Enlisted is a bold attempt at tackling a bloated genre. The World War II shooter has more entries than I can count, but even bolder than trying to crack this style is that it’s also entering the similarly-crowded online-only field.
How Enlisted distinguishes itself is via visceral realism. The player is in charge of a squad or vehicle and uses basic squad commands to hold down points and kill enemies. The ‘realism’ is in the quality of combat — tanks are powerful but clunky to use, and bullets down soldiers in one shot.
Enlisted also has a rudimentary levelling system with squads improving in quality and prowess. I saw the term ‘MMO’ on the website, but I wasn’t really aware of that aspect during my playtime.
The basic game modes will be familiar to anyone who’s played an online first-person shooter before. Matches are won by either overrunning checkpoints or controlling specific points for longer than the opponent (During my sessions, matches were played by a combination of human players and bots.)
The battles and the gunplay are hellish, but in a good way. Bullets ping off walls or zip past the player’s head, their presence made worse by the knowledge that it takes just one to end a player and force them to either pick another member of their squad or, if the squad is wiped out, pick a new squad. Enlisted aims for an emergent version of the beach moment from Saving Private Ryan, and the stress here is definitely evocative of that scene.
Enlisted is currently in early access and it shows, as there are definitely elements of the presentation that still need work.
One issue is that bushes vanish when looking at them down sights, which makes it possible to kill enemies that should not be visible. The game also doesn’t seem to have a defense against tanks that isn’t ‘more tanks’, which leads to late-game imbalance where there are tanks everywhere and being on foot is a death sentence. Realistic for sure, but certainly not engaging.
I often complain about UI that seems lifted straight from PC and Enlisted commits this sin. It’s not as bad as some, but un-optimized things like scrolling through options while trying to figure out if I am supposed (or even allowed) to upgrade a squad shows that they haven’t done much (yet) to make the experience friendly to console players.
In many ways I feel sorry for Enlisted – from what I’ve seen so far, it’s a solid attempt at replicating the chaos of war, while offering a more rooted approach to combat. It deserves fans and this first iteration is good, but even making allowances for its early access status, I think it’s going to have to do something more in order to garner attention.