First-person shooters these days appear to be lacking one significant aspect that tends to win over entire crowds of people: the historically accurate setting. While we may not have seen as many World War 2 shooters in the past few years as we once had, they are slowly making a resurgence into the gaming world with ground-breaking technology, new game engines, and entire communities of players seeking this revival now that futuristic shooters and modern-day combat has been played to death.
It is hard to select just ten first-person shooters with accurate settings, as we've seen literally thousands of games within the genre released in the past twenty years alone. FPS is one of the most bogged down genres in the gaming market, but it is also one of the most interesting, immersive, and sometimes even the most realistic.
These ten games should bring back some memories for those who once played through their stories and multiplayer campaigns. And then there will be some you can easily reinstall via Steam and enjoy tonight.
Red Orchestra 2
Red Orchestra 2 is one of the more serious World War 2 first-person shooters available on the market today. A single bullet from a well-placed sniper can stop your entire advance, people who take the game too seriously are shouting commands over the voice comms, and tanks are thundering overhead as you crouch inside of a snowy trench. The game is all too real for some.
We're here for the beautiful settings featured in the multiplayer maps, however. Having the opportunity to do battle in Stalingrad once more is a godsend from the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq we've recently witnessed in games. The dilapidated buildings are bombed out, half of their brick and stone walls strewn about the cobble streets. Tough soldiers are clambering up these mounds of cover as bullets are thrown from every direction by the advancing German Army.
Then, with the Rising Storm expansion, our soldiers take a trip to the jungles of Asia against the Japanese forces. While these maps are a bit brighter in color, the burst of a flamethrower from within a swampy forest is enough to send anyone retreating to their base to regroup their forces. The screams and burning flesh of dying soldiers on the battlefield are shocking.
Men of Valor
While Men of Valor, released back in 2004, has not aged very well in terms of today's modern standards for video games, it is still a fun, interesting game that really does the Vietnam War justice in the medium. Very few games have taken the opportunity to explore the spider holes of 'Nam, the flamethrowers gushing liquid death through the trees, and the easy-going soldiers with their iconic soundtrack playing in the helicopter.
Men of Valor is unique due to its missions and setting. The jungles of Vietnam make for tense shootouts with the Vietcong, while the missions are fun and varied. Players will experience POW rescues, search-and-destroy operations, pilot rescues, and recon patrols, just like the soldiers experienced back then, albeit in video game form.
The weaponry was all pulled directly from the time period and crafted with love by developer 2015. Firearms made famous during the war are present, with a few leftovers from World War 2 featured, as well.
Call of Duty 2
It is hard to craft a first-person shooter list of any kind without mentioning the giant that is the Call of Duty franchise. While some may argue the series has lost what once made it great, the old games set in World War 2 continue to be some of the very best on the market.
Call of Duty 2, a prime example of what made CoD great, may be a more frantic, competitive first-person shooter, but it managed to get the setting right.
There is one mission that stands out as particularly brutal and heart-wrenching: The Battle of Stalingrad. The player, taking on the role of a Russian soldier, is tasked with battling uphill against entrenched Nazi soldiers within the iconic Russian city. It is a hellish fight that certainly leaves a mark on those playing through it, despite simply being a video game.
To make matters more intense, most will remember the beach assault mission. The moment those boat doors drop and the soldiers are released into the wild, a hail of gunfire begins ripping everyone apart. There are numerous bodies on the beach lying completely still, struck down in their prime. The climb to the top of the cliff is a terrifying ordeal.
Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway
There are very few games that manage to recreate the time period of World War 2 in such detail and realism, but Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway is one such title that goes above and beyond the call to duty.
To start, war is absolutely hell. When an enemy or a friendly is cut down, it is brutal and unforgiving. Bodies are torn in half and bloody from an artillery strike, bullets rip through the enemy AI as if they were real people, and the rotting carcases of animals cut down by gunfire are left abandoned in farm fields for you to pass over.
It is truly unforgiving and certainly holds nothing back. World War 2 was not a pretty time period, a lot of people lost their lives, and Hell's Highway captures those atrocities to the letter. Walking through idyllic French countryside is splendid for a moment, and then the hellfire begins raining down.
Sniper Elite 3
There aren't many games that come to mind with a setting like North Africa during World War 2. Sniper Elite 3, however, manages to capture the desert campaign from the eyes of a single, well-trained sniper perfectly.
The boom of an 88 firing through a canyon, the rumble of a tank rolling down the sandy roads, and the little thunk of a silenced pistol are all historically accurate. While operations like this were few and far between during the war, they still occurred.
