They Shall Not Pass is the first of four Battlefield 1 (opens in new tab) expansions. It’s part of the game’s Season Pass, so anyone who invested early will just get everything here automatically. The big question, then, is whether or not this collection of additional maps, fresh weapons, and a new mode is enough to make anyone still on the fence part with their cash. If the quality on offer here is any indication of the remainder of Battlefield 1’s DLC plans then… yes, you should buy it.
However, while the actual contents of the download are first-class, there’s little significantly new here. Even the fresh game mode, Frontlines, is very much a hybrid of Operations, Conquest, and Rush - there’s nothing revolutionary about it. Is it entertaining? Well, that really depends on how finely balanced the teams are. It’s a 24-player mode, and often as one-sided as Domination, with the superior side able to bulldoze its opposition in a matter of minutes. There’s something hugely demoralising about being on the losing side in Frontlines; it feels like you’re trying to hold back the tide as it washes over you and thoroughly dilutes your K/D and win/loss ratio. A finely balanced game, however, can be a delight. The push and pull of capturing objectives then being pushed back, before regrouping and recapturing very much plays to Battlefield 1’s ethos of taking ground inch by inch. Here games can last longer than Conquest matches as teams scrap for supremacy, attempting to finally reach the opposition’s base. A fun addition then, but only under specific conditions.
What really impresses in They Shall Not Pass, however, are the maps. Verdun Heights is the stand-out large-scale map, offering a more muddy, desperate, trench-filled landscape to Conquest and Operations. Think St Quentin’s Scar mixed with Monte Grappa, only everything is on fire and even more ruined. The forest at Verdun burns in the background, and when the fog descends this map takes on an eerie beauty. For small scale, Fort De Vaux is absolute king, offering tight indoor corridors and flat, open areas of trenchwork. However, it suffers from too many bottlenecks in larger modes, and can become a grind if you’re attacking these smaller spaces.
Soissons is perhaps the most anonymous of the new maps, but the pretty French village at its heart is one of the best designed close-quarters area of any BF1 map. There are more interesting structures to push through, a river running under the town, and even wooden look-out posts for Scouts to hide in. It’s asymmetrically planned too, so you don’t get any of the death corridors and endless roof snipers like on Sinai Desert. It’s quietly destined to be a fan favourite. Finally, Rupture is the most visually striking map, its small hillocks cut through with tight trenches, and overgrown with poppies. Rusted tanks rest around the landscape, lending the map a weird dream-like quality. It’s a wonderful outside space, with few places to hide from snipers and mortar fire.
What else is new? Guns. There are six fresh guns, four melee weapons, and a new Elite class. The pick of the weapons is the Sjogren Inertial Factory (Assault class shotgun), which fires rapidly but doesn’t offer the same range as the OP Model 10A Hunter. Elsewhere the Ribeyrolles machine gun packs rapid-fire punch for Assault players, and feels very satisfying to use, while the Medic gets the RSC 1917 as either an optical or factory model. It’s far slower to use than the Mondragon, for example, but you can take down foes with two shots. As someone who plays Medic as my main, it felt a little too slow and inaccurate to become a favourite for me. The woefully underappreciated Support class gets the Chauchat Low Weight / Telescopic LMG, which offers a meaty punch at medium range (and looks ace). It’s the best of the Support’s weapons to date. Finally, the Scout gets the Lebel Model 1886, which feels… fairly anonymous. Fire rate seems higher than most rifles, but it’s weak by comparison. The new pistol is nothing to shout about either.
Melee weapons are suitably nasty, but mainly here for visual impact. There’s a cogwheel club, a Trench Fleur knife, a Nail knife, and a special mace carried by the Trench Raider elite. Speaking of which, the Raider is handy in some of They Shall Not Pass’s tighter maps, mixing melee with grenades and some fancy armour to dominate at close-quarters. It’s not as handy as the Flame Trooper, but an interesting new addition.
Finally, the new Behemoth: the Char 2C Tank. While the addition of the Airship or Dreadnought makes very little difference to a game of Conquest, the Char 2C genuinely shifts the momentum of battle. It’s tough, mobile, and bristling with weapons. During one game my team was ahead by 150 tickets at the half way point. After the arrival of the Char 2C we lost by 150 tickets in the end. It’s a beast. Maybe too powerful.
Overall, then, a decent if uninventive offering. What matters here is the quality of everything on offer, and the maps are some of the best in BF1. Frontlines is unlikely to become a most-played mode, but you’re likely to experience a couple of truly memorable games if you wait out the one-sided battles for long enough. They Shall Not Pass will provide enough new stuff to keep existing Season Pass members happy, and is a good indication for newcomers that the outlay for the pass is going to be money well spent. Do not pass on They Shall Not Pass.