As discussed in our recent review of 37 Days, The Great War (aka World War One, aka The First World War, aka almighty cock up) has for a long time been the dirty little secret no-one ever wants to talk about in the world of warfare. While its deemed acceptable for films and other entertainment to portray GIs slaughtering Vietnamese peasants, or Nazi’s exterminating minorities, WW1 has always been considered too depressing and to be turned into a gripping yarn.
Thank the digital gods then that the world of video games sees no such barriers.
Following in the footsteps of the incredible first installment in the Toy Soldiers franchise, Valiant Hearts will fearlessly take players into the morally murky world of mustard gas, class divisions, and suicidal frontal assaults.
The highly unique visual art style looks incredible, best described as somewhere between comic book and painting. At least until anyone gets there hands on some gameplay these beautifully atmospheric screens are reason enough to start getting excited. Plenty of research seems to have been carried out and history geeks will notice many subtle details.
Gameplay follows the increasingly standard approach often adopted by indie games of 2D side scrolling with puzzles and action but looks to be shaping up as an interesting blend of mechanics. So far little has been revealed but players can expect to be solving missions behind the lines, using stealth to get past unstoppable machine guns, charging over the top into no mans land, saving wounded soldiers as a medic, and dodging flying aces in the skies.
But it is the compelling story and its unexpectedly enlightened approach of allowing the player to fight on all sides of the war rather than cutting down faceless enemy drones which is causing the most excitement. There will be no true bad guys here which is astonishingly visionary approach for a video game to take and could result in a heartbreaking experience as the tragedy of modern war is exposed from all sides.
If Valiant Hearts pulls off some decent gameplay to go with its dazzling art style it could prove to be far reaching in its influence. Developers at Ubisoft seem to have spotted and fully mined the potential still hidden in the bizarre and terrifying world which was briefly created in the trenches (said to have inspired much in Tolkiens vision of Middle Earth). The confluence of the old world and the new, old fashioned armies coming face to face with frightening and unfamiliar technology, steam power meets petroleum.
With the 100 year anniversary of the wars outbreak quickly approaching it is likely more films and TV will be trying their hand at WW1 epics to capitalise on the general public’s fleeting interest but it is the world of video games which looks like offering up the most deep and far reaching prospect.
Now if you’ll excuse us we’re off to rewatch Black Adder Goes Forth for the millionth time… WOOF!