The saying ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’ springs to mind when recalling Call of Duty’s roots and why we, as gamers, hold the name dear to us. For some, a modern setting or even a futuristic setting is what would be thought of when asked about Call of Duty. However, for a vast majority of us, WWII is where it all began, and post-World at War back in 2008, we’ve realised how much we’ve missed and love the setting. Sledgehammer’s newest edition, Call of Duty: WWII, has paid respects to earlier titles in the series with its excellent story-driven campaign. It’s online multiplayer is steeped in history but one that has been created to appeal to modern-day gamers; technical flaws and a couple of campaign mishaps aside, all this has made Call of Duty: WWII one of the best first-person shooters this year.
The D-Day landings are almost cliche now, but nevertheless, you begin the campaign in a breathtaking fashion. You, as Ronald ‘Red’ Daniels, are one of many US soldiers on the landing crafts driving for the Normandy beaches. Here is your first experience of the incredible sound effects, you can almost feel the German machine-gun bullets hitting the boat or flying past your head. Sledgehammer has made the story not just on Daniels but on the 1st Infantry Division Daniels is part of, as well as on Perez and Rousseau, whom you control through different parts of the campaign. This focus on a team effort rather than a one-man army puts emphasis on WWII in general and how various groups came together to fight in the war.
Your journey consists of a solid supporting cast that help add a layer of personality to the story, and it also helps by how fantastically realised they and their facial animations look. Each member of your team are interesting characters and are all acted and portrayed well, notably Commanding Officer William Pierson played by Josh Duhamel. They also prove to be surprisingly useful when fighting the Germans; they will throw you health packs, ammo and grenades, keeping you in ample supply of all. Though the campaign is short, approximately 6 hours long, it is far from being short on content and is exhilarating from start to finish. The fight through Europe, from Normandy to The Rhine, is full of iconic WWII locations, with their buildings and environments punished by the war effort yet still eerily beautiful and detailed. With their movie style set-pieces, Sledgehammer does, however, manage to contradict itself in a way; the story is intended to show the horrors of war, yet the over the top action, though enjoyable, doesn’t fit within the story and vice versa.
As you would expect from a COD title, Call of Duty: WWII’s shooting is precise and feels great, and all the guns are distinctly different from one another, allowing for alternative approaches to each mission – pick off enemies from afar with a sniper or rifle or get close to the enemy with a shotgun or flamethrower. The environments are laid out very well and encourage a slower, more cautious approach than perhaps previous titles; even on normal difficulty, if you decide to go ‘guns-blazing’, you could easily get picked off by a German rifle in the distance. Death is not frustrating though, Sledgehammer provides you with relatively frequent checkpoints, and with such little loading times, you are back into the battle almost instantly.
One notable change from single-player to online multiplayer is how your health regenerates. The campaign’s health system is different to what you may be used to; as I mentioned, you find and receive health packs as your health does not heal automatically. This again demonstrates the need for tactical moving and positioning. Online multiplayer reverts back to its traditional system of health automatically regenerating. It’s easy to get used to the differences between the campaign and online, and sticking to the old COD formula for its multiplayer ensures that we still get the same fast-paced action that Call of Duty is known for.
You start off from picking between five different classes that Call of Duty: WWII has on offer. Infantry is the best all-round option which includes a rifle with a bayonet; Airborne encourages fast movement, favoring sub-machine guns; Armored is as you’d expect, a heavy weapon class with light machine guns and rocket launchers; Mountain, which focuses on sniping and staying undercover; and lastly, Expeditionary, which is for close quarters, giving you shotguns and shovels. Once a class has been decided, you are still free to use whichever weapons you’d like; however, the class you choose provides specific bonuses and skills, examples being a suppressor for the Airborne Division or an ‘Undercover’ training perk for the Mountain Division, allowing for your name to never appear on enemy scopes and enemy reticles never changing colour whilst you’re in their sights. These classes accommodate for various playstyles, with each varying from the other.
The maps are designed in ways to allow for individual playing approaches and styles. There are close fought encounters in a bomb shelled building or trench, as well as more long-distance battles taking place across the maps. I do hope to see more maps soon as what is on offer is not enough, and some of the maps are not that enjoyable to play. That being said, each map is diverse and offers you the chance to fight through areas such as war-torn London, on an American aircraft carrier, or a muddy French countryside with its trenches and tunnels.
Classic multiplayer modes return, including Team Deathmatch, Search & Destroy, Kill Confirmed and Capture the Flag. Gridiron is a similar mode to Capture the Flag, but instead of taking a flag to your own base, you carry a ball to the enemy’s goal. There is great need for a team working together rather than in game modes like Team Deathmatch, which are much more individual based. Another difference to Capture the Flag is that you can throw and pass the ball to teammates, helping for more players to be involved in the game and contribute.
War is a new mode to Call of Duty, similar to Battlefield’s Rush, where a side of attackers aims to conquer parts of a map in a multi-phased format, in a time-limited scenario. So far, there are only three operations to choose from, but attackers and defenders have their own objectives, weapons and assaults or defenses, making for reasons to keep coming back.
If you were a fan of World at War, you’ll be happy to know that most of your favourite weapons are on offer again, such as the MP40, PPSh-41, STG-44 and Springfield. They all feel as I remember them from 2008 and come with additional attachments and also camouflages that were not included in World at War. There are 13 scorestreaks in total, and this streak system is again in favour over the classic killstreaks by encouraging not only kills but improving your score through planting or defusing bombs in Search & Destroy or confirming a kill, as examples.
Call of Duty: WWII has introduced a social hub that is becoming seemingly more popular with online games. Headquarters is set in an Allies camp on one of their occupied beaches in Normandy. It is somewhat confusing to begin with knowing what to do and understanding the user interface, but once those issues are sorted, Headquarters offers an excellent social area for players to compete against each other, achieve personal objectives and missions, or simply see other players wandering around the same hub as you without fear of them turning round and shooting you. This all sounds great in reality, but when testing the game out myself, the Headquarters were not live, so I found myself wandering around on my own in a somewhat empty shell.
During the story campaign, I came across hardly any technical issues, but the online elements, as touched on, are not without their problems. My first attempt of trying to go online, I was given an error message, and I had to try four more times to finally get on; as well as this, the time it takes to find a game is far too long, and plenty of wasted minutes have been used up by simply waiting around. A final frustration is when managing to connect to a game, I have at times been kicked out of the session due to losing my connection to the host. For a game that includes online multiplayer for the first time, I can sympathise, for Call of Duty, a series that has largely built its name on its multiplayer, this is unacceptable.
Since 2008, Call of Duty is not a Call of Duty without a Zombies mode. You are tasked against waves of undead Nazis in a Bavarian village. Unlike the first rendition of Zombies, The Final Reich can potentially be massively open, and you soon realise a solo effort in a co-op game is going to end in disaster; there are dozens of avenues and directions to go, switches to activate, and mystical secrets to uncover that are dotted around. In past installments, I have opted to stay away from their Zombie modes, with this, I have found myself coming back time and time again to kill some undead Nazis.
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 3rd November 2017