Review: Battlefield 1: They Shall Not Pass

EA and DICE’s output for Battlefield 1 content has been lacking compared to previous games. At this point in the lifecycle, two DLC packs (China Rising and Second Assault) had been released for Battlefield 4, and three free maps for Star Wars Battlefront. Battlefield 1 hasn’t seen any new content since Giant’s Shadow back in December. They Shall Not Pass, the first of four paid DLC map packs, aims to rectify this with a heap of new content and a patch. Is all this enough to renew interest in Battlefield 1, or should this content go up in flames?

They Shall Not Pass follows a similar structure laid out in previous Battlefield DLC. You’re getting four new multiplayer maps, a handful of new weapons, a new game mode, a new vehicle, and a few extra goodies. Accompanying the DLC is a new update, which makes some pretty drastic changes to the game.

The theme of this DLC is France. All of the maps are based on famous battle sites in France, the French designed all the weapons, and the French army is finally included. Considering how important France was to the war effort, it was a slap in the face to the country when it was revealed that there would be no French army in the base game. It’s nice that they’re finally getting their time to shine with their own dedicated DLC, but they really should have been in the base game fighting on the base French maps.

The four maps form the two new Operations. Verdun Heights and Fort de Vaux form the infantry-only The Devil’s Anvil Operation, and Soissons and Rupture form the vehicle-focused Beyond the Marne Operation. Three of these maps are excellent, and one is brought down by a genuinely terrible design decision by DICE.

Verdun Heights is the most visually striking of the maps, and the most intense to play. Set on a sprawling hill that’s set on fire, Verdun defines what hell war is. It also delivers on the promise of trench warfare, giving players plenty of trenches to run through, and delivering death to those who avoid using them. Rupture has its own beauty, being set on a poppy-filled field bisected by a river. It’s probably the most balanced to play on with the best flag placement of all the DLC maps. With enough trenches, a giant bridge, and some well-placed buildings, a battle on Rupture always feels fair.

Probably the biggest problem with the They Shall Not Pass maps is that there’s a distinct sense of déjà vu. There’s a lot of recycling of models, textures, and environments from the base game because there were already French maps in it. Soissons sums this feeling up perfectly as it feels like a mash of St. Quentin’s Scar, Ballroom Blitz, and Monte Grappa (which isn’t even a French map). You have a Chateaux, a pristine village, muddy ruins, and a very steep hill. None of the elements of Soissons are as large as the other maps (the chateaux is tiny compared to Ballroom Blitz’s), but it’s hard not to look at them and think that this is just an amalgamation of other maps. It’s still fun to play and is easily the best Team Deathmatch map of the bunch.

Finally, we have Fort De Vaux, which is the Operation Locker of Battlefield 1. Tight indoor corridors are the hallmark of this map, and it gives players that intense infantry-only experience missing from the base game, but DICE ruins it. What could have been a fan-favorite map is quickly destroyed due to horrible design changes that accompany the DLC. With the latest patch, grenades now auto-replenish after about 30 seconds. Players no longer have to hope that a Support unit comes to replenish their grenades, they can just wait 30 seconds and get a new one. With such tight corridors, Fort De Vaux quickly descends into a fragfest. Battlefield 1 has had problems with grenade spam since day one, and it just got worse.

Accompanying the maps is the new mode Frontlines. A hybrid of Conquest and Rush, this 32-player mode tasks both teams with capturing flags in a linear fashion to push back the opponent, and then destroying the two telegraphs. Should the attacking team fail to destroy the telegraphs with the allotted tickets, the defenders push back into the flag capture section of the mode. It can be a fun tug-of-war mode, but it can also become a huge pain if one team is more skilled and bulldozes the competition. If you like the mode, though, you’ll need to get your play time in fast. Due to DICE making the mode exclusive to the DLC, it, like all other Battlefield DLC game modes, is destined to die a quick death shortly after launch.

Then we have the new guns. Assault gets the Sjogren Inertial Factory shotgun and the Ribeyrolles factory SMG, Medic gets the RSC 1917 factory/optical rifle, Support gets the Chauchat low weight/telescopic LMG, and the Scout gets the Level Model 1886 infantry/sniper bolt-action rifle. Plus, there’s a new pistol for the tanker class. DICE has done an excellent job at balancing these new weapons. Each has distinct strengths and weaknesses that fill niches within each of their classes. For example, the RSC 1917 is the first medic rifle that can bring down an enemy in two shots, but its fire rate makes it terrible in up close encounters. They’re all exciting to use if you have the patience to get them. Unlike previous Battlefield DLC, weapons here don’t automatically unlock but have to be earned through arbitrary challenges. This was likely done to create a sense of player progression the base game currently lacks, but it’s a blow to people who really want to use them. People paid to play with these weapons, not to complete tedious challenges to unlock them.

Rounding out the offering is the new Trench Raider elite class, the St. Chamond assault tank, and the Char 2C Tank, the new Behemoth. Only available on two of the maps, the Char 2C is a beast of a tank, and, in the hands of a competent player, can really turn the tide of battle. This is the first behemoth that has actually felt like it has an impact on the game. While powerful, it can be awkward to maneuver, and when placed in the hands of a novice player, can be quickly downed. It would be perfect for the Char 2C to be retroactively added to St. Quentin’s Scar or Ballroom Blitz, but that’s unlikely to happen.

Closing Comments

Battlefield 1: They Shall Not Pass feels like it shouldn’t have taken as long as it has to release. While it feels good to finally have something new to sink our teeth into in Battlefield 1, They Shall Not Pass feels like content that should have been there at launch or earlier in the lifecycle. Three of the new maps are fantastic and stand strong when compared to the base maps, but there’s a strong sense of déjà vu about them. The final map, while good on paper, is ultimately brought down by poor design decisions, and the new weapons, while fun, are locked beyond arbitrary walls. There’s a decent amount of content here, but it doesn’t justify the asking price, or how long it’s taken to actually get a substantial amount of new content in Battlefield 1.

Battlefield 1: They Shall Not Pass is available now for those who own the $49.99 Premium Pass on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It’ll launch as a standalone $14.99 purchase for everyone on March 28.