Call of Duty is the tried and true franchise that is no stranger to the household gamer, even if shooters are not your thing. This year Call of Duty has made a push to go back to “boots on the ground” and a “return to it’s roots”. Many of you reading this may remember the time when all Call of Duty games were World War II based games and that is where Call of Duty: WWII takes it’s roots firmly (as the name implies). So we aren’t jet-packing and running off the walls this year but that isn’t to say its not what we wanted, (because far too long has the community cried for a more “simple” return to glory). Call of Duty: WWII is that in a lot of ways, returning familiar formulas to the franchise veterans but is also not afraid to mix it up here and there.
Call of Duty: WWII is a VERY GOOD looking game. There is no contest about that fact and the detail put into each character and model in the campaign (and multiplayer/zombies alike) is stunning. You might even go on to say that Black Ops III and Infinite Warfare didn’t look this good. As with Advanced Warefare (the previous SledgeHammer Call of Duty) SledgeHammer Games shows itself to be powerhouse of fine details come time for a campaign experience. Even that being the case, its not to say that this entry’s campaign is without its flaws and huge downsides.
The story starts around June 6, 1944, where you take on the role of U.S. Army Private First Class Ronald “Red” Daniels of the 1st Infantry Division. This is of course the very infamous D-Day landing operation that started a turn of the war on the beaches of Normandy. At this point we are introduced to Daniels’ close war-buddy Private First Class Robert Zussman, and fellow squad mates Private Drew Stiles, Technician Fifth Grade Frank Aiello, Technical Sergeant William Pierson and First Lieutenant Joseph Turner. The D-Day mission is very intense with no shame in showing the gore and brutal mutilation that no-doubt took place in real life. This starts the game off really strong and at first feels very promising as it sets up the supporting characters to be in a position of further fleshing out.
Each squad member has a unique trait that can help you in battle such as Zussman providing health kits, Turner giving ammo, and Pierson highlighting enemies, etc, etc. It all builds a sense of the squad being one big tool which ultimately is a great design choice. It is mentioned that Zussman gives you health kits and that is because there is no regenerating health in this game. You must find health kits and use them to stay healthy on the battlefield. Sure, its not “ultra-realistic” in a sense either (just like regenerating health) but its a tactical design choice that works well and helps keep a certain pace throughout each mission.
So what is the issue with the campaign? Truth be told, Call of Duty: WWII feels like it wants to be a mock scene for scene Saving Private Ryan for the more serious and “clincher” moments and can’t help but “Michael Bay” it throughout the more action over-saturation and trope-filled moments. Some critics have called it out as being an unbeknownst self-parody of itself in parts and if you were honest with yourself, you’d be liken to agree. Could we agree that getting hit by a full speed train, even in a sturdy built Jeep would totally mangle it instantly and likely kill everyone inside? Hasten to say, you literally last 10 seconds inside of one before it completely de-rails the whole train in the most hilarious train crash you could never imagine.
This is possibly the worst instance when talking about the train but its sprinkled pretty much through the entire game with your other token driving sections, plane, tank, and stealth missions. Variety is good though, don’t get it wrong but to some extent it feels like it checks the marks just to say “we did it”. Because of this, the character development feels lacking pretty much after the first 2 hours. Sure, we get to know a little more about Pierson and Zussman but for the most part… that is it for your main squad and the others are foundered off. We are introduced to a female French resistance leader and that entails a GREAT “inside job” mission or two to help take back France… but her story is come and go so quick that it feels it could have been more of a hamper to telling a richer story with the initial squad characters instead.
The campaign, long story short, has its goofs and gaffs (and lets not mention the German forces using Russian weaponry on D-DAY with no clarification that Germans possibly used captured weapons from the Eastern front) but it is objectively better than the older WWII Call of Duty titles. The issue is that we are at a point where things are too played out to be “Michael Bay” all the time. If the writing was there and flow was maybe not so much here and there, there could have been an epic campaign waiting in the wings. What we get is only what you’d expected/okay and might be able to at least appease most (and especially those who couldn’t be bothered to finish the BLOPS III and IW campaigns); it is nothing that tops Modern Warfare 2 but potentially enjoyable for those who can look past the played out factor of it.
