“We’re not lost, Private… we’re in Normandy.”
On November 3rd Call of Duty: WW2 released worldwide following a very successful advertising campaign after announcing a return to its World War 2 roots. The private multiplayer beta that took place in August this year however was met with mixed reviews by many, leaving a lot of people disheartened as to whether the game would deliver on the hype it was generating. Billed as going back to its ‘boots on the ground’ roots for the first time in nearly 9 years, COD: WW2 achieves this somewhat, but by no means conquers it. Having recently played all of the content on offer, I’m going to be giving my verdict on Activision & Sledgehammer Game’s flawed (but faithful) return to the long running shooter franchise.
The Call of Duty franchise has certainly had its fair share of questionable development choices over the years. While many will fondly recall the high notes found in classic titles such as World at War and Modern Warfare 2, the quality of the games that followed left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, so the announcement that the series would be returning to its World War 2 roots was a welcome change that was favoured highly by many. In August of this year, a private multiplayer Beta went live for the game, which was met with a mixed reception; while the multiplayer was enjoyable it was nothing particularly new, just the same old thing with a ‘fresh’ coat of WW2 paint. The core combat was entertaining enough (Activision has to have got something right after all these years) and the returning game mode ‘War’ quite easily offered the best moments to be had in the beta overall; however there were some significantly bad design choices that were just too hard to ignore, that made the experience come across as nothing more than pandering to social justice warriors in an effort to be as politically correct as possible, historical accuracy be damned in the process.
Thankfully there is a lot more to Call of Duty: WW2 than just its multiplayer (as we’re kindly reminded on the back of the box) which can be broken down into three core components: Multiplayer, Campaign and Zombies. Over the course of this article I will be focusing mainly on the campaign, as the core multiplayer experience honestly hasn’t changed all that much since August (I covered the multiplayer in some depth within my Private Beta article which can be found here) and Zombies doesn’t really change from year to year, but more on that later. Thus far COD: WW2 seems to be doing pretty well (sales wise at least) as it has already surpassed the abysmal sales of Infinite Warfare by over 50% generating over $500 million on its opening weekend alone, indicating that the hype surrounding the game has paid off exponentially (even though we all know the vast majority of that money has come from the parents of the series’ infamous squeaker following).
War is the still the standout mode for the Multiplayer component in Call of Duty: WW2 this time around.
It’s been a long while since I’ve played a campaign for a Call of Duty game, with the last time I dipped into the series was when Makarov, Soap and Captain Price went after that infernal bastard Shepherd, so my take on the quality of the campaign in comparison to previous iterations is going to be un-biased as possible (I still love historic shooters). The game begins in usual fashion for a WW2 game, with an old-timey radio presenter narrating over a number of black and white scenes ranging from marching Nazi forces, air raids over London to American troops heading towards Omaha beach. Working in conjunction with a very stoic and heroism inducing score, the scene excels at getting one immersed into the theme of the game, making you realise that the conflict in question was a very real struggle that was fought in the face of adversity and oppression; something that today’s generation has forgotten, as they fight for completely trivial shite such as the right to identify as a f*cking cat (this is a legit thing btw, you can’t even make this crap up).
The campaign follows the 1st infantry division as they advance across the European Theatre of War in the mid to late stages of 1944; starting out with the D-Day landing on Omaha beach, following through a number of key events leading to the eventual crossing of the Rhine via Ludendorff Bridge in the Battle of Remagen. The narrative places you in the shoes of Private Ronald ‘Red’ Daniels, a green eyed young recruit from Texas who is part of a platoon of soldiers that make up the cast of characters from the game. Most notable is Sergeant Pierson (voiced by Transformers actor Josh Duhamel) who plays the ‘superior officer who is a complete asshole’ role (think David Schwimmer in Band of Brothers) that always seems to have it in for the grunts in his squad. The camaraderie between brothers is usually what makes fictionalised stories of soldiers in WW2 work, however most of the campaign is spent fleshing out Duhamel’s character while drawing the focus away from the more interesting characters of the squad like Private Zussman or Lieutenant Turner.
