HomeTheXboxHub FeaturesOpinionsLooking Back to the Broken Battlegrounds of Verdun

Looking Back to the Broken Battlegrounds of Verdun


These Looking Back articles that we frequently indulge ourselves in are usually done from a deep seated love of a particular game. I have written about my love of Bad Company 2, the Brucie Bonuses of Die Hard Trilogy and have even delved into the glitchy goodness of PAC-MAN 256.

However, a game doesn’t have to be good to earn a place in your gaming memory, and the subject of today’s article is certainly one that falls on that side of the divide. Verdun, by M2H and Blackmill Games, started life back in 2015 on Steam, and as it moved forward the decision was made to bring the game to consoles – namely Xbox One and PS4. PS4 went first, as us Xbox players had to wait a teeny bit longer until 2017 to get our hands on it. And boy what a treat it was!

I somehow ended up with the job of reviewing Verdun at launch, and all I can say is that I must have been really naughty in a past life to deserve such an “honour”. 

verdun trenches
The trenches of Verdun

On the face of it, Verdun did seem to have potential: a squad based shooter, set in the First World War, with realistic weapons, different roles to play within the squads and the possibility of levelling up; it looked like the basic ingredients were there for a good game.

First impressions seemed pretty good as well, with realistic uniforms to select from and with different nationalities having different strengths, finding a squad that fitted your playstyle was pretty easy. The most important job in the squad was that of the Non Commissioned Officer or N.C.O., who while he didn’t carry much in the way of weaponry, being armed with a pistol, could call in attacks such as artillery barrages or smoke screens, allowing the troops under your command to advance. Or, as I discovered, to be wiped out if your aim was slightly off!

So, suitably geared up and with a role I liked the look of, myself and my squadmates dived into what Verdun had to offer. There were plenty of options to choose from as far as game modes went as well. Frontlines was the flagship, seeing the two sides fighting over sectors of the map. These sectors are attacked, and if they are captured, must then be defended against from a counterattack, in order to consolidate the grip of whichever side captured them. This game mode had an interesting mechanic called momentum, and if an attack ran out of steam, in effect by either losing too many soldiers or taking too long to capture a sector, the attack would falter and fail, seeing a counterattack launched. 

Further, Squad Defence is Verdun’s Horde style mode, where you have to defend a trench against waves of AI controlled enemies. This is the only game mode that can be played offline, as a point of interest. The last mode, Rifle Deathmatch, is basically a free for all deathmatch, where doing well is based on how many players you kill. More kills equals more points, and what do points make? New attachments for the rifle you use!

verdun squad
Squad up!

So, excitement was quite high, as all the build up made Verdun look like it may be fun. And guess what? It wasn’t. 

Now, I get that war is hell, that the young men on the front lines in WW1 didn’t want to be there and that living with the threat of imminent death 24/7 would be hard to take. Compared to what these people went through, the disappointment of a rubbish gameplay experience seems like nothing, but it’s what I’m here to talk about, so here goes. 

I kept dying. Now, in a competitive multiplayer game, this would be nothing new. In fact, amongst my friends I am known as “Drop Dead Red”, but I was getting killed in Verdun when I was certain that I was hiding in a bush. Seeing as thermal optics hadn’t been invented in 1916, I couldn’t figure out why I was dying. Until, that was, I took a look at the death cam.

The thing about the battlegrounds of Verdun is that they are largely formed of churned or dug up earth, which as we all know is brown. Therefore, the majority of the uniforms you could choose from were dark coloured and inconspicuous, making blending in easier. However, for some reason, my character model was spawning in a fetching white and pink colour scheme, making them stand out like an ice cream sundae amongst a sea of chocolate. There are no more visible colours against a dark background than white, and hence I was getting shot at from all angles. This seemed a little unfair. 

verdun battlefield
Not a single white uniform to be seen!

It has to be said that there were also some very weird animation choices on display, my favourite being the way that if a soldier knelt or lay down in the mud, then moved, they would glide around the trenches, looking like some of the stop motion animation that Monty Python used to use. Basically, it was a waste of time trying to play under these conditions. 

Add into the mix the fact that the gunplay was weak, that it wasn’t fun, and that there were a lot better WW1 games out there (*cough* Battlefield 1 *cough) and Verdun’s casket was sealed. 

In fairness, the developers did mend the broken game a few weeks after launch via the magic of a patch, but the damage was done. Even after testing renewed, post-patch game, I still remained unconvinced by what Verdun was able to provide. 

So, these are my memories of the rocky launch of Verdun. Did you play the game when it launched on Xbox in 2017? Do you still play it today? Let us know in the comments!

And if you want to grab a download of Verdun, you can do so from the Xbox Store. It’s playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. It’s now fully optimised for Xbox Series X|S no less.

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