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Video Game / Verdun

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"Over the top boys! Attack!"

Verdun is a historical FPS game produced by two independent game developers, Blackmill Games and M-2-H Games Studio. The setting is the First World War in which players fight each other as members of one of the various factions during the conflict. Set entirely on the western front, it tries to recreate the scenario of trench warfare as it was during that time. The name for the game was taken from the infamous Battle of Verdun and for the most part is extremely realistic. It is also infamous for being pretty hard.

The game was in development by Blackmill Games for much of 2014 and was released on the 28th of April, 2015 after a year in Steam Early Access.

A free expansion, Horrors of War, was released in March 2016, adding a gore mechanic and playable squads of Belgians and Americans, in addition to the French, British, Canadian and German squads present in the original release. Additional German squads and the Scottish Highlanders were eventually added as well.

The game was also ported to Playstation 4 in 2016, and to Xbox One the following year.

Standalone expansion focusing on the Eastern Front of World War I called Tannenberg was announced in May 25th, 2017. It features a more open-ended and larger map design compared to the base game to reflect the more mobile nature of the war compared to the Western Front's trench warfare. The expansion went into Early Access on November 16th 2017, and left it on February 13th, 2019. A follow-up to both this game and Tanneberg focusing on World War I's Italian Front, called Isonzo, was released on September 14th, 2022. In contrast to Verdun's and Tannenberg's flat ground and forests, Isonzo takes place in the mountains between Italy and Austria-Hungary, with all of its maps being vertical in nature.