The open-world environments allow the player to virtually relocate their sniping position to anywhere they can see. You may climb to the top of a clock tower, hide in the dusty bushes atop a canyon overhang, or sneak through makeshift trenches behind enemy lines.
Medal of Honor: Airborne
There are virtually no games that throw you into the tightly-strapped boots of an airborne soldier during World War 2. Sure, some games feature a single level that includes parachuting behind enemy lines, but Medal of Honor: Airborne is solely based around the concept of hopping out of an airplane.
This is obviously a video game, so the respawn mechanics don't make sense, but the setting is what we're after here. Jumping into various hotspots throughout Italy during World War 2 is frantic, frenzied, and downright suicidal at times. The enemy soldiers are dug in deep and refuse to let loose their foothold.
The 82nd Airborne was one of the most well-known divisions in the entire war. Their story deserves to be told, even in video game form. Each mission begins in the air, just like theirs did, while on the ground objectives change order.
It really gives you the sense of being an airborne soldier without moving through the harrowing training required these days.
Trench warfare was one of the most disturbing, merciless experiences from World War 1, a time when warfare was still incredibly crude and more violent than ever before. The use of chemical warfare was allowed, soldiers died from disease as often as they did a bullet, and entire battles could take place within a matter of feet. It was horrific.
Verdun is one of the first first-person shooters available today that truly represents World War 1 and its atrocities. The recent announcement of Battlefield 1 has everybody excited, but Verdun has been doing the Great War for some time now.
There is something about the realistic battlefields of France and Belgium that keep players returning. After you hear your team commander shout to 'Charge!', running up and over the brim of the trench, and then find yourself amidst a hail of enemy bullets, mustard gas, and barbed wire can be both awe-inspiring and hellish to handle.
Everything down to the claustrophobic gas mask you must wear during a poisonous gas attack has been thoroughly researched to be as realistic as possible. You can't even aim correctly while wearing the mask, that's how real this one is!
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam
While this is an expansion, Bad Company 2 Vietnam manages to capture the war in ways other shooters have not previously. Honestly, there are not many Vietnam-based first-person shooters out there, and that needs to change significantly. The time period is ripe for a new game.
Being a multiplayer expansion, Vietnam is not as accurate as it could be, but it does manage to get a lot right. Fighting through the rice fields in the Phu Bai Valley, or against all odds on Hill 137, the combat is glorious and death-defyingly realistic. A single shot from a rifle will drop most players, while the flamethrower will simply turn them into ashes, and a perfectly lobbed grenade from the M79 will knock down the wall to any piece of cover once thought safe.
Everything from the vehicles to the weapons is historically accurate. Even the dialogue is realistic, with American and Vietnamese voiceovers on both sides, all based on communication from the Vietnam War. DICE put a lot of thought into this release.
Invasion 1944, a total overhaul for Arma 2, is a historically accurate World War 2 shooter that focuses on the European theater of the war.
While it is based on the same engine used in Arma 2, which is quite a horrible game engine, to be honest, Invasion 1944 manages to be as realistic as it possibly can. In this instance, the weapons, the armored vehicles, the clothing on each soldier, the tactical communications, and its overall setting are pretty true-to-life.
Players will recognize most of the weaponry in the game from other first-person shooters set during World War 2. The mod has the added advantage of offering a more tactical approach to the setting than other games, which are straight-up shooters.
Some more work is needed, but overall this is a pretty darn realistic venture into the European Front.
Heroes & Generals
You wouldn't think a free-to-play MMOFPS would be considered historically accurate, but Heroes & Generals, a shooter set during World War 2, actually manages to make a serious effort at realism
At its heart, the title remains a generic shooter for players to invest a few hours in at most. In terms of realism, however, there are so many different vehicles, weapons, soldiers, voiceovers, maps, and more that make this truly iconic.
Some of the game is a bit fantastical, but fighting deep in the trenches, flying planes overhead, commanding a tank squadron, or leading your forces as a General are all brilliantly done, for the most part.
You see, historically accurate first-person shooters do exist. Some would consider them far and few between, as the majority of shooters tend to take a more fantasy or science fiction approach to their formula, but we've seen plenty of World War 2 shooters, a few Vietnam-based shooters, and even a couple of games set during World War 1, which is becoming more prevalent within the industry.
The ten games mentioned here are some of the most realistic on the market currently, though we suspect a few more will be releasing in the coming years that are noteworthy.
Are you a fan of any of these?