By: Tyler Miller
For the past couple of years, Call of Duty has moved from the modern day/very near future, and gone into the far future, introducing exo suits, jetpacks and nano implants, and full on space combat with laser weapons. Now Sledgehammer Games takes the series back to its roots in Call of Duty: WWII, with the hopes of bringing back estranged fans for a classic “boots on the ground” experience.
WWII puts you in the shoes of Private Ronald “Red” Daniels as he fights his way across Europe with his squad, starting with the assault on Normandy on D-Day, and ending with the assault on the Rhine. Alongside you are your squad mates Zussman, Pierson, Turner, Aiello, and Stiles. Each of them is likable and has their own personality to try and help them stand out from one another. This works to selling you on the brotherhood that these guys have with one another, as well as making you care about them. It’s unfortunate though that the game focuses more on Zussman, Pierson, and Turner, leaving Aiello and Stiles in the background to fend for themselves.
While the story may not give all of your squad mates equal attention, the gameplay does. Each member has a unique ability that refills as you get kills. Turner will toss you ammo, Pierson will point out targets, and Stiles will refill your grenades. The most important one is Zussman’s ability to toss you a med kit to refill your health, as your health doesn’t regenerate on its own in this game. You have a health bar, so you need to make sure you have health kits in order to survive, especially on Veteran difficulty.
The campaign is just as explosive as in past games, but it doesn’t have a problem letting the player enjoy more quiet moments, like walking around your platoon’s camp and taking ammo to another soldier before heading off to fight another battle. While the story itself isn’t bad, it’s not the most interesting either. Because of the structure of the campaign and the time period, it feels more like you’re playing through the “best of” episodes of a TV show, and not through a connected story.
There are some very fun and exciting missions though in the campaign. One mission puts you in the cockpit of a plane and tasks you with engaging in dogfights against German forces, whereas another one has you infiltrating a Nazi headquarters to meet up with a double agent and eliminate a high ranking officer. These missions were the highlights of the campaign for me, and I wish the story was able to be as memorable as them.
As with all Call of Duty games, the multiplayer is where you’ll be spending most of your time, and this year’s entry has the potential to be the same. Going hand in hand with a return to WWII, the pace of multiplayer is slower than in the past couple games. That doesn’t mean that the game is any less intense though. Many classic modes such as Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Search & Destroy return in WWII, and they maintain the same frenetic energy that older “boots on the ground” games had.
Sledgehammer changed up the way that Create-A-Class works in this game with a new system called Divisions. You can choose from one of five divisions that specialize in a certain weapon class and have their own perks.
Airborne is all about submachine guns and speed; Infantry focuses on rifles and charging into battle; Mountain specializes in snipers and keeping a low profile; Armored is for the light-machine guns and protection from equipment; and Expeditionary gives its attention to shotguns and equipment. Although each Division has its one weapon that it enhances, you can use any weapon with any Division. You just won’t be able to reap the weapon benefits of that Division.
On top of Divisions, you can only choose one Basic Training (read: perk) to take with you. This causes you to really pick and choose what matters to you the most for your class, and make it work in tandem with whatever Division you’re using. While it does make you really have to think about your choices for your class, it doesn’t match up to or surpass the Pick 10 system that Treyarch introduced years ago.
Scorestreaks return as well, and they’re more subdued than recent ones have been. They aren’t the most exciting streaks to use though, so there isn’t too much of a drive or urge to use them outside of your standard Recon Plane or Glide Bomb. This combined with the new Create-A-Class system results in a game that is far more focused on gunfights and not perks or streaks.
The best new addition to multiplayer by far is War mode. This is a two round, attack and defend mode where the attacking team has to push through a couple of different objectives in a certain amount of time in order to win the match, while the defending team has to hold them back. The key to success in this mode is teamwork. A well coordinated defensive team can win on the first objective, while a team that’s working together on the offensive can sweep the match in minutes.
Matches of War are the most fun you’ll have in multiplayer, especially in the matches that come down to the wire with everyone giving their all and throwing themselves at the objective to secure a win for their team. The only downside is that there are only three maps for War mode as of now. Thankfully, the mode is fun and matches are varied enough that the three maps never really get tiring or boring to play on.
The other new addition to multiplayer is Headquarters, a Destiny-esque social hub where up to 50 players can all hang out in between matches. Here you can take part in 1v1 matches against other people, test out weapons at the firing range, and practice using scorestreaks. It’s also here where you do everything related to supply drops, Call of Duty‘s returning version of loot boxes.
