by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
History Repeats Itself
If this looks familiar, perhaps it's because you've already read the review of Verdun from my colleague Murray Lewis when it was first released. As a first, (and undoubtedly rare instance) I'm coming at you with a second opinion review of this trench-centric first person shooter based in one of the world's most iconic and devastating battles of World War I.
No, A World War I Game Isn't Boring.
If you exclusively play fast paced first person shooters where it often takes 3-5 bullets (or more in some cases) to take down an enemy player, or to be taken down yourself, I'm going to warn you now that Verdun isn't for you. If you are the kind of gamer who loves less forgiving first person shooters, where one mistake could spell death or even a loss entirely, then you've come to the right place.
Verdun is brutally unforgiving, in both map design and game mechanics. That's what makes it one of the more appealing FPS titles to release in the last few years to me. Set on the western front of WWI in the Battle of Verdun, players are thrown into the trenches as both Allied and Central powers push against each other to break through the lines. It's a period of history overlooked often by gamers, possibly because WWI is generally known for having become a war of attrition. Verdun shows that that piece of learning may need to be reconsidered.
Trenches And Killing Fields
For most of my time with Verdun, I played the Frontline game type. In Frontline, players will squad up and pick a section along the frontline to participate in before being dropped into that level. The goal of Frontline is to push the enemy team back far enough to break through, thereby winning the match. What often happens however, is draws. Lots and lots of draws. If you think about it though, that is what a lot of WWI was in essence. A series of blood soaked draws with actual victories dotted here and there throughout the conflict.
At the beginning of the match, one team will be tasked with making the push to take over an enemy position. Leaving the cover of the trenches, you will charge across battle scarred no man's land pock marked with craters from shelling, the bodies of dead animals, and the vine-like barbed wire that spreads across the front like a plant from hell. This rush of pushing forward into the gunfire in a charging mass is intense to say the least. The sound of bullets whizzing past, the grunts of other players being hit and falling, and if you're lucky you'll find some cover in a crater to regroup with those who have survived.
That is where I spent most of my time, in a crater waiting for my friends and allies to regroup. Spread out, but not alone, the killing fields quickly turn into a series of whack-a-mole moments with the offensive push being stopped just short of the enemy trenches in exchange of gunfire. If you're able to break through, it is rather easy to take the trench from there as long as you aren't by yourself. Much of the player base lacks situational awareness to their flanks in the trenches, so once your team has a foothold in the enemy line it's more than likely going to stick.
The latter half of that scenario is entirely based on if you can break through to the line or not. If you are unable to get a foothold in the enemy trench, eventually your own team will be considered pushed back, and you'll be on the defensive against them. Defending is a much different breed from attacking, during the initial charge you'll be racking up the kill count as a mass storms across the field. Then, you'll be on the receiving end of the shooters popping up from the craters. When you're on the defensive, chances are you'll also be on the receiving end of several gas attacks and mortar strikes, adding to the frenzy of trying to keep the enemy out of your trench. If you do get on a team that is paying enough attention to keep an eye on their own trench as well, then there is a chance you'll hold on, but it largely varies on just how many of their players made it in either way.
When the dust settles, as previously mentioned, more often than not the battles end in a draw with both sides having exhausted their resources. It makes victory that much more special, and defeat that much more bitter, to see them so rarely. The Frontline mode is where Verdun shines, and honestly the entire reason to play the game. The other mode though, not so much...
That Other Mode...
Rifle Deathmatch, a free for all mode in a game that honestly has no place for this every-man-for-himself type of throw-down. In this mode, players pick a rifle and then everyone is thrown into a smaller version of the levels from the Frontline mode. What would be a decent game type is marred by badly placed spawns, and a few decent points on the map to kill farm. Essentially, whoever spawns closest to these decently protected hideaways is most likely to be the one that wins.
We Need More Of This
Verdun shows me that we need more WWI first person shooters, and plenty of them. I'd even love to see a narrative driven single player FPS thrown our way. But I'm getting ahead of myself, simply put Verdun is fun and for the first person genre it's very fresh. It's not perfect, but it's a slap in the face to naysayers that claim that WWI just will not work for a shooter: because it doesn't just work, it adds a new layer by making trench warfare take centre stage.
Exciting trench warfare action, large amount of draw games make wins and losses feel more special.
Rifle Deathmatch is a tacked on Free For All mode.