We have been getting yearly entries into the coveted Call of Duty franchise. Quite honestly, the past few entries have been less than satisfactory in my book. When I first heard that we were going all the way back to World War II, I had mixed feelings. For starters, I feel like the gaming/movie industry will do anything to make us relive that part of our world’s history. It makes for a great story experience and is usually a safe bet in terms of content though. Call of Duty: WWII has some very impressive ups, but doesn’t go out of the way to break the mold in the genre, which pays off in the end. Call of Duty: WWII is broken up into three main parts, Campaign, Multiplayer and Zombies. Given the convention, that is how this review will play out as well, so let’s get into it, shall we?
The campaign for Call of Duty: WWII centers on Ronald “Red” Daniels and the United States 1st Infantry Division. First off, this game is gorgeous, between the in-game cinematics and the gameplay itself, the graphics are stunning. Being set in the time that it is, there aren’t a ton of flashy and bright colors. When the time came for these colors to be used, they were used efficiently. I won’t get into too many story elements as to not ruin the game for you, should you choose to play it. In the beginning you are introduced to Red’s team, Zussman, Red’s best friend in the squad, Aiello, the seasoned veteran and Stiles, the photographer. The gentlemen that run the platoon are Sgt. William Pierson and Lt. Joseph Turner. All of the acting and casting were done greatly. Josh Duhamel rocks as the gritty Sgt. Pierson while Brett Zimmerman does a fantastic job as the game’s protagonist. Sledgehammer does a good job of getting you attached to each of these characters.
The campaign is broken up into different chapters, each telling a pivotal point of the story. There are a few unique missions here and there that have you piloting a tank as Perez or flying with with the airborne division protecting your heavies. Though they were few, they broke up some of the monotony of the run and gun tactics. Relying on your squad is important during the time in the campaign. Killing enemy soldiers increases their squad ability meter. Depending on who is in your squad at the time, they will do different things. They will either supply you with ammo, more health packs, or even call in a mortar strike for you. This seemingly replaces perks from the previous games, but does so in a way that makes sense. During combat, I never really felt that my squad-mates were in real trouble, as I saw one get peppered with bullets and wasn’t phased. They were almost like bullet sponges with bonuses. Being set in the time that it is, there is no way to justify running behind cover to restore your health. You really have to make sure you utilize your squad, or your surroundings depending on if you can find a health pack laying around. Though the squad is there and offers you help, I didn’t feel the need to protect them, unless the mission said otherwise.
Heroic opportunities are put in each level to drive home the fears of war. You can stumble upon these in different areas of each chapter. Some of these I wasn’t quick enough to act on and witnessed a fellow soldier get gunned down. I have never felt more sad over 1’s and 0’s in my life than I have with these moments. Other moments take place in the form of dragging your fellow soldiers out of danger. These ones were the ones I had trouble with. They weren’t completely fleshed out when introduced, leading to a lot of unwarranted deaths on my part. There were a couple of small things that didn’t click right with me. During some of the stealth missions, the stealth kill feature didn’t always work out. If I wasn’t directly behind the guard I was attempting to kill, I would instead smack him with my gun, resulting in an alarm going off, blowing my cover. One other thing was the controls in the aforementioned flight section. The segment of the level flowed with the story of the game, but I feel like it could’ve been left out.
From start to finish, the campaign drives the story home that war is hell. I mean, one of the most nerve racking missions in the game was one where the majority of the mission doesn’t even see you brandishing a weapon. I genuinely felt different emotions throughout the story and enjoyed the narrative that it gave. In case you didn’t know, a huge inspiration for this game was through Glen Schofield’s grandfather, who served and won a Purple Heart for his time with the 34th Infantry Division. Glen is one of the co-founders of Sledgehammer games. For me, the campaign was the shining star of the entire game, out shining the other two aspects of the game. Other people would disagree, but I love a good narrative and this is exactly what Sledgehammer has brought this year. I plan to play through the game again to get all of the mementos from each chapter and to take care of some more Krauts.
Ah, Call of Duty multiplayer, the pinnacle of human online interaction. For the past couple of years, this has been dominated by wall-running, double-jumping soldiers taking each other out. This year though, we are back on the ground, no exo-suits and no double jumps in my World War 2. This new multiplayer added some new things into the mix to keep it fresh. One of the more notable additions is the new War mode. War mode sees two different sides, one attack and one defense. Each team has to conquer a different set of objectives before achieving victory. This has become my favorite new mode to play when I go online. I can appreciate a new mode that isn’t just a deviation of the classic Team Deathmatch. You can find all the classic modes in here as well, spread across nine different maps. It still feels like classic Call of Duty multiplayer though, just with dated equipment.
