for release around the same time, which focuses on the Harlem Hellfighters, the predominantly African-American regiment that fought with great distinction during WWI, and is based on a popular graphic novel. EA/DICE will also have bonus content focused around the same regiment.
All this attention will be great for exposure and more common understanding of such a large and important conflict. Common misunderstandings of WWI range from saddening to cringe-worthy; most people couldn’t even name three nations involved in the war. Too many people think the Red Baron was a WWII Ace, and people don’t realize that America only joined the war at the very end. The multiplayer is the core focus for any FPS game today, but Battlefield 1 is going to have a singleplayer campaign that spans the globe. Hopefully, the campaign will be as true to the history of the war as possible, though doubtless, many aspects will be changed to provide better gameplay.
Even the music for the trailer was either extremely well-planned or hugely coincidental. The song Seven Nation Army is heavily featured in the trailer, and WWI was fought by seven major powers (of course, many dozens of nations were involved, but many people recognize the big seven). The game stands in stark contrast to the upcoming future warfare setting of Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, giving players vastly different choices between the two biggest FPS publishers out there.