The Call of Duty series has always loved to take its inspiration from famous films, from Modern Warfare 2’s opening mission referencing the 90’s action film Cliffhanger to Call of Duty 4’s parallel to 2001’s Black Hawk Down. But one particular film has been referenced and recreated throughout the series, starting with the very first entry. At the start of Call of Duty’s Soviet campaign, players are sent to the Battle of Stalingrad, and it was here that developers lifted several ideas from the 2001 movie, Enemy at the Gate.
The Battle of Stalingrad was one of the largest and bloodiest battles in all of World War II, taking place on the Eastern front from August 23, 1942, to February 2, 1943. As the Russians faced off against the Germans, the battle resulted in roughly 2 million casualties or deaths. Most of the Call of Duty games set during the Second World War have depicted this battle in some capacity, with both Call of Duty and Call of Duty: World at War directly referencing the film Enemy at the Gates. But was following the footsteps of the film the right choice for an authentic historical experience? As it turns out, what Call of Duty was mimicking may have been more fiction than fact.
Taking Film Inspiration Over History
As stated, Call of Duty has always had fun with movie references, with the series regularly giving nods to various war and action films over the years. This is no different in the very first Call of Duty game, with the opening of the Battle of Stalingrad recreating the opening from Enemy at the Gates, where Russian soldiers attempt to flee from battle only for their commanding officer to shoot them for being deserters. As such a powerful scene, it translates perfectly to the video game and is a great opening moment of the Eastern front campaign.
The “Two Soldiers Per Rifle” Myth
In the moments following this, the player is told that weapons are “two men per rifle,” with only half of the soldiers given gun. Of course, the player wasn’t in that half. In Enemy at the Gates, half of the Russian soldiers are without rifles due to a gun shortage, forcing them to double up on one gun. According to the movie, one soldier manned the rifle while the other handled the ammo until one of them fell in battle, which was a likely scenario considering.. However, despite what many might think, this detail is almost entirely false.
While during the first World War the Russians were indeed incredibly short on weapons due to their low industrial capacity, there was no shortage of rifles during World War II. This myth was likely created for greater cinematic effect, and Call of Duty simply took the moment from the film and applied it to the game — for better or worse. This historical inaccuracy, while adding tension to the respective scenes, should not be taken as pure fact like much of the fictionalized history that modern audiences consume.
Inaccuracies in Film and Games
Call of Duty is certainly not the first piece of historical media to change events for dramatic effect, and it was far from the last. Since their inception, films, books, and games based on historical events have always been known to change details, whether they be major or minor.
But as long as we can differentiate between fact and fiction, there’s certainly nothing particularly wrong with these inaccuracies. Video games are allowed to stretch the truth if it makes for a better overall user experience. The biggest takeaway from Call of Duty’s representation of the Battle of Stalingrad is to not take every detail as historical fact; it’s okay to indulge in historically inaccurate media because, at the end of the day, video games are primarily intended to entertain gamers.