There are often times when watching a film or playing a game when every person falls back into their seat and poignantly asks themselves one question. Am I a masochist for liking this? Whether it is enjoying forcing others to watch something that makes all time slow down and you lose all faith in humanity, I’m looking at you Requiem for a Dream, or breaking a controller because you couldn’t get past that one bullshit level. We’ve all had polarizing moments, making ourselves question the very nature of why we’re doing that one particular thing.
Verdun is one of these outlets which will make you hate yourself for enjoying something quite so sadistic. Unlike most modern FPS shooters, especially Battlefield 1, the developers of Verdun decided to aim for a historically accurate and hard-core shooter. The Battlefield experience, which boasts the necessity of playing as a squad, still falls flat delivering it. When compared to games like Verdun it fails miserably. In Battlefield you can still act as the super soldier and take a capture point by yourself, albeit slowly. In Verdun, you need a squad, a team paying attention. Every kill helps the objective, every use of the artillery strike can help move the team forward.
The hard-core nature of Verdun will make you start to curse the game every time you die, and you will…a lot. The flip side to that is you’ll feel real impact every time you manage to pick off an enemy player. By opting to use more historically memorable weapons, predominantly bolt-action rifles, the game really immerses you in the anxiety that is seeing an enemy and trying your hardest to take them down. This choice will also leave you drained every time you manage to enter an enemy trench. Close quarters with a bolt-action rifle does not make for a fun time. It gets very tense and brutal very quick, with people bayoneting and bludgeoning each other every chance they get.
Other areas of anxiety inducing terror come from the atmosphere structured around the game. This includes artillery rounds crashing around you, the literal screams of terror from the avatars as they are slain in brutal, unforgiving ways, or the gore. Now, this is something I think a lot of modern AAA games have unfortunately abandoned in the past few years; the effect that gore has on a player’s experience. Yes there are games in which blood and gore are prevalent, such as DOOM, it’s still not seen so much in the mainstream FPS these days. The appeal to having the greatest audience possible and trying to make every shooter the new Call of Duty makes sense business wise, but they are all lacking the key ingredient in any game, passion. The gore within Verdun is very fitting and reinforces this theme; war is horrifying.
Prepare to Die
The game forces you to learn quickly by punishing you with death at every slight misstep. Stand up for too long, you die, don’t listen to your surroundings, you die. If you don’t pay attention you’ll notice an unusual amount of your time is spent crawling on the ground. The floor is littered with players crawling slowly to grab a foothold on the next objective. This unusual perspective gives you ample opportunity to be up close to your fallen comrades as they squirm around screaming without a leg and so on. The effect this had was incredible immersion and emotion. You’re aware that it’s just a game but to have your friend’s limb blow off right next to you then being followed by a long harrowing cry of pain and for help helps create an authentic WW1 experience.
The barbaric nature of the game leads to a lot of frustrating moments, but they’re not without reason. The most frustrating of all is making it into the enemy trench, through the waves of screaming players, just to be told that your team’s push was unsuccessful. This means players have to fall back to defend while trying not to get shot in the back like a coward. It’s precisely through these unforgiving mechanics all meshed into one experience that makes the game so rewarding. These mechanics let Verdun act as an upfront reminder of how horrible this war must have been.
Although it has kept true to the nature of war through its violent graphics and distressing vocals, Verdun has been host to special events throughout its release. The Christmas Day event is the most iconic. Players could play a game of football as they did during the Christmas Truce in 1914. Users could throw snowballs at one another, sing carols and send Christmas cards to their loved ones. This little addition may not seem like much to some. To others, it added another layer to the authentic experience the developers wanted to give to the community. Not only did it reveal an ongoing show of appreciation to the community, but also the respect to the true events which occurred.
While the game is still in Early Access they have released a separate game which acts as an expansion, Tannenberg. This game is set in the Eastern Front, meaning new classes and maps. Adding new maps, countries and guns all while keeping the same exhilaratingly frustrating experience. Considering the price for Verdun during Early Access is £18.99, the experience you can take away from it is remarkable.