Here I sit, ready to write my first ever “proper” game review and I face a bit of personal dilemma. You see, Verdun is not great. It’s not rubbish either. To be honest, the word “meh” springs to mind. I’d envisaged ways to describe how wonderful, amazing, beautiful and entertaining a game is, and also how I could have one of my famous rants about how god damn awful a game is, but somewhere in the middle?
Verdun is a multiplayer WW1 shooter from M2H and Blackmill Games, which is obviously going to earn it comparisons with Battlefield 1, which is probably unfair, as Verdun was developed by a small team and retails for £15, whilst BF1 is a triple AAA, high budget production. Verdun was originally released on Steam in 2015, after 18 months in early access, and PS4 in 2016, so any inspiration would have come from EA.
So, let’s dive in and talk about what Verdun has to offer. There are 4 multiplayer modes, Frontlines, Rifle Deathmatch, Attrition and Squad Defence. I will leave Frontlines until last as this is probably the game mode that will provide the most longevity.
In Attrition each team starts with a number of tickets. These represent the amount of lives that each side has. Every time a player is killed and respawns, a ticket is deducted from the side he belongs to. The goal of the game is to diminish the opposing side’s tickets before losing all the tickets on your side. This game mode also contains special weapons and maps.
Squad Defense is a mode where players fight off endless waves of attacks by AI controlled soldiers in one of the 12, 4-man squads. Squad Defense is also available as a single player game mode. In Rifle Deathmatch, players fight in a free for all battle, armed only with only a rifle. This game mode rewards you for good marksmanship and tactical play. Players can earn experience and Career Points by killing other players, and the Career Points can be used to level up rifles and unlock attachments.
Frontlines, as mentioned previously, is probably the most interesting of the 4 game modes. In this, players can choose to join one of the two historic sides of World War I. Each side fights over a turn-based frontline map that consists of multiple sectors that can be captured by either side. Both sides attack and counter-attack each other in turn, so you need to defend each captured sector of trenches. The goal is to capture the enemy’s HQ sector in order to win the game. In each battle you are part of a 4 man squad, and dependant on the type of squad, have different abilities and perks, and use different tactics. Career points are also earned, giving you the ability to unlock weapons and equipment.
Unfortunately Verdun suffers from a number of bugs upon its launch and the developer has already stated its intention to patch with the next few weeks. I have not taken these bugs into consideration for the review score, but it’s worth pointing out a couple of the scenarios that I found myself in.
Probably the most common is a server error when trying to join an online match, which on one occasion happened so often I abandoned my plans to play and moved onto another game. The second main bug is that of all character models turning either white or pink whilst in a multiplayer game, which kind of makes any kind of stealth or tactical play redundant as you can be seen from the other side of the map.
So, how does Verdun perform, ignoring the aforementioned bugs? Graphically, Verdun’s look and feel lead me to believe that not much has changed from its initial development, as it looks and feels like a “last-gen” game. If this was released on 360 then you would think that it was graphically OK, if not a little brown in colour. Gameplay wise it also feels dated and I would go as far as to say it feels somewhat unfinished. On multiple occasions, in different game modes, I respawned only to immediately get killed by an awaiting opponent. This would be acceptable if you didn’t then respawn in this same place again, and again, and again! On one period of gameplay this happened 5 times in a row. There is no killcam either, so it’s also impossible for you to find out where your opponent is in order for you to change strategy. Also, on many occasions I found myself face to face with an opponent, I would line up my shot perfectly, fire, and found that the bullet missed. Whether this is caused by lag, or the code, I’m not sure, but it is another annoyance that takes away the enjoyment of the game.
One-shot kills are commonplace, and respawn times are exceedingly long, and when you find yourself in the situation just mentioned, 2 minutes of gameplay can pass with no action whatsoever. Without a doubt, Verdun is not meant to be a Call of Duty style shooter. It encourages slow and tense gameplay, but this does not make for an exciting experience.
Frontlines mode is where Verdun somewhat redeems itself. Working as a squad of 4, with friends is where the fun is to be had. The game ebbs and flows as you attack and defend points on the map and it’s exhilarating when you receive the order to attack, and as you relinquish your hold on the area you were defending and head into the deadly No-Mans-Land, you see your opposition scattering to the safety of their defend points and you have the time to pick them off as they had been doing to you minutes previously! Frontlines mode however, does suffer from poor respawn decisions, where you occasionally respawn away from your squad, meaning you are then classed as a deserter and die if you don’t get back to your squad in an allocated time period.
But by far the biggest issue that Verdun faces is the lack of player base. In the week of release, on a Saturday, Sunday and Monday night, I was seeing less than 200 players signed in to the EU servers, across all game modes. In a Rifle Deathmatch mode the game finished and I found there were only 4 of us in the match. As mentioned previously the best game mode is Frontlines, which only really works when you are communicating as a squad, and on nearly every game I participated in, no-one in the squad had mics, which kind of defeats the object.
It’s not fair to compare against BF1, but I found myself thinking about Battlefield 1943 on the Xbox 360, which I spent many hours playing, as it was a simple premise with awesome gameplay. Verdun falls short of this by a long way, which is probably my biggest disappointment.