The oddly named Battlefield 1 is the latest game in the long-running first-person-shooter series, Battlefield. Instead of carrying on the modern setting that the series has become known for, EA have taken the game to World War One.
For years I have been interested in playing a shooter based in WWI, but as one actually got announced, I find myself unsure. The trailer was full of excitement. Aeroplanes flew overhead, with bullets flying around them, and dark, violent scenes in the trenches look aggressive too. You seem to be able to ride on horses, drive tanks and use close-quarters weapons. But despite all of the scenes I don’t find myself looking forward to the game like I should be.
I think there are a few reasons why I can’t muster a huge amount of enthusiasm for Battlefield 1 and I’ll start with the main one. Something about setting a game during the First World War doesn’t sit well with me. WWI itself was terrible, millions of people fought and died for reasons that the common man never truly understood. It was the first time the world fought such an awful war, and the shock of the death-toll still hurts many, many people. Making a video game about it seems in poor taste.
I never had any issue with games based on World War Two, however, and I still find myself wanting a new game set in that era. WWII, in many ways, was more extreme than the First World War, but a video games set on its atrocities feels fine. People knew what they were fighting against in the Second World War, and destroying Hitler and his armies always feels fine – perhaps that is why I don’t see an issue with games based on WWII?
There are hundreds of video games based on WWII. Perhaps we are just used to seeing images of WWII, and even acting out real events in a game. WWI has not seen nearly as many video game adaptations as the Second World War, and this could be a reason why I dislike seeing the Great War depicted as a first-person-shooter. I think another reason for my feelings towards WWII in the media are the way they are is because Hollywood got there first. I can’t remember watching a film based on WWI, but there are a lot based on the Second World War, with Saving Private Ryan paving the way for games such as Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and Battlefield. Perhaps we are desensitized to images of the Second World War, despite its atrocities, through the media.
World War One seems like you shouldn’t trivialise it through video games. Battlefield 1 of course, isn’t the first game to be based on WWI, but arguably, it is the first one of note. Ubisoft gave us Valiant Hearts: The Great War in 2014, but other than that, Battlefield 1 is easily the most high-profile video game based on the War. Valiant Hearts didn’t sit with me well either, despite it trying to be a tasteful rendition of the War, using real-life stories at its core.
From back in 2014 to 2018, the world is remembering the First World War. It is the war’s centenary, and releasing video games based on it, during such an emotional time seems a tad offensive. From a business point of view, releasing games based on WWI at the moment is a good idea, as it is on the public’s mind. I’m not sure it’s ethically correct, but that might just be me. The announcement trailer for the game has been viewed over 30 million times as of writing, with an overwhelming number of likes given to the video.
Views in the press are positive too, with Gamesradar claiming that it ‘feels like the most modern shooter of this generation’. I don’t think my opinion is the popular one. Don’t get me wrong though, Battlefield 1 looks like a good game. It looks fast, aggressive, violent and simple, with a modern sheen. I’m not too sure about the graphics, though. Everything looks very… bland. There’s a lack of emotion in the trailer as well as a lack of personality. It doesn’t look like it’s making the most of its WWI setting. It should be grittier, more emotional and focusing on the soldiers more. As it stands, with its art-style, Battlefield 1 looks like another soulless game from EA, prioritising sheen over anything else. Plenty of games look bland however, with an art-style that allows for spectacular looking graphics, with very little personality, and I manage to get excited about plenty of those.
I’m worried that Battlefield 1 will lack in personality. It reminds me of Star Wars Battlefront. Technically, it looks impressive, but the style is lacking. EA games in general don’t wow me, with lacklustre presentation marring what would otherwise be a great game. Nothing in the trailer makes me think that EA’s lacklustre design choices have changed. It’s a look I like to describe as ‘chrome’.
The recent Marvel movies are ‘chrome’, Call of Duty is ‘chrome’ and so too are most of EA’s games. Chrome is very shiny, but largely unappealing. Shiny without substance. Battlefield 1, based solely on its announcement trailer looks fairly shiny without a whole lot of substance. I’d like it to look grittier than it does, just as I’d wish Star Wars Battlefront did more with its source material and art. World War One was truly horrible, so I think at least a game based on it should look horrible too.
I want EA to make me want Battlefield 1. I’m hoping the first look at the gameplay alleviates my fears that the game will be all shine without substance. I will always be unsure whether a game based on WWI is right, but I want to like Battlefield 1 more than I do currently. I just hope it has more personality to it than Star Wars Battlefront and past Battlefield games do.
Toby Saunders is sometimes opinionated. You’ll find him posting garbage about games, films and his beloved Spurs and Bath City FC on Twitter.