I worked on the newly released WW1 shooter Battlefield 1, where I designed two of the levels in the game’s single-player campaign.
I worked the games Prologue; “Storm of Steel:
The prologue is a particularly powerful take on the kind of imagery that we’re familiar from history lessons at school. Set on the Western Front, Storm of Steel is a short introduction, but it really hammers home just how fragile life was on the shelled, muddy wastelands of the frontline.
You die. There’s no getting away from it. You will die several times during this prologue, but where other games – and indeed the five other stories that make up Battlefield 1’s single player – will roll back time to the last checkpoint, there weren’t any checkpoints for the soldiers of the First World War. Each life lost is bookmarked by that soldier’s name, their year of birth and year of death, which, funnily enough, is always the same. As each soldier falls, you move to the next person, taking custody of a handful of men fighting back against a German advance.
It goes beyond that, though. Playing through it a second time, I start to see the soldiers in complete and utter shellshock, just standing there looking around them without any real understanding of what’s going on anymore. There’s also times where it echoes Modern Warfare 2’s infamous “No Russian” level, calling on you to shoot at soldiers in retreat. I caught myself at that point. It didn’t feel right.
Maybe I’m just a sensitive soul, but this was a rare time where a first person shooter, a genre known for bombast and excess, made me stop and think. Certainly, there is a cinematic slant to this, and it’s heavily scripted. It’s designed to be action packed, adrenaline fuelled and push you forward into the fight, making it a great counterpart to the headlong charge into the fray that often occurs in Battlefield games online, but it’s also one of the best illustrations of the horrors of the First World War that I can think of.
And one of the missions in the “Through Mud and Blood” campaign, called “Fog of War”.