How realistically do PC games reflect the events of D-Day? | PCGamesN

How realistically do PC games reflect the events of D-Day?

Call of Duty 2 D-Day landing

June 6th, 1944. D-Day. 73 years ago today, the Allies launched Operation Overlord, the largest naval invasion the world has ever seen, in an attempt to grab a foothold in German-occupied France. At great cost, the Allies secured a massive victory. 

Interested in how games portrayed this historical conflict? Try some of the best WW2 games on PC. 

D-Day’s importance to the war has made it hugely famous. The beach landings are the most recognisable events of the period. Yet, despite being equal parts heroic and horrific in reality, recreations of the events haven't always stuck to the history books. Today’s lesson will lead us through the events of D-Day according to game developers, using the timelines from games that have become iconic for their D-Day reenactments, and point out where they went wrong along the way. 

June 5th 1944 - 11.30pm
Game: Call of Duty
Unit: Pathfinder team 1, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

The game: Call of Duty’s first mission sees you drop into France near Sainte-Mère-Église and work your way under cover of darkness to designated set-up points for your Eureka radar beacons. In this age of Michael Bay-influenced Call of Duty games, it’s easy to forget how quiet the original game’s opener was. Things soon heat up, though, as the rest of the 506th drop in and start clearing out houses in a whirlwind of machinegun fire and exploding AA guns. Before dawn, the skies have been freed and the village captured. 

The reality: Things kicked off slightly later than Call of Duty would lead you to believe, with Pathfinders hitting the ground almost an hour later at 0020hrs. Eureka radar beacons and marker lights were set up to guide in planes and paratroopers, but due to terrible weather the drop was almost a disaster, with troops landing all over Normandy and far from objectives. While Call of Duty fails to show the problems of the drop, the intense house-to-house fighting was seen by the 506th, who spent six hours battling the German 1058th Grenadier Regiment. 

June 6th 1944 - 00.07am
Game: Call of Duty
Unit: 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 6th Airborne Brigade

The game: Call of Duty’s first British mission starts in a Horsa glider dropping the 2nd Ox & Bucks into France near Caen. The objective is to secure Pegasus Bridge over the Caen Canal, which will prevent German forces approaching the beach where Allied troops will be landing in just a few hours. Led by the apparently immortal Captain Price, your squad takes Pegasus bridge in just a few minutes, eliminating an exceptionally small defence. The Germans send a Panzer tank in, but you destroy it using a conveniently located German Flak88. 

The reality: The gliders carrying the 6th Airborne were the very first units in France as part of Operation Overlord, landing at 0014hrs, making Call of Duty’s British campaign pretty accurate. The bridge was guarded by just two pillboxes and a few trenches, which were overcome by 0021hrs. Later on, at 0200hrs, the bridge was counterattacked by the 989th Heavy Artillery Battalion. British troops destroyed the first incoming Panzer tank with their only PIAT rocket launcher (rather than the Flak88 as depicted in CoD), causing the tank’s ammunition to explode. The rest of the 989th quickly retreated. 

June 6th 1944 - 01.15am
Game: Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
Unit: 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

The game: Brothers in Arms opens with your plane being ripped to shreds by anti-aircraft fire. Falling way off target with your equipment bag lost, the first mission is a quiet, lonely few minutes spent creeping through the fields of France as you attempt to find your squad. With a few men pulled together, confusion is rife as no-one knows exactly where they’ve landed. Your squad soon finds some AA guns in the second mission and destroys them with TNT. 

The reality: Pathfinders may have set up Eureka beacons but the signal was so poor that they were almost useless. The heavy cloud cover complicated things, and the vast amount of AA fire filling the skies destroyed planes before the crew could even bail out. Brothers in Arms replicates this exceptionally accurately, and captures the confusion of troops as they had to readjust and regroup. 

June 6th 1944 - 01.28am
Game: Company of Heroes
Unit: Fox Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division

The game: In Company of Heroes’ second mission you lead Fox Company as they regroup and destroy the AA installations hellbent on chewing up paratroopers. With the skies clear, Fox targets a key road that leads to Omaha Beach. A convoy from the German 91st Infantry Division is delivering munitions to the beachfront, but you ambush and destroy it as it passes through your captured zone. 

The reality: The 101st were the force behind Mission Albany, a mission to secure all the main roads that led to Omaha beach. As in Company of Heroes, the German 91st Infantry were located in the drop zone of the 101st, and took heavy losses during the fight to capture the route, including its divisional commander. 

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Shriven avatarMatt Purslow avatarMountain_Man avatarChris Evans avatarDog Pants avatarjasalva81 avatar+1
Shriven Avatar
3 Years ago

Brilliant read. Thanks Matt.

Brecourt..... it was so real to me. I actually developed PTSD after playing that.

Matt Purslow Avatar
3 Years ago

Thanks Shriven!

Brecourt was one of those phenomenal war stories and certainly one of CoD's most memorable missions. They don't make 'em like that anymore!

Mountain_Man Avatar
3 Years ago

It has always struck as a bit macabre that what was a horrifying event for a previous generation becomes the basis for entertainment for a later generation.

Chris Evans Avatar
3 Years ago

That was a really good read, thanks for delivering such a well researched piece. The storming of Brécourt Manor in the game always struck me a very close to the events depicted in Band of Brothers, one of my favourite missions.

Wish there was a game which covered Band of Brothers with the same stories of the heroes. Wouldn't be able to change from the course of history, but would be enjoyable.

Dog Pants Avatar
3 Years ago

Great article. I've read a lot about D-Day (and missed a trip there with the vets one anniversary, as well as another to Arnhem), and whenever I played these missions I wondered just how accurate they were. I just never got round to investigating.

I remember Medal Of Honor being my first encounter with the second world war shooter, and obviously the Omaha Beach level was the showpiece. I didn't quite get what the game wanted me to do, so I persevered again and again. When I finally made it off the beach I considered how many attempts it took me. Then I considered how many men did the same thing for real. I felt that thought in the pit of my stomach - every time I died in the game, that could have been a real soldier whose mistake cost him his life back in 1944. It's a little abstract - the game only bears a visual resemblance to combat with none of the other sensations - but it's an interesting concept.

It gave me an idea to use something similar as a demonstration to modern people of how brutal total war is, of battles whose casualties number in the thousands. A replica of Omaha beach without the game-tactics, which the public can play once each. Fail to reach the bluff and you would place your name on a little white cross and place it somewhere on the way out. Each person's run would stay in the level a few seconds ahead of the next to build an aggregate. The intention wouldn't have been to make a game. In fact it would have been a terrible game full of unfair death. It was intended as a demonstration to let people appreciate something of what those men went through, and of their own mortality in the face of the kind of war I hope we never see again.

Shriven Avatar
3 Years ago

My Grandfather was in the 2nd wave of the d-day landings. He never talked about it. Never collected his medals. We did it 20 years ago for him. When we asked him why he never collected them or talked about it, it was because his best mate was blown to pieces on the beach 10ft from him.

The older it get, the more the thought of this effects me.

jasalva81 Avatar
2 Years ago

i think that it was real life mode like right now i love this game

UntoldAv3nGer Avatar
1 Year ago

Very cool article