1916 brings World War I action to life in a creepy, surreal world

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1916 is a gruesome re-imagining of the horrors of World War I, with dinosaurs! The game features some really great, moody graphics, excellent sound, exciting gameplay, and a first-person perspective. All that and the fact that it is entirely free make 1916 a definite winner.

Imagine how awful it must have been to live through World War I, how horrific it must have been to be in one of those trenches far out in the battlefield. Imagine waking up in one of those trenches with nothing other than your wits and the knowledge that somewhere around is a way out.

You stumble through the wet, cold trenches, your breathing harsh and labored with fear and stress. Everything has a surreal, nightmarish cast to it as explosions and screams can be heard nearby and in the distance.

You take a turn and see a trench just like the one you just came from. You’re lost and alone and dead soldiers are everywhere. Just when you start to get ahold of yourself, suddenly a big, toothy, slavering dinosaur is trying to eat you!

1916 Screen 11916 Screen 2

This is the experience of playing 1916, and it is a truly fun and refreshingly original take on an old favorite, the First Person Shooter (FPS). They call 1916 a First Person Avoider instead, and the name is appropriate, given that much of your time spent in the game will consist of running for your life from various enemies. However, 1916 is about more than just running away and trying not to be found. There will be many moments in the game where you will have to use your brains as well as your reflexes, to solve puzzles or progress beyond a specific area. Beware, though, because getting away from one threat can often lead you straight into the jaws of another! 1916 is more about fun and frenzy than it is about being historically accurate, but even so, it still manages to bring a terrible time in history to life in a unique way.

The graphics for 1916 are pretty simple, considering today’s modern gaming platforms. When compared to something like Crysis, 1916 looks like an underdone turnover that should have been left in the oven longer. But the stylized graphics in 1916 are there for a reason, and they are perfect for the mood the developers work to create. The film grain effect that pervades everything, the shaky nature of the camera, even the way the white balance of the camera are all meant to instill the sense of not just watching an old WWI film, but actually taking part in one. It’s subtle, and quite well done. Without the specific feel and mood of the graphics, with gruesome things like corpses that you can dismember, and the flash of bombs and grenades at unexpected moments, the game wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. The graphics may not have the sophistication of Crysis, but it’s got the right tone for what it is.

The sound and soundtrack are as good as the graphics, and for the same reasons. Very appropriate to the genre of the game, as well as the era it takes place in, the music in the game is subtle and doesn’t feel intrusive at all. The music changes and heightens at times, when specific things are happening in the game. The sound effects are just as haunting and well-produced, with screams and explosions in the background as well as much closer. The sounds of boots squelching in the mud, or the disgusting rip of flesh as it’s being torn from a corpse, all are done very well and pretty realistically.

1916 Screen 3

The gameplay is where 1916 really shines, however.At first glance, it may seem like a simple maze game with some creepy overtones. You’ll start out as a lonely soldier in the trenches with nothing at all but your life and your hands. As you move through the game, however, you’ll discover different things and places you can interact with, like flares for dark areas or corpses to help you get past another enemy. Every challenge presented does have a solution nearby, but the catch is that sometimes the solution is to run for your life. That fact, combined with the fact that you can realistically only take a small amount of damage before ‘dying’ and being forced back to the beginning of the level, make for some pretty tense moments in this game.

Overall, 1916 is a great, polished game that looks like it came out of a big name studio, but costs nothing. It is a great example of what freeware can accomplish when the developers care about the quality and concept of the software they produce. 1916 is available to download and play on Mac and Windows, and is also available as a browser game for most popular internet browsers

Play 1916 for PC or Mac here.