Welcome to the trenches, soldier! Here's what you'll be seeing:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The entire battlefield is less than a hundred metres wide, mortar/artillery strike requests are magically transmitted and land with perfect accuracy, people die rather than being (mortally) wounded and out for the count, and you can recover from getting shot (by a pistol, or through a tree/some earth/a sandbag) by hyperventilating for thirty seconds. All unrealistic, but necessary for performance and gameplay purposes.
  • Anachronism Stew: Since the uniform changes are tied to squad progression and weapons to personal progression, it can be entirely normal to see, for example, a French soldier dressed in a brightly-coloured dress uniform from 1914 using a semi-automatic rifle only issued towards the end of the war.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: What a typical game will go down as in every case (That is, teams take turn attacking territory and defending it - a successful attack immediately has the attackers defend it and opposing team to counterattack it). This can happen long enough to cue black comedy from the players.
  • Battle Cry: Each squad has its own.
    • Americans:
    • British:
    • French:
      • Poilus - Honneur et Patrie! (Honour and Fatherland!)
      • Chasseurs Alpins - Sidi Brahim!
      • Tirailleurs Sénégalais - Impavidum Ferient Bella!
    • Belgians: Voor de Koning! (For the King!)
    • Germans:
      • Landsers - Gott mit Uns! (God is with us!)
      • Schutzen - Furchtlos und Treu! (Fearless and True!)
      • Sturmpionier - Anker Wirf! (Grapple - Throw !) note 
      • Stoßtrupp - Providentiae Memor! (Mindful of providence!)
      • Alpenjäger - In Treue Fest! (Steadfast in loyalty!)
    • The voice command menu can be used to call out battle cries in the appropriate language of one's squad, such as the mottoes above, wordless yelling, invocations of the king, kaiser, or republic, and things to spur your team on.
    "Come on, you sons of bitches, you wanna live forever?!"
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The gas shelling. While very good at incapacitating the enemy, its effects are the same for your troops as well, resulting in the encumbrance of using gas masks, or die a miserable death by poisoning.
    • The Tankgewehr is defensive sniper's wet dream, and Awesome, but Impractical for pretty much anyone else. It fires 13.7mm rounds which can One-Hit Kill through sandbags, 'bulletproof' steel observation plates, or up to half a metre of solid earth - or two in the open. However its recoil is so massive that it can only be fired when prone, its reload time is 5 seconds, and all standard rifles (and the Reichsrevolver) can kill with one hit to an exposed body part anyway - and in a game where target acquisition, mobility, and firing quickly is important, the limited turn range and set-up is a killer. It's even worse in Attrition, where no one is held to any one side of the map, so you're likely to be flanked by people with Berthiers and BARs.
  • Badass Normal: Every single soldier in the field.
  • Bayonet Ya: Well of course, it's World War I! The game even includes bayonet-mounted revolvers unique to the time period.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The Horrors of War expansion. Ever wondered how far your arm would fly when torn off by a bullet or cut through by wire? You can now. Have fun!
  • Boom, Headshot!: The snipers are all about this. And for that matter, nearly everyone else, since with a bolt-action rifle, one might be slow at firing, but it'll kill the enemy real quick.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Shell holes and trench walls are there for a reason. Failing to use them well will get you killed.
    • Bolt action rifles are slow to use, but they are available for almost any class in the game, are great for long to medium range combat, decent at close combat and hitting with them is always a guaranteed One-Hit Kill
    • When choosing an attachment for Rifle Deathmatch, you can never go wrong with stripper clips. They can save a lot of time reloading an empty rifle, especially the Lee-Enfield.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Thoroughly averted. If you run out of ammo, you're screwed. Almost every rifle bar the French Lebel and the Commonwealth's Lee-Enfields holds just five rounds at most: teams with British and/or Imperial squads are capable of a noticeably higher volume of rifle fire. Sub-and light machine guns, while very powerful, are extremely slow to reload and deplete their magazines and ammo stocks frighteningly fast. Especially if you change your specialization to carry a rifle instead of a pistol & Machine Gun ammunition.
  • Brave Scot: Scottish Highlanders were added as the British recon squad early in 2017.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: There are numerous examples of squads (In Tannenberg especially) using completely outdated rifles and pistols, such as the Martini-Henry or Reichsrevolver.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted. The French are among the most useful squads out there, and you're pretty much guaranteed to see some of them in every game. And they have some of the best grenadiers in the whole game.
  • Cherry Tapping: You can kill someone by clubbing them with binoculars.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: MP-18, Trenchgun and semi-auto pistols are all great at close range... and not so at any other range. That's not to say they won't kill at medium range, but at that point, you're better off firing a bolt-action to deliver a quicker bullet to the chest.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: The Lee-Enfield's sights have five aiming-pins instead of the usual three. Those accustomed to using other rifles shouldn't find themselves too surprised to miss their enemies ever-so-slightly to the left or right when firing reflexively.
  • Death from Above: Line infantry's squad leaders can call in mortar rounds and later artillery to a location.
  • Emergency Weapon: The M.1887 Feldspaten wielded by the Stosstruppen is a sharpened shovel. Don't think for a moment that that makes it any less deadly.