Supply drops can be earned through completing orders (challenges for you to complete in matches), contracts (similar to orders, except you pay for them with armory credits), and by playing the multiplayer itself. They can also be bought with COD Points, Call of Duty’s premium currency that you buy with real money. You can get the many pieces of loot the game has to offer through either the supply drops, or by using armory credits to buy them yourself. Armory credits is in-game currency that you get by completing orders and contracts, and as a daily reward for logging in. If you ever get a duplicate item in a supply drop, it’s converted into a set amount of armory credits based on the rarity of the item.
Most of the items in supply drops are purely cosmetic. Pistol grips and character emotes litter the supply drops, but there are also calling cards, emblems, and different outfits to wear. While there are weapon variants, they don’t perform differently at all. They only offer a nice new coat of paint. At the time of writing, there’s an in-game event taking place that offers five weapons in the supply drops, but they don’t offer an particular advantage over any of the non-supply drop weapons. They can also be bought with armory credits or by completing challenges just like everything else.
While multiplayer is fun, it’s not as fun as in past games. There are only nine maps in the main multiplayer mode, the smallest amount since the first Modern Warfare. That number gets boosted up to ten if you count the season pass exclusive, Carentan, and thirteen if you count the three War maps. This wouldn’t be an issue though if the maps were good. Many of the maps are similar in how they feel and play, causing them to be boring to play on. They’re also filled with many spots to “head-glitch,” an exploit where a player sits behind a wall that only causes their head to be exposed to enemies, but for them, they’re upper body is exposed behind the wall.
On top of that, not many of the maps are that good either. Take U.S.S. Texas for instance. The map takes places on a battleship at sea, with each team spawning on opposing sides of the map. In the middle is an indoor section with an upper and lower level on each side, with the upper levels overlooking each team’s spawn area. What this leads to is teams trapping each other in their spawns and killing them over and over again, and it’s just not fun.
Add on the fact that as the other team pushes into your spawn, the game will continue to spawn you on that same side a few more times, causing you to get killed seconds after spawning by someone who was around the corner from you before the game finally moves your team to the other side of the map.
There’s also the issue of hit detection. The hit detection in WWII is spotty and not the most consistent. Sometimes it can take three shots to kill an enemy who’s not too far away from you, and other times you may pump five or six shots into them before they kill you in what feels like two. It never makes sense and it feels cheap when you’re getting insta-killed by people who are using the same weapon as you.
It becomes a very frustrating experience when you can have one really good match where all your shots are landing just right and the spawns are working for you, only to be followed up by a match where the hit detection is just not in your favor and you’re getting spawned in the worst places possible. I’ve never played a Call of Duty game where I didn’t want to play more than an hour, or just didn’t want to play the multiplayer anymore, but these issues make me feel that way. Thankfully, War mode manages to avoid most of these issues, making it the shining beacon of multiplayer.
Zombies rounds out everything that WWII has to offer, and it’s a solid take on the popular mode. Sledgehammer takes the co-op mode back to its horror roots and the game is better for it. Zombies has gotten increasingly crazy and out there in recent years, and as a result, less scary, so it’s nice to actually have something to be afraid of when playing. The zombies themselves look grotesque and horrifying in a way that they never did before in Treyarch or Infinity Ward’s games.
There’s still an easter egg for die hard fans to complete, and it’s been made easier to know what you need to do this time around, as the game tells you your objective with each step you complete. Thankfully, doing the easter egg or any part of it isn’t necessary to your success on the map, so casual zombie fans can jump in and still enjoy themselves.
Technically speaking, the game looks and sounds great. It’s potentially the best looking COD game to date, and it’s definitely the best sounding. The loud boom of explosions, the pleasant ring of an M1 Garand reloading, and the sound of your weapons firing away are all impressive and make you feel like you’re in the battle.
Call of Duty: WWII is an odd game. The campaign is fun, but the story isn’t that interesting or memorable. I desperately want to like the multiplayer because of the couple of fun times that I have with it, but the frustrations that multiplayer give me make me want to put the game down and not play it anymore. I just can’t ignore how much fun the game is when it all works though, and it makes me give the game another chance every day. I also can’t emphasize how much fun War mode is. Zombies is a fun time too, with some scares in store for you. WWII may not be the “boots on the ground” savior that fans were hoping for, but it is a good game that you’ll get some fun out of.