Note: One element that stands out to be one of the biggest gaffs for Call of Duty: WWII are the sections where you are supposed to save wounded soldiers but the paths and mechanics evolved are so linear and cumbersome. The wounded soldiers come up far too often with a same-y annoying restrictiveness to pull them to safety, and it actually induces all the wrong emotions from you, not including the compassion it so desires to spark. You’ll leave them for dead because its just not worth the headache or reward you get.
The zombies mode has become a yearly staple for Call of Duty and its no surprise here that we get a new “Nazi Zombies” spin off. First off, its not Treyarch’s Nazi Zombies but that doesn’t mean there are merits lost. SledgeHammer’s take feels very much like what we’ve seen in the tried and true formula but taken a step further. Players are given one standard open-world map to play on or if you are more of a classic zombie player, then there is also a linear cabin level you can take a stab at to see how long you last with the few guns and supplies you get. As for the “standard map” it flows like maps in zombie mode’s past where your main goal is to gather points, open doors, and restore the power on the road to discovering the hidden Easter eggs and weapon upgrades.
You’ve got your mystery box. You’ve got your special weapons. You’ve got your mini-boss zombies, perk machines, and you’ve tons of weapons to buy off the wall. If you were wanting Treyarch’s zombies without actually being Treyarch, then joy to you because its pretty much the full package. Newly included with this variation is the ability to pick your starting load-out with the addition of choosing a class to play as.
Depending on what class you pick, there are many ways to play this mode. Each class has their standard perks but each also comes with an ultimate meter that fills up with each new kill. When you’ve filled the meter full you can unleash a powerful ultimate that will help you and your team. For instance, if you are playing a more aggressive style you can use an ultimate to give yourself unlimited ammo with no reloading for a short time. If you are playing as a support class you can activate your ultimate and draw zombie away from your teammates and towards you with a little incentive your way (but these are not the only perks or ultimate abilities).
It would be foxy to not detail the implementation of loot crates in zombies. Yes, you can play to earn loot boxes and even at some point buy them with Call of Duty points, but (at least for now) it only serves to help you get better perks and help the co-op experience for other players. You can play and get crates for free, so there is that option for you. Its not as nefarious as the Battlefront 2 fiasco and very much enjoyable without putting an extra dime into this mode. Let us hope the game-play continues to be balanced in that regard with future zombie installments/maps.
This is going to be a mouthful. Undoubtedly the meat, potatoes, and sole-reason 95% of people buy this game is for the staple multiplayer component. There is a lot to cover here so it will be sectioning it off for your easy reading.
Call of Duty: WWII is structurally very different from past titles in the series. Instead of having a “Pick Ten” system, class load-outs are predetermined and given to us as a self-described “Divisions” system. The divisions are as follows: Infantry- assault rifle proficients, Airborne- sub-machine gun proficients, Armored- light machine gun proficients, Mountaineer- sniper rifle proficients, and Expeditionary- the shotguns proficients. Each class has their own perks that unlock over time as you play and progress in that divisions. For instance, the Mountaineer class when fully leveled, will exhibit perks such as Ghost (doesn’t show up on radar), Dead Silence (footsteps cannot be heard), and much of the like.
That isn’t to say there are some customization that can be had since each class you customize, no matter what division, lets you pick one “Ordinance”. An ordinance is a perk you can pick that isn’t locked to or come with a predetermined division class. Such ordinances may range in the ability to carry two primary weapons, reload and sprint longer, earn score-streaks quicker, and a combinations of most of the other perks that can be found sprinkled in past Call of Duty titles. Granted, some may be put off that you are now very much restricted but you can’t deny that its a major flow change to what we expect in each year’s new Call of Duty; some may say some classes are over-powered (like the mountaineer) but that is their right to opinion.