  • Enemy Chatter: Every enemy, and your squadmates, will have lines indicating that they're reloading, hit, or calling in an artillery strike. This can be useful, especially to point them out and shoot them.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Zig-zagged. Your own grenades (and poor flamethrower usage) will get you killed. It won't affect your team, but it will affect the enemy.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: You (and the enemy) will come off as this, especially if there is a gas shell landing nearby. Not doing so results in you being gassed to death.
  • Grenade Spam: The Stosstruppen do this - and Feldspaten melee kills - in spades. Regular line infantry squads usually have two grenades, but can get three. The Stosstruppen have at least five, and can have eleven.
  • Gun Porn: Oh so much. Each squad has four members with three possible guns each. That's a lot of them to go around.
  • Gun Accessories: Most weapons will have bayonets, special clips, and scopes for sniper rifles.
  • Hand Cannon: The Artillery Luger, a Luger with a 32-round drum magazine and an extended barrel, which is attached to a stock for extra accuracy.
  • Hold the Line: What the game is all about. It's a lot harder than it looks.
  • Holiday Ceasefire: The Christmas Truce of 1914 can be reenacted on as a bonus map during the Holiday Season. Involving the soldiers playing football and sending e-mails to loved ones.
  • Holiday Mode: The Christmas Truce of 1914 can be reenacted around the holiday season on a separate map. Everyone in the map can pelt each other with snowballs and play some football. Players can even send e-mails to loved ones.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: When the game was still in open Beta, the developers were unable to test each new weapon upon themselves when they logged onto servers: their avatars were invulnerable (to avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment of repeatedly dying of desertion/barbed wire/players who didn't get the memo about the devs being on-site). This led to bizarre scenes such as a maskless Poilus standing in no-man's land, beseeching people to come inhale the clouds of gas that swirled about him to see if they'd die (they did, and they did).
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Some shots with some guns can come off as this.
  • Improbable Weapon Usage: In a pinch, you can melee the enemy. It's not very effective, unless you have a bayonet.
    • Or with a shovel. Which is about as awesome as it sounds.
    • Or a club. Nothing quite like leaping into a trench, landing behind a group of enemies, and clubbing them to death.
  • Invisible Wall: Not exactly one per se, but leaving the boundaries of a battlefield, or a trench when you're supposed to be defending it, will get you executed for desertion.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Flammenwerfer squaddie will do this. Of course, if he isn't careful, he might die with it too. Two of the NCOs can call in white phosphorus.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Killing an enemy mid-sentence will result in them gurgling a few sounds before death. Kill a squad leader while he's trying to call an artillery strike, and it won't happen.
  • Man in a Kilt : The Highlanders, naturally. It doesn't matter how advanced the squad is - they will wear kilts. Their spawn music, appropriately enough, is a short burst on Uilleann Pipes (as opposed to bagpipes for the Tommies spawn music).
  • More Dakka: The Machine Guns in the game have absurdly high rates of fire. They are quite inaccurate when fired from the hip, however, and must be emplaced for maximum effect. Have one pointing at a chokepoint, and...well.
    • The Americans and Germans get an automatic rifle and submachine gun, respectively. Which is incredibly useful in close quarters when all your enemies have is bolt-action rifles. On the other hand, if you're facing a guy with one...
    • If you're looking for a more long-ranged option, the French get the RSC 1917, the only semi-automatic rifle in the game. This means that you can get off 2-3 shots in the time it would take to fire off one with the typical bolt-action.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The entrenching tool. Sure, it's used to dig trenches. You can also use it to hack people's faces off.
  • Mundane Utility: Poison gas is actually supposed to be used as a large smokescreen, since the gas masks available to all players (who know how to use them) mean that gas will kill a player precisely once at most before they learn. Poison gas also encourages defenders to stay further away from the cloud than is strictly necessary, unlike regular gas.
  • Nintendo Hard: Most of the guns are bolt-action rifles. The slow fire rate, plus range, ensures that it's a mix of skill, luck and a twitchy finger to shoot (and hit) the enemy. And there are so many ways you can die, and are guaranteed to. Surviving with 10 kills and no deaths nets an achievement.
  • One Bullet Clips: Played straight, though there are many weapons that aren't capable of this.
  • Pistol-Whipping: The squad leaders generally have only pistols. If in melee, that's what happens. Unless they come at someone from behind, chances are it will be in vain.
  • One-Hit Kill: Anything firing a full sized rifle round can kill you with one hit, even if it isn't a head shot.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: The M1883 Reichsrevolver fires and reloads extremely slowly compared to other pistol-type weapons, but its accurate and can One-Hit Kill. It's a big hit among Clint Eastwood wannabes.
    • The Webley Revolver serves as a middle point between the Reichsrevolver and the other semiautomatic pistols, keeping the general revolver feel by being nonetheless more powerful and accurate than the semiautomatic pistols.
    • The M1892 serves as a midway point between the Reichsrevolver and the Webley, doing more damage than the latter while having a faster reload than the former.
  • Scenery Gorn: It's the Western Front of World War One. What did you expect?
    • Averted in a few levels where the landscape can be surprisingly pristine - largely since the fighting hasn't gone on for very long.