Each match is still very fast paced. You kill fast, you die fast and you re-spawn just as fast. You have the option to skip the kill-cam which will let you come back even quicker, if you don’t want to see how Johnny lobbed a grenade across the map and killed you out of shear luck. You are able to have a custom soldier with different load outs. When you first choose multiplayer you are put through an enlistment process. This process has you decide your first Division. Divisions are different classes of characters with their own perks and bonuses. You can eventually buy all the Divisions but are forced to choose one at the very beginning. You are then thrust into a match to get your feet wet. After this first match you get to play around with the new social hub. This hub acts just like the tower in the Destiny games. You can go around and buy items form the Quartermaster, watch MLG events and live streams in the theater and get missions from the command tent. I think this is a great way to give the multiplayer a little bit more life.
You are able to accept quests and missions to gain more experience for your character. Completing certain objectives and leveling up will grant you loot boxes. Of course you can purchase these loot boxes, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. So far, everything I’ve earned has been completely cosmetic. I haven’t noticed any sort of pay-to-win aspect yet. The loot boxes fall in from the sky like a supply drop, which is what they’re called and everyone in the hub can see it happen. You can get new skins for your guns, calling cards and emblems from these crates. I have yet to get a weapon out of them, though I am hoping that they won’t be included in the loot pool. It seems like you can unlock most guns by leveling up your soldier and purchasing them with the in game credits. What they multiplayer really boils down to is the classic Call of Duty play, brought back in time and given a modern gaming twist. I feel like we could’ve done away with loot drops altogether and the game would be just as good as it is with them. Though not my first choice once the game is booted up, it isn’t something I would actively avoid.
When you think of zombies in Call of Duty, you think all the way back to World at War. This is where the Zombies mode got it’s start and in my opinion, was at its best. With the latest installment, we get to see the mode harken back to it’s roots. The zombies mode can be played on your own or with a team of players. There are four different characters that are available to you right away and there are seven that you can unlock. Like Zombies modes past, there is an over-arching storyline to the mode and a ton of different things to find out. Like the main campaign, the characters here are played by some pretty big name actors. Ving Rhames, David Tennant, Katheryn Winnick and Elodie Yung voice and play the main four characters. I personally love Tennant’s character in the Zombies mode. Along with the progression, there are also Zombie specific supply drops as well that will give you some new cosmetic bonuses for your characters.
As par for the course, you start out in a small area and have the option to gain Jolts and open up different doors to extend the size of the map. You are able to purchase new weapons that are hanging on the walls. Spread out through the level are different perks that you can buy with your Jolts. If you are downed by the enemy and aren’t picked up before certain thresholds, you will lose those perks. Like Multiplayer, your characters have their own progression as well. There are different classes to choose from here as well, Offense, Control, Support and Medic, each equipped with their own special class move. This encourages players to play with different classes to supplement the team’s needs. All of the events that take place in the Zombies mode will culminate into one big showdown with the final boss zombie, given you survive that long. There are traps that you can activate, armor to purchase and even Tesla Wonder Weapons for you to use against your decrepit enemies. This mode is tons of fun when playing with a full party of people, with surprises and easter eggs around every corner.
Call of Duty: WWII was a pleasant surprise for me. As someone who hasn’t been a huge fan of the series as of late, this is a breath of fresh air. Sure the World War 2 trope has lost it’s luster over the years, but that doesn’t mean someone could come around and do it justice. The Campaign mode is the biggest triumph for this game. I think the factors that played into it, whether it was the real research that went into it, or the inspiration drawn from real life, personal events, make it one of the best stories I have played in a long time. Multiplayer feels just like Call of Duty multiplayer should, quick and unforgiving. Throw a fresh coat of WWII paint on it, downgrade to boots on the ground and throw in some new game modes and you have yourself a ball game. The new, horrific Zombies mode provides enough content and challenge to keep me playing after completing the main campaign. My hats off to you this year Sledgehammer, you have swayed a non-Call of Duty fan into liking your game this year.
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Review statement: The copy of this game was supplied by the developer for the sake of this review. The game was reviewed on the Xbox One S home entertainment system.