While World War II shooters have never truly fallen out of fashion, we’ve seen a resurgence in recent years. Compared to the tight tactical skirmishes of more modern day FPS titles like Rainbow Six Siege and Modern Warfare, we’ve seen historic shooters swing in the opposite direction. Enlisted prides itself on huge battles that attempt to capture the vast scale of real-life campaigns fought between the Axis and Allies during the Second World War. As Enlisted enters open beta on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC, we thought we’d dive in for a preview.
With Battlefield seemingly stepping away from WW2 once again (rumours hinting the next game in EA’s franchise will be semi-futuristic), Enlisted is one of the games looking to fill the vacuum forming as players peel away from Battlefield V.
Developed by Darkflow Software and published by Gaijin Entertainment, Enlisted isn’t completely without pedigree though it’s fair to say these names aren’t quite as well established as DICE or Sledgehammer within the FPS genre. However, what they’ve created is an intriguing new entry that fuses familiar shooter gameplay with some unique ideas.
Enlisted has its own interpretation of what a “squad-based shooter” means. Instead of controlling just one soldier you get to command an entire squad, AI troops supporting your flanks as you march into battle. When you get gunned down,you can assume control of a surviving squad member, with only a full squad wipe prompting you to select another squad before respawning.
These AI grunts aren’t exactly decorated war heroes.They’re quite capable of racking up a kill count, but they’ll just as often leave themselves exposed to enemy fire. A command wheel will allow you to issue orders though it’s fairly limited right now – you’ll mainly want your squad to hunker down, using the extra manpower to help hold down a control point. While this feels like an odd design choice, Enlisted highlights how these battles weren’t won by blockbuster heroics but the en masse sacrifice of brave soldiers fighting for every inch.
The way Enlisted deals with player progression is just as unconventional and a bit confusing at first. This early version of the game allows you to dive into two campaigns – Moscow and Normandy – being able to switch from one to the other between battles. These campaigns will dictate which multiplayer maps you can access as well as which squads and weapons are available, based on those available in history. Each campaign also comes with its own progression bar and specific unlocks. So, if you continue to wage war in Normandy, you’ll eventually gain access to specialised squads and loadout options.
Speaking of squads, you should think of these as classes. For example, you’ll have squads who deploy in tanks, some in fighter planes, and other infantry units defined by special weapons such as mortars and flamethrowers. There’s some overlap too, as you’ll be able to slot additional guns and gadgets depending on your playstyle.
Enlisted definitely leans more towards Battlefield than Call of Duty when it comes to gameplay. There’s a slight heft to the way soldiers move, aim, and shoot, as opposed to CoD’s much snappier handling, and vehicles will require you to wrestle with their appropriately tanky controls. Primarily designed with PC players in mind, the button layout on console (Xbox Series X|S and PS5) can take some getting used to as you try and cycle through weapons, equip grenades, interact with the environment, and issue orders to your squadmates. Thankfully the shooting is precise and there’s just the right amount of feedback as you handle a variety of classic WWII weapons.
The time-to-kill is pretty quick in Enlisted. A clean rifle shot is usually enough to down an enemy soldier, either killing them outright or forcing them to revive if they have a medkit in hand. A low TTK can often be a cause of frustration in online shooters though Enlisted’s squad feature means you can immediately snap to surviving member of your crew should you get shot down. However, as mentioned before, your AI comrades can easily turn into fodder if you aren’t paying attention and let them wander out of cover.
With Enlisted marching out of closed beta, we’re already seeing new maps, weapons, and other content being pumped into the game. Being free to play means we’re likely to see plenty of boots on the ground in the coming weeks, though whether Darkflow can keep these players hooked will ultimately depend on how they monetise Enlisted and how it balances in-game grinding with paid-for shortcuts.