Its a little bit of give and take in this situation. It is peculiar that they would switch to this format even when “pick ten” was a tried and true formula. Looking back, we did ask for a more “roots” experience for Call of Duty and if you remember, the older WWII games worked on a “class” system and not a perk system. Call of Duty: WWII is simply a mixture of both of those world. In theory, it could have been done worse.
- WEAPONS AND TIME TO KILL
Weapons feel really good in Call of Duty: WWII, generally speaking. There is a current popular opinion in that people consider the BAR (an automatic rifle weapon) to be way over-powered. While the BAR’s volatility can be vouched for by many, that isn’t to say the other guns are flat-out useless. Currently they have pushed one patch out that has helped to re-balance guns, (BAR included) so at least we know they are looking at possible unreasonable stats. Still, the BAR isn’t the end all be all when you have great competition like the MP40, Thompson, M1AI, STG, and even the likes of LMGs as with the Lewis and MG42.
Shotguns could use a tuning as most shotguns feel “meh” or useless at times unless you are running with a barrel extender. That isn’t to say you cant make some sick shotgun classes where you can fire without aiming, while running, and usually hit your target full-on when in range. The maps are relatively small so perhaps with some tweaking to shotgun play, we could see a change in the map meta. As for snipers, Modern Warfare 2 fans will be pleased to hear that quick-scoping is back. Love it or hate it, its now again a thing.
Time to kill you could say is very reasonable. Players no longer sponge damage like a super soldier of tomorrow and a lot of guns average a kill somewhere between 3-4 bullets (not counting sniper rifles and shotguns). Of course you need to factor in the attachments and what they do to each weapons accuracy and fire rate/output/efficiency. Attachments are varied a-plenty in Call of Duty: WWII and that allows for different sights, grip options, and all sorts of variations to help customize around the way you play. Everything said, the gun play is fun in Call of Duty: WWII, as long as you aren’t getting spawn killed…
- MAP SELECTION
In total, not counting the season pass extra map and war maps, there are 9 maps in the standard Call of Duty modes. WHAT HAPPENED to the good days when Modern Warfare 2 launched with 16 standard multiplayer maps that EVERYONE could play or be most interested in playing? Sure, you get 3 maps with WAR but truth-be-told (and while its a fun mode) that is mainly a side-show at this point for one specific game-mode while all the other modes have to cycle through 9 meager maps. Some are good like Ardennes Forest, Gibraltar, Point du Hoc, and Sainte Marie do Mont but others turn into spawn kill nightmares or “camp the other side of the map” fests (Flak Tower, USS Texas, Aachen). Let us not even talk about Gustav Cannon, which in theory should gave been a good sniping map except mostly everyone talking about this map at the time of writing seems to hate it and place it among some of the worst Call of Duty maps ever.
The map debacle in much more streamlined terms, really boils down to the very small selection of maps with only a hand-full being “good”. The biggest set-back is that the best map, Carentan, is locked behind the season pass. Every other map, besides Gustov Cannon, *shudders* is very much a standard 3 lane jig with no real ambition to mix it up more than that. We’ve seen better in other Call of Duty games and with this being a fact, it might become really easy to feel an early onset grind and fatigue set-in (as most every map will feel like a spawn trap nightmare and/or played out over many hours).
Note: This is not saying all the maps are bad. There are a few good ones as mentioned above and its understandable that not all maps will be loved by all. The issue is the same “feel” across most maps which come also very small in nature and with no vast size difference between them excluding the ones exclusive to War. This combined with such a small count when comparing 16 (MW2) to 9 (WWII) maps and you start to feel like it was intentionally done to sell us the better maps in a season pass. If true, that is very greedy and anti-consumer.
