STAFF REVIEW of Verdun (Xbox One)

Thursday, March 30, 2017.
by Brent Roberts

Verdun Box art When you want to make a game it helps if there are things that you can turn to for inspiration, guidance and even some assistance from time to time. Now, take the FPS genre in a World War I setting and you have such a gargantuan amount of material to draw from, so much so that you would think that you would use this to help make one incredibly enjoyable and authentic game. You could think that in this case, but you would be wrong. Verdun, developed by M2H & BlackMill Games, is priced at $19.99 + tax, and this game tries to place you into the trench warfare found in WWI during the battle of Verdun. Now $20 is an incredibly high price point to ask, so the big question that has to be answered is, is it worth it?

Unfortunately not. Normally I would save my opinions until the very end and layout a general overview that highlights the good and the bad points of the title, leaving you with my final opinions to base your own judgement upon. Not this time. No, this time I'm giving you the truth right up front because sadly this is going to become like war very quickly, and remember, war is hell. So, with that out of the way let me essentially point out the pitfalls that made this game have potential, but then ultimately leaves you feeling like you have just been virtually robbed blind.

For starters, the whole "training tutorial" is comprised of several slides depicting some very vague information. They pretty much cover the basis of trench warfare along with your "classes" and their progression system, but you will quickly see that this means absolutely nothing at all. They don't tell you much in terms of controlling your character, so I suggest you look at your options before jumping into the gameplay.

Each game is like a massive war fought over and over again. There are multiple squads of 4 with open slots, and you can only select your character by which empty slot available. You can be an NCO, rifleman, machine gunner or grenadier. If in a squad, rifleman, machine gunner and grenadier are all taken, you can only spawn in that squad as an NCO, so if you wanted to be something else then you're forced to pick a different squad. If no position you want is available, you're S.O.L. For this example of my nightmare I chose NCO. Now, there are two modes you can play, Online or Offline. I just jumped right into multiplayer to see what's what.

Right from the beginning I found that the graphics are something I would expect from the original Xbox system, laughably poor at best. The character modeling is elementary quality and the atmosphere and environment almost makes you wish they robbed other quality FPS games because you're starting to feel like the one whose money was stolen from. I can honestly say that there are no redeeming qualities in the graphics department what so ever.

The only highlight I found in any of the presentation is the military song that plays in the beginning of each level, yet that's because the sounds of Verdun are just as horrendous as the graphics. The weaponry sounds are unrealistic and the voice of the NCO signaling a charge made me cringe every time. This is what I experienced as soon as I jumped into my game so I thought, why don't I try going through my options and switch weapons, which was a mistake because as soon as I hit Y to switch weapons (which were my binoculars), I get shot and killed and was forced wait 30 seconds to spawn in again. 30 SECONDS.

I waited my lengthy 30 seconds and respawned in only to see on my screen an icon that looks like an upside down pyramid and it says "MOVE HERE", so I follow instructions and work my way to that point. On my way there I get a pop up message with a countdown clock that says "Get back in 'X' seconds or you will be killed for treason." At first I didn't listen to it and managed to get to the point that the game said to go to, the countdown clock wound down to 0 and I was instantly killed for treason.

Yes, I went and followed what the game told me to do and got killed. SO I WAIT ANOTHER 30 ****ING SECONDS ON RESPAWN. Sigh. OK, so I wait my 30 seconds while pondering the meaning of the existence of this game and I come to the conclusion that the warning message > in game move message. This brought my attention though to the mini map on the bottom left hand side.

Here you can see the dividing line that your soldiers fight over. If you can manage to hold the line, your team will advance, but they will also face tough opposition to take the next line, thus creating an ever shifting balance, and should, god forbid, you have an overwhelming force, you will be rewarded with penalties. Yes, the game will actually penalize you if you are on a team with more people than the other; more concerned with being fair than realistic. Do you think in real life that a squad of 10,000 troops would say "Oh we are only up against 1,000 enemy soldiers? Well then we should just kill off about 7,000 of our men and make it more of a fair fight." No, you would never hear of that because that notion beyond the comprehension of anyone with an IQ of 2, but that's what you have here.

So, now I'm back in the game and I switched out to my binoculars, which apparently fixate at only a specified range, and I can bring up an action menu with my Right Bumper that offers me two choices: move or artillery strike. I also see a small red icon that moves with my point of view and depending on the triggers pushed, will signal either a strike or a move order. The strike proved to be my most useful killing tool as just after I launched it I ended up getting killed (your field of view is dramatically narrowed to next to nothing in binocular view).

Again, I wait in the respawn of hell. Now I'm an even 3 kills and 3 deaths. I respawn again and proceed to try and kill someone with my pistol. I see an enemy soldier approaching and I decide to flank from his right side. I approach within feet from behind him, press the Left Trigger to bring up the sights and click the Left Stick to hold my breath. I say a prayer, pull the trigger, and hit absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. I unloaded 10 rounds and didn't kill the enemy at all. I didn't even see if any of my rounds hit him. The enemy turns around, fires once, kills me and I'M OFF TO RESPAWN AGAIN! Now my total k/d ratio stands at 3-4.

I respawn again and within 4 seconds I take another bullet to the knee and I have to respawn again. Mercifully the game ended so I decided to take my meager amount of xp earned and try to find other matches, but thanks to some incredibly bad server issues, I found myself being forced back into the same hellish nightmare I just escaped from. I forced myself for whatever sadistic reason, to continue playing the game and hopefully find some form entertainment or enjoyment that would allow me to at least see a very vague reason why someone would, in the name of all that is holy, charge $20 for it. I searched beyond the center of the universe for this answer and found nothing. That's when I thought I would cut my losses and try the offline mode.

This mode was just as frustrating. Are you kidding me? The AI team looked like they were sleeping during bootcamp in terms of military tactics. I saw one character literally run into a wall non-stop, then an enemy came over the wall in front of an AI soldier, and my soldier who was running into the wall did nothing. Not one thing. Then the enemy AI shot him once and killed him. That's when I started to think more about this and what it represents, and I got upset. I'm sorry, but this has to be insulting to the men and women, or their family members, that actually took part in WWI, or in any military engagement.

To see such a pathetic attempt to try and deliver an experience that honors the people who fought and died during that war and charge 1/3 the price of a full retail game is almost theft in my opinion, and the developers of this game need to be ashamed of themselves for such a disappointment.

I feel that after this tremendous disappointment, everyone who purchased this game deserves a refund. Men and women gave their lives in one of mankind's most pivotal moments in history and this crap is how these developers pay homage? And they charge $20 for it? The graphics are poor, the sound is unrealistic, the networking is pitiful, the controls are pathetic and yet you are asked to pay for this experience. Do yourself a favor, VerDON'T buy this game.

Overall: 3.0 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 2.0 / 10
Sound: 1.0 / 10


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