Also On: Xbox One
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
I suppose it wasn?t much of a surprise that Call of Duty decided to roll back to a World War II setting, considering the series roots and how deeply ingrained in that time period Call of Duty used to be. The first three titles, and then the fifth, have all explored different (and sometimes the same) slices of World War II, with varying degrees of success. Am I happy that they?ve gone back? Not necessarily. But that doesn?t mean that Call of Duty: WWII isn?t a good game. Surprisingly, despite my apprehension of treading over familiar ground, I?ve found myself enjoying this game a lot more than I thought I would.
The campaign is a little stale from both a story and setting perspective. Things kick off with Normandy, and feature the ?greatest hits? locales of World War II, like Paris, The Battle of the Bulge, and The Rhine. If you?ve ever played any other video game set against the backdrop of this war, there?s a good chance you?ll feel like you?ve done all of this before.
However, to help mix things up a bit, developer Sledgehammer Games does throw a few unique scenarios into the mix. There?s a handful of stealth sections, which aren?t quite as aggravating as that might sound given how poorly stealth tends to work in first-person shooters. There?s a unique infiltration chapter of the game that follows a new protagonist from the French resistance, and then there?s a pretty tense tank battle against enemy armored units. All of this helps to break up some of the monotony felt when shooting your way through the campaign, and I appreciated the effort in changing things up a bit.
Unfortunately, there?s not much that could salvage the somewhat bland story that goes along with it all. You?re primarily taking on the role of a young man from Texas as he makes his way through various battles with his friendly, wise-cracking platoon, his tough-as-nails sergeant, and his well-meaning, stoic lieutenant. The obvious comparisons here are to other like-minded media, like Band of Brothers, but the story never really hits the high points of Band of Brothers emotional moments, even when it goes real hard for the heart strings towards the end of the game. I imagine it?s difficult to craft a more unique experience when dealing with such familiar territory, but this is definitely one of the few Call of Duty campaigns that feels largely forgettable.
The multiplayer side of Call of Duty: WWII turns out a bit better though. While this is still a back-to-basics version of the online modes we?ve seen in last decade or so of Call of Duty games, I?ve managed to have a lot of fun playing it. The whole loot box thing feels like a non-factor for me, at least so far. You?re primarily earning pistol grips and calling cards from those, so unless you?re really dying for one particular animated calling card, I can?t see any real reason to get worked up over the system. You?ll earn loot crates on a pretty regular basis anyways, and the animation of having them drop from the sky and spring open is the right kind of silly in my opinion.
There?s a hefty number of modes and maps, much like you?d expect from the series. Not all the maps are great, there?s one in particular that sort of makes me want to quit every time it comes up, mostly because it seems to favor snipers heavily, and I think quick-scoping is a little too prevalent at the moment to make that map seem fun. But that can also be easily avoided by sticking to other game modes, in particular the really fun War mode featured this time around. War is basically a larger battle with a series of objectives, where you?ll either push forward or defend points across some pretty large maps. There?s just enough variation and teamwork required to make this mode feel pretty significant when compared to the other standard modes we?ve seen multiple times before. Granted, Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint, Kill Confirmed and others are still solid, but for me War is where Call of Duty: WWII?s multiplayer really manages to shine.
Lastly, there?s a new zombie mode this time around, but much like the previous zombie modes in Call of Duty, I?ve had a hard time really getting into this one. To the developers credit, they do give a decent tutorial at the beginning of the mode, to both set-up the story and the basic mechanics of how the zombie mode works. This will at least give you the basics to get started, and can help new players realize this isn?t just about surviving waves of zombies, but it?s also about completing objectives and unlocking new sections of the map in order to progress. I certainly don?t loathe the mode by any means, but I can?t say that it?s my primary reason for playing either.
Overall, I think Call of Duty: WWII is a better game than I would have thought possible. World War II is such a tired subject in the world of video games that I didn?t think it would be possible for a developer to revisit that well once again, but Sledgehammer did a pretty solid job with this one. The campaign has its moments, even if the story is pretty bland. But the multiplayer helps bolster the overall game in a way feels fun and enjoyable, with a back-to-basics approach that makes sense for the series to revisit.
Note: Activision provided us with a CoD: WWII PS4 code for review purposes.