The latest addition to the Call of Duty series is the “War” mode. If you are familiar with EA’s Battlefield series, you would know it is a more team and objective based game for most mode. The War mode found in Call of Duty: WWII is an emulation of that in sorts where two teams are separated into different factions, and depending upon the faction and map, you will defend or attack through more than one choke point for the match duration. You are given two rounds so that when one team is done defending, the roles will shift and they will get to attack; the best time attacking or stopping the attack all-together determines the winning team. It’s sort of like “Rush” from a Battlefield game but you have more objectives than just planting/defusing bombs.
War Mode Gameplay- Credit To jackfrags
You are given 3 maps to play on which range greatly in size and can take you from D-Day, to an allied push in a spring-time European town, to a winter campaign as the German’s push to get across an explosives rigged bridge. There is definitely a lot of thought that went into this mode and you are allowed to carry your current load-outs from the standard game into this mode. Where-as in the regular Call of Duty experience, “lone-wolfing it” is really the only way people play, team-work is a must for War. Hats off to SledgeHammer Games for bringing something new and good to the franchise! It’s easily one of the best parts about Call of Duty: WWII but sadly, many may skip out on it because it is so different from the base experience.
Note: For reference, standard game-modes include Team Deathmatch, Domination, Free-For-All, Gridiron (think of rugby meets Call of Duty), Search and Destroy, Hardpoint, Capture The Flag, Kill Confirmed, Moshpit, as well as hardcore variations of some of the listed.
Talking about new things for the franchise, Call of Duty: WWII revolves around a “Headquarters” system. When you start the game and want to enter the multiplayer experience, you are put into a big social room akin to Destiny 2’s “Tower” and here there are various things for you to do. You can interact with others in a shooting range, 1 V 1 course, watch videos of interest in a theater section, and even get into a mode that lets you test out the in-game score-streaks (which are varied very nicely and fun to use). From here is where you can also prestige your soldier’s level as well as any division. This game implements a quartermaster like you’ve seen in recent Call of Duty titles and here you can see what guns are unlock-able with in-game credits. Go visit Major Howard and sign up for challenges, that when completed, can earn you crafting points or perhaps bonus XP for a given time for weapons/soldier/division.
There are a lot of things going for the headquarters system but there are also a lot of bad things. The headquarters is simply not something you can opt out of and you will most likely wish you could. Ever since release and even to this day, the headquarters implementation has been really rocky. To even play multiplayer you must first connect to the headquarters and any party members you wish to play with also. Some days its nigh-impossible to join others due to lobby errors and sometimes the servers just rejecting you outright.
Needless to say that Call of Duty: WWII has had one of the rockiest launches in history of the franchise. It’s a real detour to play the game when you can’t properly connect to friends, the servers put you in a que, or go down for 30 minutes upwards at times. So, you may ask… why jump through all these hopes and have this in the first place? Some say its to entice you to buy supply drops, and they may be right. You get supply drops by completing some challenges or being rewarded them randomly after a game, but you must call them down and open then in the headquarters.
Now, having supply drops fall from the sky to the beaches of Normandy and reveal your digital loot is a PR and historical disaster on its own but the idea is that you do it front of others so they can see what you’ve got (pistol grip camo, soldier skins, calling cards, weapon variants, emotes). You currently cannot buy supply drops at the moment with real money (at time of writing) but that time is quickly approaching. Didn’t get anything good in your box but see a guy across you get that Epic weapon you’ve always wanted? Well pony up and buy supply drops friend! It’s physiological warfare that’s been on the craze since Valve did it with Team Fortress 2 and Blizzard popularized it with Overwatch.
If you want to buy them, that is your prerogative. The fact is, headquarters is a good idea on paper but the real reason behind it isn’t that hard to see when you look at the whole picture. The funneling of everyone through a server farm that doesn’t work half the time just to get into a game, has hurt Call of Duty: WWII‘s launch so far. Here is to hoping they get it sorted out soon enough.