IntroductionThe first next-gen WW1 game has arrived to consoles! Verdun, developed by Blackmill Games and M2H, originally released for PC in 2015 and garnered nearly half a million players alongside a handful of awards (IndieDB Editors Choice; Best Multiplayer 2015, Best Economic Achievement Award 2015, Control Industry Award 2015, the NWTV award; Best Dutch game 2014 and #5 Top Upcoming Indie Games of 2014 as voted by the IndieDB community). A strictly online multiplayer game (but does offer one form of offline), it throws players into pure chaotic trench warfare. You can buy it on Steam for $24.99, PlayStation Store for $19.99, and Xbox Marketplace at a later time.
GameplayEverything is built around trench warfare, and while the trenches stretch long, providing tons of open corridors to traverse the field of combat, often times you'll need to make dashes across open fields to get to them. It's built on an alternating attack/defend turns, where you'll be given a set amount of time to capture a trench. If not controlled within the few granted minutes, you will be forced to retreat by a warning to do so or you will be automatically killed and re-spawned. Same goes after successfully defending a trench, you must move forward to control the enemies nearest trench.
If you are on the defensive side, you'll be able to peak over the tops of the trenches or through sandbag structured windows to suppress the enemy, if not kill them. When using the rifles, typically everything is a single shot kill. That may sound overpowered in a sense, but the sights on the weapons are terribly difficult to use and line up with the enemy, and the unadjustable aim sensitivity doesn't make anything easier. This does feel intentional though as to encourage pure trench warfare. You can hold your breath when zooming in to gain a slightly more zoomed effect and less bouncing of the sights. Aiming across the field of battle will allow you to see opposing enemies peaking out and, as long as they aren't jumping around a lot, you'll still have a decent chance of tagging them.
Attrition mode (explained further below) allows you to use a larger arsenal than just the standard rifle and handgun. Also selectable is the sniper rifle, machine gun, revolvers, etc. The sniper, at first thought, could be a clear advantage on the field, but the scope is uncomfortable to learn, yet will still be the favorite of choice. The scope is set on the top left of the rifle, meaning it slightly blocks your view of the field when held on your hip. When zoomed in, the view through the scope is somewhat small, low powered, and dirty while the case of the scope hogs up the remaining screen.
I'm not sure if I quickly became a professional with it or everyone else had the same initial struggles, but I propped myself up on top of a hill next to a tree and barbwire which allowed me to rack up 9 straight sniper kills (to be fair the opposing snipers chose to nest near one another across the map, allowing borderline target practice). You can change your field of vision which is something I hadn't really seen much of in a console game before, with the most recent exception being Doom.
Everything runs smooth for the most part, but there were more screen glitches than I would have liked to experience throughout my time of playing. With many games, the frame rate drops the most when there are mortars blowing up around the environment and everyone is exchanging gunfire. Gameplay, in general, is fairly quick, but player movements and controls feel a little loose. Perhaps unfair to compare the game with AAA titles, such as Call of Duty or even Battlefield, but the controls are incredibly clunky and slightly unresponsive when playing it after the aforementioned. Sometimes I felt as if I was playing on the PlayStation 2 again.
Game modes and MapsThere are four styles of game modes available: Frontlines (alternate turns with the enemy team of attacking and defending a corridor of trenches in the middle of the two sides, ultimately to drive the other team back), Rifle Deathmatch (free for all slaughter fest where there are no boundaries, just pure trench and field combat), Attrition (a full arsenal team combat where you'll select whichever primary and secondary you want), and Squad Defense (fight off waves of enemy attackers solo or with friends online).
In the Frontlines mode, you'll be placed into a squad where you will then, if available, select one of the four different pre-set classes. You'll have an NCO to follow, gaining more points for him to call in special attacks, such as mortars and lethal gasses. As you play more matches online of any game mode, you'll gain career points that you can then spend on buying new weapons, attachments for those weapons, and secondary weapons in Attrition mode (the only way I could find to spend the points on).
There are 8 potential maps to play on, each offering their own style of the battlefield, and all inspired by real battles and locations. You could fight at Flanders (a muddy swamp), Artois, Picardie, Aisne (a densely wooded farmland), Champagne (a night time war setting), Argonne (a forest that once was, but is now dead and bare), Douaumont (the biggest fortress in the world during the time), or Vosges (another wooded battlefield).
Sound and GraphicsGun shots, mortars, and cries for help from grown men completely immerse you into the war. The suffering environments, cold winds whistling across the field of battle, and dead animals scattered about will further the fear of an inevitable death. Gun shots sound authentic to the time; loud pops in slow succession firing from the rifles, or loud rapid thumps from an automatic machine gun you've propped up on the ground. As soldiers fall near you, occasionally, you'll hear them scream for help or simply cry with their last breaths. It's actually borderline stomach-wrenching how realistic it can sound.
The graphics look very good, but the fluidity of them in work feels a little unrefined. Player models, guns, and the flying dirt when a bullet or bomb hits the ground look realistic enough to count as a positive. Aside from the occasional house bunker, fortress, or pavilion, there are few objects to be found throughout the maps. You'll find a vehicle, dead horse and carriage, ammo boxes (not for pickup), telephones, barrels, trees, and rocks scattered about but not in any specific design as to illustrate some kind of small story. There is a setting for gore to be on or off, but even after turning it on, I failed to see any kind of blood (or gore) upon a player's death. It could need fixing, but that were first impressions during initial release.
ConclusionVerdun does an amazing job scratching the WW1 itch that I'm sure so many people like myself have been experiencing while waiting for Battlefield 1 to come out. It provides a great atmosphere and historically accurate warfare, but there is a lot of things that hold it back too. Games that are made to be completely online are risky due to the fact so many player bases fall out not long after a game has been released. Alongside general player population questions, the game will need to compete with Battlefield 1 soon, and I don't see many people wanting to give up that potential.
Some form of offline with AI opponents and teammates would make a great argument for getting the game and always being able to pick it up and play long after the player base dies out. The sound is marvelous, the idea even better, but the clunky controls and occasional bugs make it feel unpolished. With some much-needed updates and patches, I don't see why most people wouldn't consider this to be added to their library, especially on a sale.
|+ First WW1 themed next-gen game||- No offline team warfares with AI|
|+ Attention to historical facts||- Lack of optional control settings|
|+ Immersive sound effects and voices||- Occasionally glitchy and slow gameplay|
|- Clunky controls|