Brotherhood: You’re obviously meant to care about your fellow squad mates in Call of Duty: WW2, however the camaraderie is put on the backburner in favour of less interesting plot points, such as the troubled history between Sergeant Pierson and Lieutenant Turner.
In terms of visuals, the campaign in Call of Duty: WW2 is a sight to behold, taking full advantage of the PS4 Pro’s hardware. The game offers a dynamic resolution system that shifts between 1920×2160 and full on 3840x2160p, always offering a sharp picture running consistently at a solid 60fps. The only quarrels to be found is that the HDR can sometimes make the game look flat and washed out (especially in some of the darker areas) otherwise the presentation is flawless. The combat is especially fun this time around, hosting an arsenal of classic WW2 weapons ranging from the classic M1 Garand and its signature ‘ping’ to the powerhouse that was the German StG 44. While the historical accuracy regarding reload animations (reloading an M1 Garand mid clip was apparently a thing) and fire rates could be a bit more accurate, it doesn’t take away from the spectacle of combat in any way, as most of the fun than can be had in the game are gunning down Nazis (anyone noticing a recurring theme here?) in some of the most infamous battles of the war, such as the bloody and brutal Battle of the Bulge. The campaign has 11 missions in total which can be blasted out in about 7 hours or so; if I was to offer any advice however, it would be to go straight in on Veteran mode, which offers the perfect level of challenge and realism that truly ramps up the immersion factor. There’s also that underlying issue of the campaign apparently being “100% historically accurate” most notably in the use of the Swastika; while it’s obvious at this point that they were never going to include it in the multiplayer (don’t get me started on black, female Nazis) it’s also censored somewhat in the story as well, such as on the armbands of generals, instead being replaced with an iron cross.
While the campaign is pretty solid and offers some memorable moments in one of FPS’s more interesting eras, the same can’t be said for the multiplayer (that’s if you can actually get into a game). As aforementioned, things haven’t really changed much since August; SMG’s are no longer king, and the removal of jetpacks and wall running means that the bane of every Call of Duty player is back: campers, only this time around the vast majority of the community has adopted the scrublord tactic. The usual plethora of modes have made a return, and there is some serious fun to be had provided you enjoy COD’s multiplayer (It’s a Marmite sort of thing). The new headquarters mode is an also interesting diversion, but is Destiny’s tower in everything but name and annoying Cryptarch (I genuinely hate you Master Rahool) not to mention the entire ‘loot box’ controversy that the game currently has going on at the minute, which of course stinks very much like Activision. For the most part however Sledgehammer have succeeded in bringing back the old school ‘boots on the ground’ experience from the days of yore, it’s just that the community has devolved a lot since then, indicating it may be a while before things truly play like they once used to (you still need the reaction speed of a headless chicken in 1944 apparently).
“100% Historically Accurate”: Censoring history is never a good idea, especially if the only reason to do so is to avoid potential controversy from people who are offended by literally everything.
Last and most certainly least, we have the ‘new’ Nazi Zombies mode, featuring an all star cast with the likes of David Tennant, Ving Rhames and Udo Kier portraying the characters within the mode. The mode plays very much how Zombies has always played, you kill waves and waves of enemies before progressing to the next area and repeating the same. While I didn’t particularly enjoy the mode myself, it can’t be denied that it is one of COD’s more popular multiplayer modes, so that has to stand for something.
Overall I wasn’t too impressed with Call of Duty: WW2, and no one is more disappointed with that fact than me. What could have been a chance to bring a truly innovative game centered around one of my (and no doubt countless others) favourite shooter settings, turned out to be nothing more than the ‘same old thing’ that’s pumped out year after year with a ‘fresh’ coat of WW2 paint. Worth playing for the campaign alone, but is not worth paying £45-50 for the privilege to do so. Wait for it to come down in price or pick it up next year when COD 2018 is out, you’ll thank me for it later.