  • Selective Historical Armory: Averted. The starting weapon for most classes is a bolt-action rifle. NCOs will start with a pistol, it serving as a symbol of their authority, as may some classes with a close-combat focus. Only machine gunners can use machine-guns. Shotguns are limited to just one of American Marine classes, and flamethrowers to one Sturmpioneer class. Adding a telescopic scope to get a sniper is limited to a single loadout in the rifleman-analogue class for line infantry and the loadout of the sniper-analogue class for recon squads. Bundled grenades "Geballte Ladung" are limited to just the Stoßtruppen squads.
  • Semper Fi: American Marines are an available squad to play as.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Zig-zagged with the Marine M1897 Trench Gun. It's fairly accurate at mid-range in a trench, but useless everywhere else.
  • Shovel Strike: German Shock Troopers can use their M.1887 Feldspaten (really, it's just a shovel with a sharpened edge) as melee weapons.
  • Sniper Duel: Nearly every match involves these, with more justification than most. This can lead to a healthy dose of fear when trying to go over the top.
  • Sniper Pistol: The handguns are remarkably accurate with the first shot, allowing this to be possible.
  • Tactical Withdrawal: You need to capture the enemy sector within a set time limit and without too many casualties, or this ensues. Also, if you do not retreat in time, you're executed for desertion.
  • The Squad: The gameplay is centered around this. Players fight in squads of four. Each squad has some benefits and weaknesses. The right kind of squad in the right situation can turn the tide of the battle, or screw the pooch if used poorly. In general, infantry squads are of two kinds - Specialists and Line Infantry. Specialists will have Snipers, Gas Artillery and two specialist fighters. Line Infantry will have one Rifleman, one Grenadier, and one Machine-Gunner. All squads have a leader called a Non-Commissioned Officer, who calls for artillery strikes and issues orders.
    • The Americans get Marines and Doughboys. Marines are specialists with a focus on grenades, the Doughboys are standard line infantry.
    • The Germans get Landsers (Line Infantry), Stoßtruppen (Specialists with a focus on gas attacks), Alpenjäger (Specialists with a focus on Recon), Sturmpioneers (Specialists with a focus on flamethrowers) and Schutzen (Line Infantry with a focus on grenades).
    • The French get Poilus (Line Infantry) and Chasseurs Alpins (Specialists with a focus on Recon).
    • The Belgians have only a Line Infantry squad. They compensate by being harder to kill.
    • The British get Tommies (Line Infantry), Highlanders (Specialists with a focus on Recon), Canadians (Specialists with a focus on gas attacks), and ANZACs (Engineers).
  • The Many Deaths of You: You can get bombed, blown, stabbed, shot, gassed, cut down by tripwire, drowned, or kill yourself by accident (or on purpose) with poorly thrown grenades or artillery strikes. And that's just the start.
  • War Is Hell: Yes. Wholly unsurprising given that it's a series of nearly 1:1 engagements when a successful attack is reckoned to need 2:1 to reliably produce success and 3:1 to get it with minimal losses. It's not uncommon to die a dozen times in as many minutes without once seeing the enemy or having the slightest clue what or who killed you (were it not for the display saying as much).
    • The expansion is all about this. You get killed, and chances are, you'll see your avatar screaming for help, gurgling on their own blood, or rolling about in pain before they die.
    • Gas, if you don't get your mask on quickly. The effects come in stages, faster depending on what gas you're hit by. First your vision blurs to the point you can barely see, with a message on screen warning that you are being blinded. Next the screen starts to turn black as your vision fails entirely, the message now saying that you're being asphyxiated. Finally your controls will stop responding, your character will fall to their knees, then flat on the ground, with "You have succumbed to the effects of (whichever) gas" appearing on-screen. Some seconds later you will finally die. If it's xylyl bromide or chlorine gas, you'll have plenty of time to get your mask on. Usually only new players will be killed by these, and usually only once. Phosgene is deadlier, you can afford to take a moment to go prone or get behind cover before pulling your mask on, but not much longer. If you delay even that long, mustard gas will kill you faster than you can put can put your mask on.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: Played Straight, the flamethrower has a ridiculously short range of about 5 meters outside of which it's completely useless. In addition to this the flamethrower is the only weapon in the game which has a trigger delay, meaning that you can only fire the weapon about half a second after pressing the fire button, the flames completely block your view when you are firing the weapon and even simply firing the flamethrower is a great way of giving away your position to everyone on the map. Simply put, the Flamethrower is an extremely situational weapon and generally it's just better to stick to your carbine or pistol if you are in the unfortunate position of having to play as a Flammenwerfer trooper.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: Oh, boy. In Verdun, death comes in many forms.
    • Moving without looking out for barbed wire. "Suicide - (Player) was cut down by wire!", -15 points.
    • Moving without paying attention to the edges of the map. "Desertion - (Player) was executed for desertion!", -15 points.
    • Moving in a straight line directly towards the enemy.
    • Moving in a straight line at a constant speed.
    • Moving in the open when nobody else is around to draw enemy fire.
    • Popping up in the same place twice.
    • Standing atop any kind of rise or hill.
    • Standing, crouching, crawling, or walking in the open.
    • Standing anywhere the enemy could possibly see you - especially when you are wearing Franco-Belgian 'shoot me' blue.
    • Exposing yourself to anything more than a tiny left-right sliver of the battlefield at once.
    • Firing from the same place twice.
    • Firing from a bunker (see above).
    • Keeping your NCO in the forward-most trench.
    • 'Taking cover' behind a tree.
    • Ordering a bombardment/throwing a grenade without taking a moment to make sure that it will land where you want it to. And not on that lone tree/fencepost/trench wall a metre in front of you.

Retreat! RETREAT!