How Well Did Battlefield 1 Represent World War 1?

Today, I try to pick apart Battlefield 1 and analyze it's historical accuracy. Towards the end I will bring in research from WWI historians and...
By goss34, Dec 2, 2016 | |
  1. goss34

    Battlefield 1 tries it hardest to recreate the Great War with almost perfect accuracy. World War I was one of the most brutal wars that involved many new technologies and tactics that shaped our world as we know it. Today, I try to pick apart Battlefield 1 and analyze it's historical accuracy. Towards the end I will bring in research from WWI historians and their views on the video game by EA and DICE and how they think the developers did on recreating history.

    Many people usually mistake WWII for WWI and don't take into consideration how different the two wars were fought. World War I was primarily fought through trench warfare which was a grueling and strenuous task to not only fight but also build. This is where Battlefield 1 really disappointed me, trenches were very underrepresented even though it took historically about 450-500 men 6 hours to build. Battlefield 1 showed no obvious trench warfare in either the multiplayer or more surprisingly the campaign. If you have ever seen the movie All Quiet on The Western Front, you can understand what trench warfare looked like. Two sides would dig into their trenches, one side would attack trying to overtake the enemy's position with the other side defending. After the attacking side retreated or failed to overtake their objective, the other side would return with an attack. Back and forth for months, with usually little success. Battlefield 1 underrepresented this concept and seemed to have trenches in the map design, but not the game mechanics. Trench warfare was the biggest difference from World War I and World War II. WWII was primarily fought above ground and with vehicles while WWI was fought in the trenches with occasional urban warfare in major cities.

    The battles that are present in the Operations game mode allow for the player to experience a small chunk of the war in a fast-paced objective styled warfare. Although many major battles of World War I are not included (Battle of Verdun, Battle of the Somme, etc.), but many prominent battles still remain including the Battle of Cambrai which is featured in the Through Mud and Blood campaign level, and the Gallipoli Campaign which is also featured in the campaign level known as the The Runner. Multiplayer operations include the Battle of Amiens and the Battle of the Argonne Forest, and the 1918 Spring Offensive. I feel even though major battles were left out, the explanation of each battle at the end of the game was well executed. The narrator explains what actually happened and what might have happened based on the recent outcome of the game you just played. The maps have accurate depictions of the front lines of the war and show the advancement of each theatre correctly. Battlefield 1 executes the area of accuracy of battles with flying colors but could have added more battles to really emphasize the War and how truly horrible it really was (Granted, I am reviewing the game at its current state, but there are other expansions that will feature more battles and scenarios).

    Many of the weapons described in-game have captions that describe the history and its early development. Many weapons are historically accurate. For example, the Italian Cei-Rigotti is a semi-automatic rifle. The Mauser Selbstlader M1916 is another semi-automatic rifle that fires in quick succession. The creators at DICE took the weapons to heart in recreating their past, but may have gotten a little too "fun-oriented" in one of their designs. The MP18 Bergmann did not have a bayonet lug until after the war. I believe DICE did this for the sake of gameplay, but it's so minor it doesn't really affect my opinion on the overall accuracy of the game. Except for the one mistake, all the other guns check out to be historically accurate from my point of view. As for the uniforms, the German soldiers wore gloves which is inaccurate. Historically, soldiers only wore gloves if they were handling barbed wire or grenadiers. Once again, only a small mistake that can be overlooked. Probably the biggest thing that DICE did to whitewash history is the medic class and his dainty syringe that revives teammates. We can speculate that the liquid in the bottle may be morphine, but bandages would be required for certain injuries and morphine doesn't kick in instantly (Usually 30-60 minutes for morphine to take effect based on your current condition). Of course this was done to keep the game going at a certain pace, it's still no doubt is inaccurate. Overall, weapons keep their historical accuracy except for a few things that make gameplay more enjoyable for the players.

    Another gameplay item that DICE may have taken a little too far were the "airships" that acted as a huge flying death machine. I know that the historically accurate term for these vehicles is actually zeppelins, and that there is a difference between an airship and a zeppelin. The zeppelins were a product of a German company before and during WWI, while rigid airships were basically the U.S. version of a zeppelin. Although it may seem very small, the narrator in the game acknowledges all flying behemoths as "airships," and is in fact partly right, but also wrong. For the review I will acknowledge all flying vehicles as airships. In Battlefield 1, airships were large machines with a plethora of machine guns that dominated the skies; and the battlefield. In fact, airships were almost always used for either reconnaissance or bombing runs. There is no evidence that they were used in the middle of battle for the reason to kill infantry or land tanks. Plus, they were so high maintenance and ineffective that they evolved into fighters and bombers. Its obvious DICE just wanted to incorporate something that made playing the game fun and more interesting.

    There are also many things that the game got correct as well. Armored trains were used by the Germans and many of the vehicles were correctly portrayed. Although no historical names of the aircraft is seen in multiplayer, the models are easy to pick out and define. Field guns and other anti-air guns that were placed as decoration were correctly designed and created a sense of a real battle and depth of the intense sky above. Numerous military attire is correctly represented along with correct accessories such as Germans using shovels instead of bayonets, soldiers using the Geballte Ladung, and also appropriate gas masks for each side. While there will be arguments, there are undoubtedly very few things that DICE did wrong, they made sure that Battlefield 1 was accurate but also enjoyable to a point that was a perfect balance for both historians and casual players.

    From what I saw and the historians pointed out, there are very slim differences. On many of the German infantry, their uniforms feature red piping and a cuff that historians said featured the wrong time period, which was used later. Historians pointed out a flaw about the armored infantry units that wear fully body and mask metal armor. Historians stated that Germans experimented with armor known as "lobster armor" and was very clunky and nowhere near the efficiency of the full body armor in-game. On the battlefield, historians expressed stated that the weapons in WWI were nowhere near perfect, with constant jams and overheating. This is obviously not a problem since weapons work in perfect sync in Battlefield 1. DICE most likely did this to make the game less rage inducing and more casual instead of a hardcore historical rewrite. On the subject of weapons, historians also questioned the speed of reloading certain weapons, such as the drum magazine on the Lewis gun. Another side note that historians added was the lack of bolt action guns. Many semi-automatic weapons were prototypes and developed on towards the very end of the war. Although some bolt-action rifles do remain, they aren't as emphasized as the semi-automatic and automatic rifles. Both the historians and I noted small flaws that don't make the game totally inaccurate, but certain mechanics do make the game more enjoyable. Although some things should have been reinforced such as trench warfare to fully distinct the difference between World War I and World War II. DICE and EA still do a wonderful job of showing the horrors of the Great War while still giving the player an enjoying ride with some historical information too.

    Historian Review 1
    Historian Review 2

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