The Game That Started The Battlefield Series

The first Battlefield game, Battlefield 1942, was released in 2002. Nearly 10 years ago! Yet while it was the first game to bear the branding that lives on to this day with Battlefield 3, depending on how you look at it, it's not really the first game in the series.

That honour goes to a PC game called Codename Eagle, in many ways the spiritual predecessor to the Battlefield franchise.

Codename Eagle was developed by a studio called Refraction Games, and was first released in 1999. For fans of alternate history, it's got a pretty cool setting, based on the assumption that the Great War never actually took place. With no Germans on the march and nobody wondering how far away Tipperary was, the Tsar's Russia instead goes on the offensive, with the rest of Europe banding together to try and stop them.

Like more recent Battlefield games, CE had a proper singleplayer campaign attached to it, in which the player had to sneak and/or fight their way through levels taking place on often large maps, with multiple ways to complete each mission. You could also take control of any vehicles you found lying around the game world.

Sounded good, but with awful AI it was all a bit shit, and is not what CE is remembered for. It's remembered for its multiplayer.

Refraction Games were onto something with Codename Eagle's multiplayer. Unlike the small, largely corridor-based multiplayer shooters of the time, CE featured expansive maps that placed a great emphasis on the control of vehicles, both on the ground and in the air.

Available game modes included capture the flag and deathmatch, but it was team deathmatch where most of the fun was to be had, as players went crazy over the large maps in tanks and aircraft.

Sounds a lot like Battlefield, right? That's because in many ways it was. While Codename Eagle was neither a critical nor commercial success, there was great potential in the game's multiplayer component, which Swedish developers (and Battlefield creators) DICE saw and liked enough to buy the company not long after Eagle's release.

This brought not only the designers behind Codename Eagle's multiplayer onboard, but also the game's engine, the Refractor Engine. While the original iteration was only used for Codename Eagle, the Refractor Engine 2 is what Battlefield 1942 was built on, and saw service through Battlefield 2 and right through to 2006's Battlefield 2142.

It even lives on today, powering the franchise's browser-based titles like Battlefield Heroes and Battlefield Play4Free.

With Battlefield 3 on everyone's minds this week, if you're curious to see where in many ways it all began, Codename Eagle still has an online following where you can get a game going. If it's a little too old for your tastes, fans built Codename Eagle mods for both Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2, which you can check out here.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.


    Of course an honorable mention needs to go to the Zeppelins in CA... the ultimate mid-air antics :)


        i have fond memories of somehow managing to load a tank and a jeep onto a zeplin then managing to drop them on my brother as he tried to shoot me down

    My mates and I still play this multiplayer at lans! Usualky get a crowd behind our screen wondering what the heck it is and asking if they could join us.

    Get the occasional idiot saying 'thats a rip off of battlefield' looking all smug and smart, until we put them in their place with the truth.

      How do you go about getting it to run on newer systems (vista/7), I had a go but couldn't get it to run?

        Had no problems myself buddy.

        Anyone interested in trying it out, I strongly advise visiting for some tips on getting it up and running.

      Same here mate every LAN without fail we pull out codename eagle for a good few hour smash up.

    And if we're talking infantry combat in the series.... well. Team fortress.

    Also does anybody find it ironic that the older game is MORE expensive than the newer one? (5 bucks vs free)

    I have such found memories of this game. It's a damn shame the awful, awful netcode killed multiplayer for a lot of people because once you got used to the lag it was amazingly fun.

    Got introduced to this gem in my LAN days. It was a buggy mess and the animations were terrible. Some of the best times I ever had gaming.

    Um, isn't that Battlefield 3 running on the Xbox 360?

      Tee hee hee hee

        Dammit. I put something real smart on there (which I tee heed at) and it ain't there no more. Oh well, private joke now.

        Tee hee hee hee

          you do love feeding the trolls, McGarnical

    Played this game pretty religiously back in high school (this and Unreal Tournament 2004), and damn I remember it looking better :(

    So many fun times had. Did anyone ever play the BF/BF2 mods? How faithful are they?

    Ah B.F 1942.
    You can even get a Mac version of it!

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