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First Impressions: Verdun

by: Chapel -
More On: Verdun

Man, this game is an absolute mess.

First off, read knowing that I'm talking about the Xbox One version of this game. I've heard that the PC version is wonderful, and I'm sure it is. I've also heard that the PS4 version, which came out last August, is pretty bad, and evidently the Xbox One version is even worse than that.

If you don't know, Verdun is a WW1 shooter that is centered around infantry and trench warfare. It strives to be much more authentic in its presentation than Battlefield 1, and as such is much slower paced, with more emphasis on rifles and trenches than submachine guns and armored blimps. I was really excited to get into this game, actually. I love shooters that skew a little more in the hardcore direction, and I was really hoping this was going to be similar to, say, Day of Infamy. Unfortunately, it seems to be more focused on the boring part of WW1 that was so slow that it allowed JRR Tolkein to write the entire Elvish language between battles.

Verdun feels like a poorly designed indie game that's still in its alpha stage. Everything about it screams unfinished, and to be honest, I'm amazed that it even got released in its current state. Microsoft apparently delayed its release around Christmas due to how poorly it was playing. If they have such a low bar as to consider this version of Verdun as passable, I can't imagine how bad it must have been when it was delayed.

One of the biggest problems right now is that it's still really hard to even find a game. In the first few days of release, there were server connection issues rampant across the system, preventing what seemed like most everyone from being able to reliably play multiplayer. It's not as bad now; usually I can get into a game within a few attempts. The new problem is that I'm getting disconnected after each match for various reasons, sometimes with a little blurb that says "we're close to a fix!" Well, gee, I sure wish you would have done that before releasing the game.

Even when I do get into a game, it's never full. I have literally never played a full match of Verdun, and it's been just over a week since launch. While there are many, many problems with Verdun, I do feel like this is the one that will either kill it permanently, or bring it back from the brink. Because the servers are in such terrible condition right now, I'm not sure if the low player count is because nobody can connect, or because nobody's playing. Hopefully it's the former, because once they get that worked out, the game will have a chance to improve.

As it stands, there's not much good to say about Verdun. The controls were shockingly bad when I first started. Have you ever plugged a gamepad into your computer and tried to play an old shooter without adjusting any of the settings? That's what this felt like before I changed the settings. The sensitivity was awful and jerky, movement was uncomfortable, sprinting was a bizarre toggle on/off. It's very clear, from this alone, that Verdun has no place on consoles, as much as that pains me to say.

It's also presented in a really dull way. The ambient battlefield noises sound like someone gently typing in the next room. Gunshots sound like they have a harsh plate reverb, where the rapport is sharp and unpleasant. There's something off about the color scheme, as well; in fact, it looks like the game doesn't have one. I don't know quite how to describe it. It's like every color is from a different palette, and none of them belong together.

I also feel like nothing is explained, ever. The game gives you 7 slides at the very beginning that explain the basics and that's it. But there's some pretty complex mechanics at work here. There's, like, a million different divisions you can join in the battles, each with four different classes. Those different classes have different levels, and each level has a different loadout. I just don't really know what any of it means. The way it's presented through the UI just turns it all into white noise.

UI is so awful that I genuinely can't tell if the menus are broken or if I don't understand what's happening. Just today, I was unlocking the third loadout for a class, because I wanted to use a rifle. I had to unlock the second loadout first, and when I did, it automatically switched me to it. When I unlocked the third, I couldn't switch. I was stuck with the second loadout, which gave me nothing but a freaking trench club. After manically backing in and out of the menu to try to switch, eventually I did. There is absolutely a chance that I don't understand the mechanics involved in switching classes, but the game is so clunky and unresponsive in every way that it feels just as possible that it's bad design. And I'm absolutely not opposed to spending time to learn a game; this one just makes it so uncomfortable to navigate that I can't seem to make myself.

I'm holding out hope for Verdun. I want to like it. I like what it's going for, I really do, but it has got to get its act together, and fast, because it's already on thin ice, and based on what I've read about the PS4 version, the future is bleak. I don't think this game will succeed. Prove me wrong, Verdun. 

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