Battlefield 1 emerged as one of 2016’s most popular shooters, and developer DICE plans on introducing four DLC packs to extend the virtual battle. “They Shall Not Pass” is the title of the first DLC, which will be released on March 14 for players with a Battlefield 1 Premium membership, and March 28 for everyone else. While the name may conjure images of Gandalf fighting the Balrog in Lord of the Rings, the DLC actually focuses on the French Army’s contribution to WWI.
Like the rest of the planned DLC, “They Shall Not Pass” offers a variety of new multiplayer content including: four multiplayer maps, two Operations, six primary weapons, one tank, a behemoth, one game mode, and a new elite class. When combined, this content imparts the battle-hardened ferocity of the French Army as well as the savage nature of combat during the war. After playing the DLC for several hours at a preview event at EA Redwood Studios, my conclusion is that playing as the French Army is a great blast from the past, but I can’t imagine how horrible it was to actually participate in WWI.
New Maps and Mode
Two of the new maps are centered around infantry combat, but stationary artillery cannons partially make up for the lack of vehicles. Verdun Heights is a burning battlefield that has been completely destroyed by the German heavy artillery assault. This map features hills and trenches along with copious amounts of barbed wire and small fires, which makes it perfect for hiding among the nooks and crannies before mounting an assault. In contrast, Fort De Vaux is a gigantic, partially-destroyed fort with numerous rooms and openings that are surrounded by a war-torn landscape. I never felt safe while playing in this map as enemies seemed to come from every direction.
The other two new maps are large, open areas set in a scenic countryside, which makes them ideal for using vehicles. Soissons features an open, grass-covered landscape with a small town and a river running through the middle. It offers a great variety of combat scenarios, which makes it my favorite new map. I really enjoyed driving tanks in Soissons, blowing up buildings and destroying enemies. Rupture is laid out on a similar green countryside, but the town is replaced with small bunkers. This map also features large areas of colorful red flowers, which offers an unusual dichotomy between scenic beauty and brutal combat.
Frontlines is the name of the new online multiplayer mode that comes with the first DLC. It combines elements of Conquest and Rush to create a unique tug-of-war battle that emphasizes team play and cooperation. Each side fights over a designated flag, and when it’s taken by one side, the other side retreats to a new flag that becomes contestable. When the flag nearest one team’s home base is taken, they must retreat and protect their telegraph posts so their artillery can blow up the attackers. The game ends when both telegraph posts are deactivated.
New Weapons and Vehicles
Six new weapons are introduced in “They Shall Not Pass” that offer variety, but none of them provide a distinct advantage. The assault class gets a new sub-machine gun and a new shotgun, both of which emerged as my favorite new weapons. The sub-machine gun has a good range and fast rpm, and the powerful shotty will definitely elicit cries of “nerf it now” from whiners. I enjoyed playing with the new medic and scout rifles, but they don’t seem much different than what’s already available. The only new weapon I don’t like is the support machine gun because it has a really slow fire rate that makes it difficult to lead targets.
Four new melee weapons and three new elite melee puzzle weapons will be available in the first DLC. They vary between a razor-sharp saber and odd-shaped knives, but my favorite is the metal cog club. This brutal melee weapon is little more than a large metal cog on the end of a stick, but it looks really cool. Speaking of melee weapons, a new melee-based class called the Trench Raider lets players rush into battle with thick armor, a deadly Raider club, and an arsenal of grenades. I can’t wait to lurk in the shadows of buildings, bunkers, and forts as the Trench Raider and play whack-a-mole with unwary enemies.
One new vehicle comes with the first DLC, and it’s the St. Chamond assault tank. This heavy metal beast is larger than any other tank in the game, and its main cannon is really powerful! I like how it has a separate seat for the forward-facing machine gun, so drivers don’t have to switch between the main gun and machine gun. Also new is the mighty steel Behemoth tank, Char 2C. This is the first Behemoth that players can freely drive around the battlefield, which not only makes it very formidable, but also harder to take down. This tank is loaded with powerful weapons, but it can be destroyed with a combined effort from the opposing team.
I’m confident that many people will change their opinion of the French Army after donning the signature blue uniform and playing “They Shall Not Pass” for several hours. These WWI soldiers aren’t the apathetic, fancy-pants, wine-drinkers we’ve been lead to believe they are. No, they’re deadly, well-equipped warriors who rush into battle without flinching. In fact, I would be proud to fight alongside them in both the real and virtual realms.
Battlefield 1 They Shall Not Pass hands-on conducted at EA’s Redwood Shores studio, They Shall Not Pass will be available on March 14 for BF1 Premium members, and March 28 for everyone else.