This article will feature spoilers from the Call of Duty: WWII campaign, so only proceed accordingly.
Call of Duty: WWII features a fantastic single-player campaign that tells an emotional tale of one soldiers journey from the beaches of Normandy all the way to the banks of the Rhine. The campaign’s narrative does a great job at setting up the main character Red Daniels as someone players could get behind, and it also excels at fleshing out his fellow brother in arms to create an emotional bond between Red, his buddies, and the player.
From the get go you’re treated to the most visceral video game take on the iconic WWII theaters of war to date. The experience sucks you into the game’s world unlike any other World War II era title, which is due in part to the writing and the Hollywood-esque cutscenes that bring life to the main cast, which I might add features a few big name stars, such as Josh Duhamel. From the Normandy mission onwards the campaign features amazing cutscenes that look nearly lifelike to drive home the narrative of a soldier in a horrific war dealing with a troublesome platoon leader, as well as the struggles of being a front line solider in WWII.
Early on you easily buy into the character of Red Daniels and feel for his plight. You also begin to realize his bonds with his fellow soldiers, which only strengthen throughout the campaign as they face and survive one horrific battle after the next. The missions and the interceding cutscenes really do make Call of Duty: WWII feel like an interactive version of HBO’s Band of Brothers, so again, the campaign starts off very strong and continues to be quite excellent up until the closing mission.
Before getting to that mission, which does suck the wind out of the campaign’s narrative, I must also highlight how the gameplay in the campaign keeps it feeling fresh and exciting. While this version of COD follows many of the franchise’s tropes, it does so in a way to keep the action feeling varied. You never just carry out a mission from start to finish without some sort of new wrinkle being added to it. For example, there’s one missions where you are fighting on the ground as Red, but while that’s goin on you hear radio chatter about the need for a detachment of fighter jets to come assist the ground battle. Rather than just calling in fire on the radio, you actually get put in control of one of the jets and get to experience its pilot’s mission before he was called to come and save your ass. This varied gameplay keeps things interesting, but it also helps to paint a broader picture of the events you are taking place in as a ground solider. These missions, and others like it, helped to connect the big picture that was the Allies push towards Germany in World War II, so the world feels even more alive and seamless than ever before.
Ok, so you’re probably wondering what my exact beef is with this game’s campaign, because I just went on for 500 words about how great it is. I still think this COD campaign is definitely one worth experiencing and one of the more emotionally relevant COD campaigns in quite some time, but its ending just leaves the whole experience feeling flat. Just before the last mission you get injured and your best buddy Zussman, who is a Jew, gets captured by the Nazis. It’s a pretty huge moment, and one that could have provided an emotionally charged ending, but the way his capture and subsequent rescue are handled leave the final mission feeling weak.
It’s almost as if the penultimate mission was meant to be the final mission, because during the last level you are charged with capturing the only bridge left over the Rhine, but the challenge feels more like an opening mission than the finale. I can remember the last mission in Call of Duty 2 being an extreme challenge and a major Allied assault on a German held position. In WWII, the bridge charge feels very basic, and doesn’t quite pack the punch that one would expect for the Allies’ final push into Germany’s heartland. I understand that we’re talking about a video game here, but in COD 2’s finale I definitely felt as if the task at hand would be too much to handle for me and my digital soldiers, but that just isn’t the case in WWII. The final mission just feels ho-hum and uninspired, and it really leaves the entire experience on a dull note.
The epilogue mission doesn’t get any better, because like the final mission, it’s full of conveniences that cheapen the emotions behind it. During this mission you are still searching for Zussman, and as you probably guessed, he is the only survivor in his work camp and Red and company show up just in time to save him from being executed. I think if we got a mission of Zussman being in the camp before the epilogue, or if Sledgehammer drew out the epilogue to make his rescue not feel like such a lock, the last outing with Red and friends would have felt more genuine and suspenseful. Unfortunately, the way it is carried out just leaves you looking for the skip button because you knew two missions ago that Zussman would be found, and that Red would save the day.
Call of Duty: WWII’s campaign is very enjoyable thanks to the characters, the cutscenes, and the varied gameplay segments, but its final mission and epilogue leave the experience feeling a bit hollow. The final mission didn’t feature a challenge worthy of being the final battle, while the epilogue only served to show us the happy ending we already knew was coming. It would have been interesting to see Sledgehammer go a different route with these missions to keep their emotional impact high like some of the others, but as they’re executed they do tarnish the overall experience enough to discuss their failures.
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