Verdun was one of the most atrocious battles in an already horrifying Great War. It’s to DICE’s credit then, that when I heard that its first piece of Battlefield 1 DLC would be based around it (and other battles in France) I was intrigued and excited. The team behind the shooter had shown exceptional reverence and respect for subject matter whilst still crafting an engaging and exciting experience, something I expected to continue with this new piece of content. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed.
They Shall Not Pass – the title inspired by the famous "On ne passe pas” declaration by French general Phillippe Petain – focuses on the French army and its battles in World War 1. It arrives with six new weapons, four new melee weapons and four new maps: Verdun Heights, Fort de Vaux, Rupture and Soissons. The DLC also introduces the army of the French Republic, controversially left out of the main game at release.
They Shall Not Pass appears to really want to hammer home the realities of trench warfare – two of its maps are close-fought, infantry-on-infantry slaughters where vehicles are in short supply (if at all). Fights on the 64 player version of both Verdun Heights and Fort de Vaux often turn into confusing, smoke-wreathed and ferocious affairs. Attacking Verdun Heights is particularly gruesome for the German side Operations Mode, as it requires them to run headlong into two heavily fortified French positions. Often it can be frustrating for the players on the attacking side, who have to suffer being killed within moments of spawning. “Welcome to trench warfare,” you might say – fair point. Yet it doesn’t translate into an enjoyable experience.
To aid in the clearing of such small spaces and tightly-packed maps the DLC has introduced a new special class: the Trench Raider. Equipped with a hefty cudgel and a satchel of grenades, the job of this soldier is to get amongst the enemy and tear him to pieces. As with many of the special classes, it’s still unclear how to effectively deal with it, so many enemies simply run away (not that I’m complaining when capturing a point).
Not wanting to neglect those who love vehicle combat and open terrain, both Rupture and Soissons are maps with wide expanses to explore with tanks, planes and cavalry. The introduction of the new French tank the St Chamond and its behemoth cousin the Char C2 add some variety to the armoured side of battles, even if having five tanks to choose from for two available slots on your team seems a little redundant at times.
They Shall Not Pass also introduces a new mode: Frontlines. It seems more than a little inspired by the ultra-realistic WW1 shooter Verdun, mixing together both rush and conquest to create a mode that is supposed to ape the back-and-forth combat of trench warfare. Teams contest a straight line of conquest points, having to conquer one to attempt the next. When they reach their opponent’s base they must destroy two radio stations. If they’re repulsed they have to retreat to neutral ground.
Frontlines is a clever way to change up the usual Battlefield momentum complaint. Often it can feel like one team is going to storm all the way through a map in other modes. In Frontlines the slightest slip up can send them scrambling back, their enemies nipping at their heels. I’ve seen defenders on their last legs suddenly counter and turn their would-be conquerors into victims.
While They Shall Not Pass includes a hefty chunk of content for the multiplayer side, there is one glaring omission: no war story. The well-crafted mini-campaigns that shipped with Battlefield 1 were rightfully praised for their respectful tone and excellent gameplay. When I reviewed the original I complained about the lack of a War Story from the German side and it seems a similar pass has been given to the French. It’s a badly missed opportunity to show the true horror of Verdun through the eyes of a French soldier on the front and puts a dim light on what is an otherwise fine update to the base game.
The question remains, however, of whether this content should have just been included in the base game. With France being a major combatant in the war (arguably more pivotal than Great Britain) there is still a lingering disappointment that they’ve been sliced off to be sold for extra cash by DICE and EA. Then again, we should expect similar grumblings when the Russian DLC arrives later this year. They Shall Not Pass is a good start to making that season pass feel like it was worth the money, though I doubt it will pull many people into buying the full game.
Battlefield 1 (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
They Shall Not Pass is a good start to making that season pass feel like it was worth the money, though I doubt it will pull many people into buying the full game.