“Tanks being deployed far forward is an indication of offensive action; tanks in depth is an indication of defensive action.” —Norman Schwarzkopf
Danny Edwards is a former chauffeur who enlists in the war as a British tank driver. Assigned to a Mark V tank dubbed “Black Bess,” Edwards meets the rest of his crew: Townsend, the commander; McManus, a cynical gunner who doubts Edwards’ abilities and the likelihood of the crew’s success; and friendly mechanics/gunners, Pritchard and Finch. They participate in the Battle of Cambrai during the Hundred Days Offensive, with the aim of capturing the small French town and disabling German artillery along the way. After their tank is trapped in the mud, Edwards releases a pigeon to signal for an artillery strike to prevent their tank from being overrun after Pritchard dies trying to do so. Edwards then moves through a fog-covered forest, guiding Black Bess along the way, and later, sneaks into a German-occupied village to retrieve spark plugs from other captured Mark V tanks. With the tank repaired, Black Bess mounts an offensive on a rail depot to deceive German forces. Eliminating most of the armour stationed here, they proceed to Cambrai but are ambushed by German forces. In the ensuing chaos, Townsend ignites leaking gas, killing himself and the German soldiers, allowing Edwards and McManus to head towards Cambrai on foot.
The second of the missions in the Battlefield 1 campaign, “Through Mud and Blood” is a war story about armoured warfare, serving as a tutorial of sorts for operating armoured vehicles in the multiplayer. Throughout the level, Townsend will shout advice to Edwards, such as targeting the back and sides of enemy armour, or else retreating from a situation by reversing rather than turning around (which exposes the Mark V’s vulnerable back). If the campaign in Battlefield 1 is intended to be a tutorial, it is remarkably well-disguised — despite being introduced to the characters for only a short period of time, each of the Mark V’s crew feel complex and well-fleshed out. This adds a sense of connection to the short story, giving players reason to continue pushing forwards and see what happens as the mission unfolds. Battlefield 1‘s campaign is unique from earlier Battlefield games in that the missions are broken up into different War Stories, or short glimpses of the various theaters in World War One. Rather than sticking to the eyes of one character, snippets of different encounters are told, giving each mission a unique feeling.
Screenshots and Commentary
- “Through Mud and Blood” is officially the second level in the Battlefield 1 campaign, being preceded by the mission “Storm of Steel”. That first mission acts more as a prologue that introduces players to Battlefield 1, and I do not believe it can be skipped. The mission is named after a German memoir of the same name, written by veteran Ernst Jünger. It details his experiences on the Western Front.
- Taking control of Edwards, “Through Mud and Blood” is a fantastic mission that also happens to be the longest of the campaign missions. The campaign stories can be played in any order, although they are numbered, and as such, I have opted to play through each mission in order.
- Players are put in control of the Mark V tank, an upgrade to the Mark IV that was deployed in 1918. It only required one driver, and the version Edwards operates in the campaign is a “male” tank. The primary difference between male and female tanks lie in their armaments: a male tank carries a cannon for anti-tank roles, while female tanks carried machine guns for infantry support. While advances soon removed these designations, modern armoured warfare likewise divides vehicles based on function, with main battle tanks fulfilling the role of direct fire solutions, and lighter infantry fighting vehicles both carry soldiers into combat, as well as provide fire support.
- Armed with two QF-6 CWT 57mm main cannons, the Mark V is also equipped with four 7.7mm Hotchkiss Mk. I machine guns. In practise, the campaign version of the tank handles very similarly to the Scorpion Tank of Halo, enabling players to utilise the main cannons for neutralising armoured or fortified targets, and the machine guns to mop up any infantry or soft targets. Like Halo, it is prudent to alternate between firing the main cannon and machine guns, although unlike the Scorpion’s controls, players cannot fire both weapons simultaneously.
- The first section of the level involves using the Mark V to capture strategic points and destroy German munition depots. At this point, players cannot get out of the tank and can only perform repairs from within. This is a slow process that renders the tank immobile, so it’s advisable that one find cover before commencing repairs. Driving into mud patches can slow the tank down substantially, although upon reaching the end of the first act, players have no choice but to attempt traversing a deep pool.
- The second act of “Through Mud and Blood” is to guide the Mark V through a wood under heavy fog. With low visibility, Edwards exits the tank and scout out forward areas to ensure the tank’s safe traversal. He is only equipped with a suppressed Mauser C96 pistol initially, but this weapon, coupled with patience, is an invaluable asset for sneaking through an area undetected and dispatching any roaming soldiers.
- In every and any game where players have the option of going loud after they are compromised, it’s always a good idea to carry an effective primary weapon to supplement the stealth weapon, such that one may shoot a way out of a sticky situation. I opted to go with the Automatico 1918, an Italian submachine gun that has one of the highest rates of fire in Battlefield 1. I’m still debating which level one submachine gun to unlock for the Assault class in the multiplayer, after purchasing the Model 10-A shotgun with some war bonds to help me with close-quarter maps.
- Sneaking through the low-visibility forests and clearing out the outposts, I eventually pick up the Hellriegel 1915, a water-cooled submachine gun that was produced by Austria-Hungary. Only several prototypes were produced, although no complete weapons are known to exist presently. In Battlefield 1, this weapon is unlocked when one reaches rank ten for the assault class. I’ve got a fair ways to go yet before unlocking this, and strangely enough, I’ve not encountered any players that have used this weapon.
