Call of Duty is a series that has grown stale for many players throughout the years. Annual games, lackluster updates, and by-the-books multiplayer have turned away many while simultaneously maintaining a loyal following. The new boots on the ground approach (of which we heard far less than expected) sets out to take Call of Duty: WWII back to its roots.
This is far more than simply riding on the coattails of better days and nostalgia. This is a Call of Duty crafted with passion and dedication, the likes of which we haven’t seen from the franchise in some time. Call of Duty: World War II aims to redefine the genre and bring World War II to an entirely new generation.
Shaping a Blockbuster Campaign
Call of Duty: World War II tells the classic story of an unbreakable bond between brothers while preserving the free world and its descent into tyranny. From what I saw, the campaign was gritty, real, and not just your common throwaway Call of Duty campaign.
In this day and age, it’s expected that Call of Duty produces a large scale blockbuster campaign, and that’s no different here. But what really surprised me was the sense of horror and realism that was shaped throughout the battlefield. There is no glory in running through mowing down enemy after enemy. The player feels like it’s necessary to survive. One scene that stood out for me wasn’t a focus at all but rather a throwaway moment that could be missed if you looked away for a second. The scene had the player running through a broken down house only to find a soldier (who you assume you’d save) lift a gun up to his head and pull the trigger. This sets us up for a very dark and different campaign than we’re used to.
One of the biggest changes I noticed while watching the campaign mission was the lack of regenerating health. To regain health you need to call on a partner to toss a health pack or simply find one in the game world. I was extremely impressed with this mechanic but was rather disappointed it didn’t find it’s way into multiplayer (we’ll get to that in a bit). This seems like it will add a sense of danger and strategy to each fight, though it’s yet to be seen how drastically this will actually impact combat.
It wouldn’t be Call of Duty without big set piece moments and this game is no different. Perched on top a bell tower defending allies with a sniper rifle as they aim to take out anti-air artillery was more than epic. But just as tension rises a stray bullet flies past your head and literally blows your partner in half. This scene was extremely gory, setting the tone expected from a World War II shooter, but it was rather surprising, to say the least.
The demonstration didn’t end there and just as we were coming back from that disorienting explosion of gore, a tank rolls up and takes down the bell tower. This scene was exceptionally intense as the tower crumbled around the player causing the giant bell to fall and just barely miss them. The demo was a short 15 to 20 minutes but was more gripping and intense than any Call of Duty campaign in recent memory.
While these blockbuster moments are great, they are not what excites me most about the campaign. The small touches like realistic reactions to a devastatingly bleak battlefield and health packs were great additions, and I cannot wait to see what else Sledgehammer Games is going to bring to the table.
Multiplayer That Returns to Form
The campaign is great and all, but what everyone is looking at Call of Duty for is multiplayer. Sledgehammer is redefining the way we look at Call of Duty multiplayer by bringing it back to its roots. I know that sounds a bit contradictory, but while the series is going back the old days of World War II shooters, it feels vastly different.
“Boots on the ground” is a phrase we’ve heard tossed around a lot and for good reason. Throughout recent years the series has been noted for its wall running, jetpacks, and fast-paced futuristic gameplay. This is anything but that. Combat is still fast paced but in a much different way and feels more strategic than every before. The guns feel and sound incredible, and while killstreaks are still present (I only got to try two) they don’t feel overpowered.
Multiplayer classes are divided into “Divisions” and are said to redefine how you approach multiplayer. This is more or less a play on the create-a-class system but with a fun era-appropriate theme.
- Airborne Divison: Fast and silent, using silenced SMGs to sneak up on enemies.
- Mountain Division: Reliant on distance, using sniper rifles to back up infantry and defend points.
- Infantry Divison: The basic class, using mid-to-long range weapons to be the front line assault.
- Armored Divison: Going all out with LMGs and huge firepower while being fully loaded with a wide range of explosives.
- Expeditionary Divison: Short-to-Mid range combat using shotguns and incendiary rounds to take down enemies in close quarters.
I played around with all of these classes, and I have to say they are all fun in their own right. At first glance, it would look like a basic rebranding of the create-a-class system, and while it partially is, there is much more to it than that. My multiplayer sessions weren’t long enough for me to get an in-depth look at each of the divisions’ differences, but from what I saw there will be a set strategy to fully rounding out your teams.
In my multiplayer sessions, we played through two maps in two different game modes. The first game mode we played was simply called “War;” this is an all-new game mode and is set as more of a narrative-driven experience than classic team deathmatch. War is divided into 3 game modes that play as one larger story. I am not sure if the game modes will vary, so I can only discuss the mode I played.
The game started by dividing the teams up into Axis and Allies. The Allies were missioned to attack and breach the Axis defense point. The mode played out more or less like a capture the point but was intense enough to warrant its own mode. Once the Allies captured the defense point the second part of the mission began. At this point, the Allies need to repair a destroyed bridge in order to get their troops and tank through to the Axis ammo depot. This part of the mission was by far the most tactical and required all teams to communicate in order to repair the bridge. Our team was not very good at communicating and couldn’t get past this portion of the mission. It had dawned on me after the fact that if we had talked it out and filled the bridge with smoke, we may have been able to sneak our way through the repair.
The third part of the mission was explained to be more of the basic attack and defend. The Allied tank is setting forward to destroy the enemy ammo depot while they defend the tank from Axis attacks. Even though we didn’t win this mode was strategic and fun. I do wish my team communicated a bit better (I am sure I was partly to blame) so that I could have experienced this part but it was enough to draw me in. The additions of brand-new game modes are more than welcome. The second game mode I played was classic team deathmatch, and while it was fun to play the boots on the ground style, I did find the more premier mode to be War.
I did not get hands on with the headquarters mode since we basically dove directly into multiplayer. But it promises to be a centralized HUB where players can meet up, challenge each other to 1v1 fights, competitive shooting ranges, and much more. I was also told that Nazi Zombies will be making it’s return to the series, but I wasn’t shown any gameplay of it.
This was just a small taste of what Sledgehammer had to offer with Call of Duty: World War II, and it has really reignited my love for the series.What do you think? Is this enough to bring you back to Call of Duty? Or is it already too late?
Call of Duty: WWII is set for release on November 3, 2017, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC
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