Everyone had the same reaction when DICE, the studio behind the venerable Battlefield franchise, unveiled Battlefield 1. It was fantastic that a major developer was taking a risk with an underutilized (and tragic) setting like the First World War, but we were curious how they were going to make a fun competitive shooter set in an era before infrared goggles, laser sights or tactical nukes. It begs the question: Is DICE portraying the Great War accurately, or are they taking liberties to make the game palatable for those who have grown up playing competitive first-person shooters that don’t involve bayonets and cavalry charges?
Othais runs the YouTube channel C&Rsenal, which does painstakingly researched videos on some of the world’s most famous vintage firearms. He’s currently working on a book tackling every service weapon in World War I, and he also happens to be a huge fan of Battlefield: 1942. Othias, who prefers to not give his real name, is probably the best person to ask about the nuances of turn-of-the-century firearms and the liberties of game design, so we picked his brain to find out how Battlefield 1‘s weapons stack up against the historical record.
For the most part, soldiers in World War I carried bolt-action rifles and grenades. When things broke down, they usually resorted to hand-to-hand combat. The Russian Imperial Army de-emphasized the actual “fire” part of firearms while they were still active in the war – famously fielding battalions that had more soldiers than rifles.
Obviously, that doesn’t make for great gameplay, so DICE fudged the numbers a bit in terms of weapon diversity. There’s an entire class dedicated to submachine guns like the famous MP18 and Beretta Model 1918, but Othais tells me they were scarce.
“The MP18 was the only submachine gun you’re going to see fielded in any appreciable numbers in World War I, even so, we’re talking about maybe 10,000 by war’s end,” he says.