Battlefield 1 is a one-of-a-kind game. It’s a great first person shooter, a technological display, a cross-section of the Great War and on of DICE’s high points in their career. The heart and creativity put into it seem to outweigh the worse part of gaming — publishing plans, finances, MTX. A pet project and an experiment that worked out and breathed some fresh air into industry overflown with WW2 and futuristic shooters. Additionally, a reminder of the Great War to a society that overlooks this conflict in favour of WW2. A complex idea executed perfectly. Battlefield 1 had to succeed.
DICE keeps reminding us of the real side of the fun we are having.
That success could happen mainly because of the artistic direction for depicting the Great War. It’s not a game that treats its setting mainly contextually — it’s not just an aesthetic and a set of skins that a player will recognize from school, museums and pop-culture. As easy as it is to create hatred towards nazism in videogames like Wolfenstein or Call Of Duty, DICE couldn’t do the same for the Great War. Despite the multiplayer shooter context, they went with humanism and focusing on people that fight, not the ideologies. „Behind every gunsight is a human being” — says the BF1’s main premise which made the success possible. Yes, the game is fun. Charging as a flame-trooper on a horse is fun, but no matter how fun shooting from a zeppelin flying over San Quentin is, something will soon remind you it wasn’t all fun. The music, realistic voice acting, Operations intros or battle descriptions between the rounds — DICE keeps reminding us of the real side of the fun we are having.
That idea translated to music accordingly. Patrik Andrén and Johan Söderqvist made it clear in the vanilla soundtrack that they understand this vision, skipping many modern FPS cliches. Their music is about bravery in suffering, brotherhood shaken up by fear and the ultimate sacrifice — all of the values present in the solo campaign. To hear music so mature and serious in an FPS game does not happen that often. That’s why I was hoping that the next year or so I was gonna spend with BF1 is gonna keep up the music level high and expand on it.
The tragedy of a human being thrown onto a dehumanized front was still the main idea.
The first expansion, titled historically They Shall Not Pass took us to France which took traumatizing losses during the war. The tragedy of a human being thrown onto a dehumanized front was still the main idea — the music creates an aftermath of a bloody struggle in Verdun but it doesn’t forget to motivate us to fight or to give us a glimmer of hope that the nightmare will end. That said, TSNP music is the most similar to the main soundtrack of all the expansions. Similar melodies and arrangements are present — tracks like Verdun or They Shall Not Pass share the same theme that resembles The Runner, while Underworld‘s mood seems to be the one from Something Big Is Coming. At its core, these are the same, murky tracks about a soldier struggling to survive in the trenches. Nevertheless, building on the previous ideas was a safe bet and the duo expanded them nicely.
The bombast here is not transparent and generic — it can only be associated with the power of the Russian nation.
Time had come for Russians to appear and the second DLC was released as In the Name of the Tsar. Russia — the white one and the red one — expanded the selection of armies in the game, while the player was taken to the fields of Galicia, Volga River and Łupków Pass in the middle of the harsh winter. The composers’ latest release managed to live up the Russian Army hype by adding amazing choir-work to the mix. Male, female, mixed — all of them are utilised to great effect, mainly focusing on the patriotic feelings. The choir sings about a nation heading to the war (In The Name Of The Tsar) and the brotherhood of man walking shoulder to shoulder (Grace and Glory or The Wolves). Using it for Russians may seem like a cliche, but the lack of typical communist element allowed the composers to freely explore this theme instead of sounding stereotypically. Additionally, Andrén’s and Söderqvist’s music sound so patriotically and gloriously that they outclass many choir-based pieces from modern film or game music. The bombast here is not transparent and generic — it can only be associated with the power of the Russian nation.
The entirety of this soundtrack seems very mosaic and packed in without any unifying idea.
The third expansions seems to have been the hardest for the composers. Turning Tides is differentiated from the previous DLC’s by the lack of any main ideas or nations to glue the expansion together. From one side, ANZAC storms Gallipoli, from the other — a battle for Heligoland rages on the North Sea. The design split is noticeable in music, as one part of the score creates the pride of the Royal Navy soldiers and the other takes us to the Ottoman Empire with ethnic instruments and melodies. As Beaches of Sand and Blood creates a sense of dignity of the Royal troops and end-of-the-round tracks expand on ideas from Ottoman parts of the vanilla score, the entirety of this soundtracks seems very mosaic and packed in, as if the composers composed the tracks for singular maps without uniting their composition with a broader idea. Cape Helles is on the exotic end of the spectrum creating the sheer beauty of Gallipoli beaches seen for the first time, completely changing the mood of the gameplay and listening to the soundtrack, for better or worse.
You can’t deny this soundtrack’s expression of pure nightmare that the soldiers were stuck in.
Apocalypse offered the creators a vast array of moods and ideas to explore and compose the music for. The last expansion was supposed to show the most devastating and violent battles that challenged the soldiers’ sense of humanity. Deconstruction, insanity and aggression took over the speakers of players fighting for Somme or Passchendeale. Even though the composers made some ambient, atmospheric tracks for previous DLC’s, they went all out for this one. For the first time, they used a broad set of samples and electronic sounds to create the inhumane nature of combat and focus on the darkest, most primal emotions. We hear psychodelic string-work and ear-piercing brass in Cataclysm or unreal pieces composed of human whispering all around you (Trembling Fear). Creepy sounds of The Second Seal and oniric feel of The White Horse could’ve been used in a horror game to great effects. This is major shift in aesthetics and fully used potential of the DLC, even though it was the weakest of them all. All in all, you can’t deny this soundtrack’s expression of pure nightmare that the soldiers were stuck in.
Maybe BF1’s music and its serious tone remind us that everyday fun with a good FPS needn’t be a time devoid of reflection.
Patrik Andrén and Johan Söderqvist took the player on many journeys, effectively conveying all the emotions associated with this horrid war and avoiding cliches that could spoil the honesty of their music. The character of all DLCs’ music is undoubtedly one of the main pillars holding the game in such a good spot, never losing from sight the main idea of bringing the player closer to the suffering of the common soldier. Music plays an irreplaceable role here and the composers managed to capture all the themes nicely, ultimately being one of the few media that could speak volumes about soldier’s life to the player with their music. Maybe BF1’s music and its serious tone remind us that everyday fun with a good FPS needn’t be a time devoid of reflection.