Posted on Feb 20th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under reviews, wwi, fps, ps4, ea

World War I has recently piqued my interest in a major way. I've been studying the events of the "war to end all wars" for past few months as I honestly knew nothing about it previously. Recently reading All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms made me want to dig deeper into this historical catastrophe. After much reading, and watching countless Youtube videos, I sought out a copy of EA and DICE's WWI shooter Battlefield 1. I played through the campaign recently and I thought the game was very interesting and enjoyable. However, I was left scratching my head at some incredible omissions by the developers, namely the countries involved in the playable campaign.

The single-player campaign is divided into five distinct sections, each lasting about one to two hours. This was a great idea on the part of the developers. It took me by surprise at first, but I realized quickly that this game is like a book of short stories as opposed to an unfocused novel. To put it another way, the developers of this game have found a way to solve the problem of the single-player campaigns of most first-person war games of the past; filling the shoes of one (or two, or three) characters for the entire game in a single-story as they take a tour of some major historical conflict. In Battlefield 1 the five mini-campaigns do not overlap in any way. Each story is completely contained. As the player I didn't necessarily feel like I was taking the outcome of the entire war on my shoulders and acting as a one-man army.

The gameplay of these distinct campaigns varies quite nicely as well. Though there is little of the characteristic trench warfare of The Great War, there is air combat, tank action, shooting, and a good amount of stealth. From a gameplay standpoint, players familiar with previous Battlefield titles will find themselves in familiar territory. In one of the shorter campaigns, you will march up a hill in full body armor with a heavy machine gun mowing down Austrian soldiers until you take over one of their anti-aircraft guns to shoot their fragile aircraft out of the sky. This, I think, is how the developers shoe-horned the "one-man army" aesthetic into the game in by far the most pronounced way. Another campaign I enjoyed was one in which I was part of a British tank crew. Tanks were introduced to the world by the British in World War I, so to have this in the game was essential. The fragility of the new technology of tanks is conveyed well in this campaign, even if the contextual button press method of repairing the tank requires a major suspension of disbelief.

Gameplay courtesy of GamePlay Only

As much as I enjoyed the gameplay of Battlefield 1's campaign, I was astonished by the choice made by the developers and publishers of this game made in the countries represented as playable. Of the five mini-campaigns available, in three you play as a British soldier (or at least for the British), in one you are Italian and in the last you are Australian (which was part of the British Empire at the time). It is worth noting also that in the short intro to the game you will play as one of the Harlem Hellfighters, which was an American infantry regiment.

You may immediately recognize the astonishing absence of two of the three members of the Triple Entente. That Russia and France are not represented in this campaign is an incredible omission. Russia and France suffered the most and second most casualties of the allies in the war, respectively. The story of Germany's fight against Russia on its eastern front and France on its western front makes up an incredible bulk of the war in general. I have to wonder why this major part of the conflict was completely left out of the single-player campaign. The game, in cutscenes, dialogue, and a few slides at the end of the game, plays much lip-service to the idea of memorializing the many souls lost to this conflict, and rightfully so. It seems like an opportunity to shed some light on the immense efforts and sacrifices of the French and Russian people has very obviously been missed.

To take this a step further, I see no reason why the central powers couldn't be playable in the single-player campaign. Unlike World War II, the first World War is not viewed as a battle between good and evil. To make it abundantly clear, incredible atrocities were committed in the first World War by both sides, not the least of which is the Armenian Genocide. I know it would be in extremely bad taste to design a mainstream game in which the player takes a hand in committing major crimes against humanity. Having said that, I think a chapter in which you play as a German soldier would have been completely appropriate in the game. One has to realize that in general, this war was not popular among the public, and became less and less popular as time went on. Further, the soldiers on both sides were beholden to the wills of their commanders, who oftentimes were incompetent and stubborn. The developers had a chance to shed light on the conflict in a way that would clarify the historical context of the loss by Germany in the first World War. Instead, they took the safe route and gave us a first person view of only a small number of Entente forces.
Though World War I is sometimes viewed as mainly a European conflict, it was truly a World War. Though I think EA dropped the ball with this game as it launched, there is always the possibility of a sequel or even DLC scenarios being added to the game. I know this is extremely unlikely, and I have gauged by reading many message boards, unpopular, but I would still love to see the scope of playable countries will be expanded. I enjoyed the game to a great degree but was disappointed in the fact that it wasn't nearly comprehensive enough in its scope. 

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Good write-up.  As with you, I know far less about WWI than I do WWII.  I don't know that I have many ties back to WWI, but both of my grandfathers served in WWII in the US Army and Navy, so my familiarity is much greater.  That is a curious omission, I would agree, though perhaps they were just looking to capture the war from a limited perspective?  Had they added the French and Russian perspectives, they could well have doubled the size of the single player campaign.
@MetalFRO: Thanks Josh!

I agree with you to the extent that adding Central Powers forces to the forces could've made the campaign unwieldy, or even confusing to the layperson. 

It would have been a huge improvement simply to have the airplane segment focus on the Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) instead of the British. Armée de l'Air's history in WWI is very interesting and would've helped spread the wealth, so to speak.

Hopefully there will be a full sequel, because there's no way in heck there will be single-player campaign DLC at this point.

I should've made it clear in my article that the multiplayer doesn't have these problems.
Thanks for the review.  I'm a little surprised that at the very least the French campaign wasn't included.  WWI was such a turning point in military history, not just in terms of technology but also of advancing tactics, and nothing epitomized that more than the constant back and forth of territory on the Western front, and the French were there the entire time, for a good portion of the war forced to charge into heavy artillery and machine gun fire (at least until battle tactics evolved a bit).  Oh well.  I am still curious enough to want to play it, if for nothing than to play a WW1 shooter that has nothing to do with time travel, alternate futures, or the supernatural.  So, here's hoping for a sequel.
Reading this article and knowing about your recent podcast and reading habits, which we discussed on the last show, I have a feeling we'll be addressing this in the next recording. Good times!
I wondered how well this game would represent the Great War, and it sounds lacking. Events like the Christmas Truce could have given an opportunity to see things from multiple viewpoints while being non-controversial. Even African campaigns could have come into play.

I suppose from a gameplay perspective, focusing on the more mechanized later campaigns makes sense. After all, I'm guessing publishers only care to catering to shooter fans, and not much to history buffs.
No Battle of Vimy Ridge?

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