by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
All's Not Quiet On The Eastern Front
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to check out what I felt was a sleeper hit to the FPS genre called Verdun. Combining the thrill of massive battles with a World War I setting, it may have been overshadowed in popularity by the big name Battlefield 1 which took place in the same era, but I certainly didn't forget my time with it or the visceral realism that came with it. Verdun is an FPS, but it's more along the lines of a simulator rather than fast-paced carnage. The same can be said for the newly released Tannenberg, as players now move to the other side of the war. Let me make it clear, all's not quiet on the Eastern Front.
Cold Winters, Warm Fires
If there is one thing that both major world wars have taught everyone, it's that depending on where the Eastern Front is located there is going to come a point where a new challenger enters the fight: nature. The maps in Tannenberg are the biggest change over Verdun. Where Verdun offered trench warfare through fields and forests mostly, Tannenberg is a far different beast. You still have your fields and your forests, for sure. But now you have uphill battles on mountains and white-out snow regions where even the slightest movement stands out like a sore thumb.
You also have the haunting remains of a village that once bustled with life, now every nook and cranny could hold a potential ambush. When there is a brief silence in the gunfire, and a second to soak it all in, it's both mesmerizing and troubling... and usually quickly followed by a bullet through the neck from that rifleman you didn't see just beyond the crossroads. This village map in particular was my favorite of the six that are currently available.
Tannenberg has three modes, exclusively multiplayer. There's Maneuver, which we'll go into detail about shortly as it's the main entree in this dish of death. Then there's Attrition and Rifle Deathmatch, which play very similarly and didn't hold my attention very long. If you're in it just for the kills, then these modes may appeal more to you. If you want to feel like part of the war effort, Maneuver is the place to be.
Maneuver is the closest you'll get to living in the hellscapes of World War I's eastern fronts without actually having lived it. Pitting 64 players against each other in teams of 32. The goal? Complete and total domination of the enemy. Each objective is a push to force the enemy back, until reinforcements are either depleted or the entire battlefield has been conquered. While a lot of your view will be the trenches proper, it's the run from the trenches during a push forward that is the most intense offering the game has.
I can't count how many times I was at the back of a group of players rushing forward, only to just have enough time to drop to the ground as the others were mowed down in front of me. Bullets whizzed by as I struggled to crawl into the nearest crater or behind a fallen log. It's also in these moments of desperation I could really pause and take it all in. The whizz of the bullets, the crack of them hitting the terrain. Explosions, rush of footsteps. The gameplay and the sound design complement each other incredibly well. Graphically the game also looks pretty good. There are times where things are at a standstill, and you can notice the imperfections in the character models and movements but, other than that, I've no major complaints.
Tannenberg takes what made Verdun fun, and improves upon what made it awesome. The new environments in particular really make the potential of a WWI FPS/Simulator really stand out and stick with memorable moments that last long after a match is over. The developers proved themselves with their support of Verdun over time, which gives me reason to believe that Tannenberg is only going to get better from here.
Thrilling team-based combat in Maneuver mode, better map variety than its predecessor, incredible sound design.
The other two modes are lackluster, character models seem a bit stiff and visibly lower quality than the maps themselves.