Kiwi war nerds and gamers rejoice - the latest update for Battlefield 1 adds official Kiwi soldiers for the first time.
As you storm the beaches of Cape Helles at Gallipoli before attempting to capture the high ground around Achi Baba against the Ottoman Turks, you can select to play as a Māori sniper. He's wearing the iconic 'Lemon Squeezer' Kiwi hat from the Wellington Infantry Regiment, which even has the actual badge of the Taranaki Rifles Company on it.
The "squeezed" peak of the hat was designed to portray the famous peak of Mount Taranaki.
It is incredible attention to detail and Battlefield 1 developer EA DICE appears to have modelled the Māori sniper on a real-life Kiwi hero who served at Gallipoli: Thomas Grace, who went by the name Hāmi.
He was a bona-fide sports star, representing New Zealand Māori and Wellington Province at rugby, while he also played cricket for Wellington.
Although Māori, Hāmi didn't join the newly formed Maori Pioneer Battalion when war broke out in 1914, but was instead commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Wellington Infantry Regiment.
A crack shot, Hāmi landed at Gallipoli on April 26, 1915, and was placed in charge of a sniper team tasked with "hunting" Turkish snipers who were inflicting heavy casualties on the New Zealanders.
Hāmi's snipers cleared out all of the Turkish marksmen in Monash Valley, allowing the Kiwis to move around freely. It's estimated Hāmi shot dead at least 20 enemies himself.
He would also take a sack of grenades out with him and would throw them into the Turkish trenches, causing chaos. It's believed Hāmi's expertise throwing a cricket ball helped him with this dangerous task.
Hāmi was also one of the main characters depicted in the critically acclaimed animated documentary feature film set on Gallipoli, 25 April, which was shortlisted for an Academy Award and directed by Kiwi Leane Pooley in 2015.
Sadly, Hāmi was killed along with over 700 other Kiwis during the fierce struggle for Chunuk Bair on August 8. He was 25.
Whether or not EA DICE intentionally replicated Hami's likeness in Battlefield 1, the similarities are striking, right down to the hat he wore in real life.
The three other British classes of soldier in the Battlefield 1 depiction of Gallipoli could also easily pass for Kiwis:
- The medic class wears the classic Aussie 'Slouch Hat', but many Kiwi soldiers also wore their hats this way
- The support class are depicted with the Middle East issued 'Bucket Hat', which Maori Battalion and New Zealand Mounted Rifles troopers wore at Gallipoli
- The assault class have the standard British 'Trench Cap', which thousands of Kiwi soldiers also wore at Gallipoli
Why doesn't Battlefield 1 depict the Kiwis at Anzac Cove?
There has been criticism from some Aussie and Kiwi gamers that the location for Battlefield 1's depiction of Gallipoli should be at Anzac Cove, not the British and French sector at Cape Helles.
In fact, ANZAC units did indeed land at Cape Helles in May, 1915, and took part in a bloody but failed attempt to capture the high ground of Achi Baba during the Second Battle of Krithia. Some 800 New Zealanders became casualties in the attack.
It's this precise battle that is depicted in Battlefield 1's Gallipoli expansion.
Four other First World War battles that New Zealanders played a major role in are also depicted in Battlefield 1:
- The Battle of the Suez Canal (where NZ suffered its first casualties of the war, even before the Gallipoli landings in 1915).
- The campaign in the Sinai Desert in 1916-17 against the Ottoman Empire (where the Kiwis fought as mounted infantry).
- The Battle of Amiens in the Spring of 1918 (although the fighting against the German Empire never reached the French city of Amiens as portrayed in the game).
- The Battle of the Selle in France in October 1918 (portrayed in the game as the Giant's Shadow map).
There is even a plaque in the famous Amiens Cathedral (which is also depicted in the game) thanking the soldiers of New Zealand for saving the city from the Germans.
So although it's only a videogame, Battlefield 1 has been carefully crafted to represent the war as it really would have appeared.
The uniforms, weapons, sounds and chaos of battle are all presented in an incredibly realistic manner.
The game, which has sold millions of copies around the world, has perhaps done more to foster an understanding of the First World War than any film, book or TV series in recent memory.
Bravo DICE EA, you might just have hit the bullseye.