- By exploring the weapon crates strewn across the level, I eventually find the Tankgewehr M1918, a single-action anti-tank rifle that can only be fired when the bipod is deployed. Immensely powerful, it has a higher muzzle velocity than the AT rocket gun, and here, I use it to pick off a captured FT-17 light tank from a distance.
- During the course of the mission, I also picked up a Madsen MG, which has a top-loaded magazine similar to the Bren light machine gun. This is the storm variant of the weapon, which features a foregrip and anti-air gun style sights, boasting superior performance to the trench version. Inspection of the image finds the weapon to be covered in mud, and in rainy missions, the weapon can be covered with water droplets.
- I blow up an artillery truck at close range here with the Tankgewehr M1918 here, clearing out the last of the enemies and wrapping up the second act of the first mission. Overall, the first act took around an hour to complete altogether on standard difficulty, featuring a diverse range of options. I believe there are several ways to complete this mission, and with the field manuals scattered through the field, I’ll definitely have to go back and play this again.
- Act three in “Through Mud and Blood” involves the recovery of four spare spark plugs from an occupied village. By this point in the war, Triple Alliance forces have captured British tanks and begun using them against the British, leading British forces to paint identifying stripes on the front of their tanks. Under the cover of darkness, Edwards must sneak through the village and retrieve the spark plugs, but this is much easier said than done.
- The graphics are absolutely beautiful, and this town evokes the sense of a sleepy town from Strike Witches prior to the Neuroi invasion. I stopped for a moment to look around the area, admiring the play of light in the sky and fog effects below before proceeding with the mission. There’s a suppressed M1903 in one of the windmills, and it’s a highly useful asset for dispatching lone guards in order to move the next area.
- Going loud is a very poor choice, as the darkness obscures the enemies. However, darkness is also an ally here, allowing players to sneak past most of the guards. It is theoretically possible to complete this part of the mission without firing a single shot, although in my case, I made use of a combination of suppressed weapons and melee kills to clear a path in order to retrieve all of the spark plugs. Once that is complete, it’s time to return to the Mark V and get it running.
- Having spent the past two acts on foot, the final act in “Through Mud and Blood” returns to driving the Mark V. Here in the final act, Edwards can exit the tank and repair it at a much higher rate than is possible from within the tank, at the expense of exposing himself to enemy fire. The goal now is to punch through German lines and reach Cambria: the fiercest tank battles happen here, with players facing FT-17s and AV7s alongside the captured Mark Vs.
- The railyard is absolutely brutal, and I died here to some tanks from not checking the corners before coming out and opening fire. There is infantry with anti-tank grenades, and while they can be a problem, the infantry themselves can be dealt with using the machine guns. Their standard weapons deal no damage to the tank, and it is actually quite telling in how revolutionary the tanks were, to be impervious to small arms.
- An onslaught of enemy armour marks the final battle in “Through Mud and Blood”. While it is indicated as having infinite ammunition for its 57mm cannons, real Mark Vs carried 207 rounds; I wonder how many rounds are fired over the course of the first mission, provided that one is not wasting additional shots to level buildings or expending them on individual infantry.
- By comparison, a modern M1A2 Abrams MBT carries around 42 rounds in reserve, totaling 43 rounds if the round loaded into the main gun is included. Smoldering wreckage is all that remains of the force sent against Edwards, and while I’m out in the open here, I typically retreated behind the buildings under heavy firefights. While thrilling, Battlefield 1‘s AI is still weak, allowing for their patterns to be exploited.
- Throughout this mission, I could not help but glory at how detailed the environments are, whether it be how sharp the mud and vegetation looks, the play of light effects on the environment or the reflections of water puddles. Simply put, Battlefield 1 looks gorgeous, and the campaign is the premier location to marvel at how nice everything looks. I say this because in multiplayer, stopping to admire the maps and graphics is a lapse in concentration that quickly results in death.
- I destroy the last of the AV7s before wrapping up the mission here. Coming up next on Battlefield 1‘s campaign will be the second mission, titled “Friends in High Places”. I’m looking forwards to going through the rest of the campaign, and back in multiplayer, I’ve also begun playing with the medic and support class now that I’ve unlocked the Model 10A for use with the assault class. The medic class is most effective for mid-range combat, which I’m unaccustomed to using semi-automatic rifles, but being able to heal and revive teammates mean levelling the class to unlock better weapons should be okay. Similarly, the support class can be used to earn massive points simply by resupplying teammates. Back on the anime side of things, I’ve finished watching Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin‘s fourth installment today and so, will be writing about that one shortly.
The first of the campaign in Battlefield 1 has proven to be a highly enjoyable, captivating experience. Attention to details in the environments, such as the splintered remains of tree trunks, burned out cottages and water-filled craters in the ground give the sense that one is moving through a World War One environment. At the helm of a Mark V tank, one is able to experience the impact early armour had in combat. Originally, tanks were designed to act as portable machine gun positions and smash through static trenches. The armour is impervious to small arms; only other tanks, anti-tank grenades or field guns are able to damage it. A terror against infantry, in Battlefield 1‘s campaign, the Mark V is countered by the German AV7 Sturmpanzerwagen and captured FT-17 light tanks. The explosions when these are destroyed are satisfying to behold, and with the first campaign mission now complete, I look forwards to seeing what stories the other campaign levels have to offer.