“Battlefield 1”: A True Depiction of History?

By Zach Srnis

When Electronic Arts released its most recent installment in the Battlefield franchise, “Battlefield 1,” they decided to change the typical setting for their first-person shooter. Instead of going to the future, which most shooters tend to do, “Battlefield 1” decided to go back to World War I.

This puts into question how realistic the game actually is to the time period.

David Simonelli, a history professor at Youngstown State University, teaches the class on World War I and said that games like “Battlefield 1” should not be sought out for their realism.

“I’m not sure the point in any video game is realistic depictions of the history involved,” Simonelli said. “The good thing about video games, though, is that people tend to ask questions about history. It’s a great way of introducing history to potential students.”

The Battlefield franchise is known for its vehicles, and “Battlefield 1” is no different. Simonelli mentioned that vehicles were used often during the war, but that they were not reliable.

“Cars did not really have much of an off-road capacity yet; the jeep and other all-terrain cars would be a second World War adaptation,” Simonelli said. “Tanks developed during the Great War [were] kind of a moveable fortress, but they broke down a lot.”

Tanks and cars aside, the signature vehicle in the game is the Zeppelin. “Battlefield 1” allows a large vehicle to appear in the middle of the match to help the team that is currently losing. The Zeppelin is a large airship that allows the bombing of the battlefield and helps to even the odds.

“They had to hope no airplanes showed up to shoot the Zeppelin down before it got back,” Simonelli said. “A zeppelin would inevitably go down in flames too, because zeppelins carried massive gas tanks to make the long trip to England and back. Between hydrogen and gasoline, they were basically floating bombs.”

A good amount of the battles in “Battlefield 1” occur in villages where the player moves from home to home fighting the enemy. The homes and surrounding buildings are often destroyed by tanks. Simonelli mentions that this aspect is not too farfetched.

“Street by street, house by house combat occurred more so on the eastern front than the western front,” Simonelli said. “There were no Stalingrads, where the whole battle took place in a city — battles took place out in less populated areas where everyone could move quickly without hindrance.”

Overall, “Battlefield 1” is about as accurate as it is inaccurate, taking a few liberties here and there to advance the storyline. The settings of the battles and the guns that are used are, for the most part, accurate to the time period. The vehicles and transportation, however, are a bit anachronistic in how they are used in the game.

Fans of the Battlefield franchise don’t seem to mind the inaccuracies and have a mostly positive view on the game’s setting and plot.

“The game is a return to form for the franchise,” said Brett Kendra, a fan of the franchise. “I remember playing the first title [“Battlefield 1942”] and this is the sequel that most resembles that game.”

Boa Le, another fan of the Battlefield franchise and first person shooters, said that the game developer’s decision to go back into the past instead of the future made the game more interesting, even if it’s not completely accurate.

“Too many of the shooters today are worried about going to the future,” Le said. “I hope the success of ‘Battlefield 1’ will force other shooters to return to a similar time period.”

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