Call of Duty: WWII Review
When’s the last time fans have been genuinely satisfied with a Call of Duty game? When you really think about that question, it is a difficult one to answer. Sure, we all have our favorites but there’s no way 2016’s Infinite Warfare could be on many lists. Have you seen the number of dislikes the game received on Youtube? Black Ops 3, Advanced Warfare and Ghosts (largely considered the worst in the series) aren’t the first CoD games that come to mind when nailing down the best in the franchise. My point being, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen a Call of Duty game generate some serious excitement with fans. Call of Duty: WWII, on the other hand, has been greeted with a warm reception. Folks seem thrilled to go back to the deadliest conflict in human history. But is WWII the best Call of Duty in the series? Not by a long shot. Still, there’s plenty of reason to reunite your squad and head back to Activision’s juggernaut franchise.
Much to my relief, boost jumping, exo suits, futuristic weapons, space battles and other sci-fi shenanigans are all gone. You won’t see any of that in Call of Duty: WWII. It’s truly a ‘boots on the ground’ adventure with weapons, combat, characters and a brutally harsh setting that stays true to the era. The team at Sledgehammer Games successfully delivered an authentic World War 2 experience, unlike anything we’ve seen in the series before.
Before we get too excited about WWII, I will say it undoubtedly remains a Call of Duty game. Don’t expect any massive changes or mind-blowing innovations. Back again are those epic set pieces, celebrity cast, a 6-8 hour single player, the trademark snap controls, 60 frames per second, prestige ranking, etc. I could go on and on. There’s a formula Activision follows when it comes to their Call of Duty games and WW2 doesn’t stray too far from it, at all.
“Sledgehammer Games successfully delivered an authentic World War 2 experience, unlike anything we’ve seen in the series before.”
Despite this, WW2 feels like a throwback to some of those great older Call of Duty games. The single player is much more challenging than it has been in years; multiplayer games aren’t determined by how well you can boost jump or run along a wall, and the zombies mode has a darker more intense vibe this time around.
The single-player campaign is my first stop whenever I load up a new Call of Duty game. The story takes a similar approach to other big screen World War stories. You play the role of Private Ronald “Red” Daniels. He is a young soldier, part of a close-knit division thrust into a horrific war well before any of them ready. The campaign drops you onto the beaches of Normandy where you are greeted with a barrage of bullets whizzing by your head and you’ll follow it up with a treacherous journey across Europe. Meanwhile, you are wrestling with some of your own personal demons and trying to deal with your Sergeant who has become unhinged.
The campaign will have you battling in famous WW2 skirmishes such as the Liberation of Paris and Battle of the Bulge. There are some slick stealth sequences and one very memorable one that takes place in Paris. In addition to the relentless gun battles, I engaged in aerial dogfights, tank battles and manning anti-aircraft cannons. The single player accurately captured the sheer brutality of the war. Not to mention, I died, a lot! Yes, WW2’s campaign is a challenging one and much of that has to do with managing your health. This Call of Duty doesn’t have regenerating health so it’s critical you stay close to your medic during battle so that he tosses you a health pack in a time of need. The new health system adds a layer of strategy to the campaign that I certainly appreciated.
As much as I enjoyed the single player, and believe me when I say this is certainly one of the better ones in the franchise, I found it a little short. The game took me around 6-7 hours to complete, which is standard length for a Call of Duty game, but I found I wanted to play more. For replay value, I could go back and play at a higher difficulty and look for more in-game collectibles but I just wanted to see more WW2 settings, engage in more aerial combat and just spend more time with the characters I had become acquainted with.
When it comes to maps, style of play, controls, and progression WW2’s multiplayer mode takes ‘if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it’ approach. The multiplayer still plays out like nearly every Call of Duty game before it, minus the futuristic weapons and movements. That said, there is a new and highly entertaining Gridiron mode. It is similar to Advanced Warfare’s Uplink, except this time your goal is to carry the ball into the other team’s goal area where you can score a touchdown (7 points) or throw it for a field goal (3 points). Much like other objective based games, Gridiron was intense and highly enjoyable.
There is also a new War mode, which is a pretty big addition to Call of Duty’s multiplayer this year. It is objective based and plays across massive maps. As players progress and fight to complete objectives like taking over a bunker or building a bridge, the map shifts, and a new objective pops up. The mode gives your team a real sense of purpose and there’s a high emphasis on teamwork and communication. I’m not convinced this mode will become a Call of Duty mainstay but it’s certainly a very ambitious undertaking and one that is rewarding when playing with the right squad.
“It remains as punishing as any other zombie game I have played to date.”
Lastly, when it comes to multiplayer I should mention Headquarters; a social hub which we’ve seen in other games before (Destiny 2 comes to mind). Headquarters is a 48-player space modeled after the Allies’ Normandy beach encampment a few days after D-day. In it, there’s a firing range, a 1v1 arena, a place where you can grab your supply drops, acquire objectives, test new weapons and try out your various skill streaks. There’s even an area you can play old Activision games from the 1980’s (see video below). It’s a slick little area where you can kill time in between matches and socialize with other players. I like the addition and I’m curious how it will evolve over the next year.
The gimmicky horror characters and goofy actors have been removed, replaced with a dark WW2 themed zombies mode that is all about raw zombie killing. It remains as punishing as any other zombie game I have played to date. The map is impressively massive, enemies are menacing and there’s a tension that never seems to dissipate. Just like zombies modes before it, the enemies are easy to take down in the early going but once you unlock a few gates and make it to level 5, the chaos starts to ramp up. Searching for that mystery weapons box remains a must, in addition to unlocking the secrets of the map. If you’ve enjoyed the previous Call of Duty zombies games, there is no question you’ll enjoy what is offered here.
In an age where people are dying to play games on retro consoles (NES, SNES Classic) and remastered games still sell surprisingly well, Call of Duty: WWII arrives at just the right time. This throwback Call of Duty game is exactly what the franchise needed. It’s been 10-years since the series has been to World War II and the return is glorious. With a brutally engrossing and punishing, albeit short, single-player campaign and a stripped down multiplayer that remains as tight as ever, Call of Duty WWII gets back to the things that put the franchise on the map. It’s time to reunite the squad with confidence.
***This game was reviewed on the PS4 at a Call of Duty WWII review event***
- Riveting single-player story
- Stunning cut-scene
- No boost jumping
- Headquarters a slick social hub
- Zombies mode is creepy good
- Single player too short
- No real groundbreaking innovation
- Still a Call of Duty game