Call of Duty: WWII takes a break from futuristic warfare and goes back to where it shined nine years ago: World War II. It was in 2008 when Treyarch and Activision released Call of Duty: World at War, marking the last chapter the world-renowned shooter series would spend on World War II for years to come. Now, with Sledgehammer Games at the head of the project, we will get to relive history’s most large-scale conflict with years’ worth of improved technology, storytelling, multiplayer and zombies.
Initial release date: November 3, 2017
Series: Call of Duty
Developers: Sledgehammer Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows (tested)
Designers: Glen Schofield, Michael Condrey
Call of Duty: WWII campaign takes place on the Western Front of Europe, starting at the invasion of the beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The story is centered on American forces, placing the player in the role of Private Ronald “Red” Daniels and his squad mates in the First Platoon as they fight their way to the beaches after an epic opening, across the countryside of France, and into the heart of Germany. Daniels will get to commandeer vehicles like tanks and planes and go covert on spy missions to gather intel and sabotage fortresses for his squad mates. The epic campaign tells a tighter and more focused story than previous iterations, with little to no attention paid to other angles of the conflict.
Almost a decade of improvements has made the gunplay one of the best things this title has to offer. Tommy guns, MP40, 44s and Lee Enfield rifles all feel more sleek, polished and impactful than ever before. Even the boots-on-the-ground movement feels smooth, leaving behind years of special suits with high-flying, double jumps and wall running capabilities. It could have been a limitation but moving back from futuristic settings has improved the overall gameplay in Call of Duty. From time to time we will be given the option to perform heroic actions, like saving fellow squad mates from certain death by dragging them to safe spots or sparing enemies, and it is always satisfying to pull those out.
For those who don’t care about the few hours of gameplay you can take out of the campaign, multiplayer is where the fun beings. Aside from the regular modes, we have now a new Headquarters hub and an objective based War mode. The new hub is like the idea presented by Destiny, where players are grouped together in a place, in this case an Allied camp. Here, they can take on challenges, collect rewards, create custom emblems and gun paint, and more. You complete challenges to earn the always controversial loot crates to unlock cosmetic goodies like emotes, uniform pieces, and on rare occasions, rare versions of guns that offer a perk or two over their regular versions. As a replacement to a regular menu, the new hub is an improvement.
War mode is a fresh and very welcome addition that joins the regular line-up of multiplayer modes. It brings with it a depth and dynamism that was not present anywhere else in the game. Similar to what we have seen in games like Overwatch, teams alternate between offensive and defensive roles to fight over segments of a battlefield. If the offensive team overcomes the defenses of the first objective, they will move on to the second and so on and so forth. We have three maps available for War Mode: Operation Breakout (available during beta and events), Operation Neptune and Operation Griffin. The offensive team must complete a series of challenges like holding a house Domination-style or building a bridge while the defense attempts to hold them off until a timer runs out. For instance, in Operation Breakout, The Allied forces are attempting to take out the German anti-aircraft guns on the far side of the map. To do so, you have to first take down a German outpost, then build a bridge across a ravine to let your tank through, then bomb the enemy’s ammo depot, and finally escort the tank to the enemy guns. The defensive team can build walls or turrets to help with defenses; the offensive team can demolish these. Capturing the outpost simply requires the attackers to hold on to that point for long enough. Building the bridge is much harder and requires multiple people to toss smoke grenades for cover and then throw themselves prone to build the bridge while being peppered with bullets. This kind of objectives completely shakes the Call of Duty meta. Your kill-death ratio is no longer relevant if you want to win the game. You are now required to provide support to your team and your common goal. The typical brute force tactics won’t work here either: it is more important to survive long enough to complete an objective than to kill a few enemies. War mode will demand cooperation to win games, and it is incredibly fun.
We also have a new iteration of the beloved four-player co-op Zombie mode. The setting has transitioned from a Spaceland theme park to a much creepier one along with a story that suits it best. The four main characters must retrieve art that was stolen by the Axis powers. The main objective remains simple: survive hordes of zombies. It’s a little tenser, but with a whole world of upgrade systems that can make it easier to survive the waves of undead. Similar to War Mode, Teamwork is vital in Nazi Zombies, not only for basic survival, but to complete the story quest that opens more areas, mysteries, and leads to a final boss. It would be a disservice to spoil the story or mechanics of this mode, but one thing worth noting is that you won’t make much progress without proper teamwork, something that should be streamlined and encouraged more on this mode. Filled with intense cutscenes, Easter eggs, tasks and unlockable characters, the mode feels meatier than previous iterations.
Should you play it? Yes. Call of Duty: WWII is a must for fans of the series, but it would be difficult to categorize it as the best iteration in the franchise. It is darker, muddier, and more gruesome than previous iterations. The campaign is intense, and it will keep you hooked while it last. It perfectly depicts the horrors of the conflict as the Allies fought their way into to the Eagle’s Nest, but often it feels like an all-American campaign with a really narrow perspective. Multiplayer is as tight as ever and War mode is a solid addition that will probably stay with us for a long time since it provides room for improvements and enhancements. On the same note, Zombie Mode is still Zombie Mode and fans will find a lot to discover and challenge in the new scenario.