Another year, yet another attempt at making an actual good call of duty game. This is the 14th major release in the once flagpole series. The difference with this one is the developers had enough time to take into account the community's desperate cries for a return to old fashioned Call of Duty. Considering the very specific outcries for a WW II COD which mimicked the ones that made the franchise famous, it seemed the developer Sledgehammer games had their work cut out for them. So, my question is... how did they mess up so badly? What we got for a COD this year is a convoluted, watered down mess of over simplified mechanics and boring gameplay. It is incredible how things so simple could be messed up so badly. All this being said, most of my gripes with this game come from the multiplayer, which albeit is only a third of this game, but considering what this franchise has become, it represents where 99% of a player's time is spent, so it contributes massively to this game.
Now, let's start off with something good, the campaign.
Now, when I say "good" I mean good for a COD campaign. COD campaigns have always been something of a very time consuming after thought, but a welcome one for sure. They are fun and introduce memorable characters in a quick distraction when you get tired from multiplayer. This campaign is not much different.
You play as U.S. Army private first-class Ronald Daniels in his multiple month campaign through war torn Europe. Beginning with the storming of Normandy and finishing with you capturing the last bridge over the Rhine. Basically, every important battle between these two events is accounted for, in a very standard world war II affair. You experience the war from a few different perspectives throughout the missions, including flying a plane, driving a tank, and evening playing as a French resistance fighter infiltrating a Nazi compound. Ultimately, the story follows Daniels who you play as for most of the campaign, and specifically focuses on his relationships with his fellow platoon members.
These character interactions represent a high point in the game, considering COD is primarily a game about shooting bad guys, having some actual character moments is a nice change of pace. That is not to say this is a masterpiece, of course, a number of these interactions feel somewhat forced and cliché, it is just a welcome break from mindlessly shooting Nazis. Particularly the relationship between yourself and Private Zussman, your relationship develops over the game, and your character does an incredibly heroic move near the game's conclusion to save Zussman near the game's conclusion.
This game makes an attempt to not shy away from the horrors of the war, even going as far as to show the aftermath of a death camp after the war was over, some truly horrific imagery and not something I would expect from a Call of Duty game for sure. There is also some attempt to show how the war affected civilians, having the player rescue a German family. All of this seemed a bit like it was thrown in last minute, just to say it was there more than anything, but a nice thought regardless.
In terms of gameplay this campaign differs slightly compared to previous entries in the franchise. For the first time in over a decade, you need to manually use health packs to heal yourself, which certainly added a bit of challenge to surviving, however, the health packs seemed relatively plentiful, so it rarely became an issue. Aside from that, your squad mates could throw you ammo, health, grenades, and even spot enemies when you asked them to, which didn't add much to the gameplay, but wasn't unwelcome either. As mentioned there is a plane and tank section of the game, which were alright, they felt very linear and are not something unheard of in COD. Perhaps the most interesting mission to me was when you play as a female French resistance fighter and disguise yourself as a German to gain entry to a Nazi compound sneaking around stabbing people in a pretty enjoyable stealth section. Beyond all this, it's basically your standard, "go to place and shoot a bunch of guys from behind cover" ordeal, occasionally interrupted by a quick time event or turret section. Gameplay wise this is nothing to write home about, it does get boring after some time, but the story and characters are enough to keep you engaged.
One problem I do have is how easy this campaign was. COD campaigns have gotten progressively easier over time, and this is no exception. In games like World at War I spent hours on some sections unable to beat them. In this game, I basically breezed through the campaign even on veteran, staying behind cover spamming grenades and firing at everything worked 99% of the time, and occasionally I needed to move forward with a smoke grenade. There was only really one section I struggled with on veteran, where you need to sneak up behind a tank and plant explosives amid hails of enemy fire, but even that didn't take me more than maybe 20 minutes. I understand that COD campaigns are not meant to be for hardcore gamers, but I always felt like I had to work hard to beat the campaign on veteran in the past, now its just going through the motions.
Something I also want to mention that I don't think people give COD enough credit for is their graphics. Ever since the move the Xbox one and PS4, I've always been amazed at how impressive looking Call of Duty graphics are. This is especially prevalent in pre-rendered cutscenes, in this game they are nearly indistinguishable from actual live footage, the levels have insane details to them and the animation is very smooth and life like. I understand this is
only a small part of the game, but I wanted to commend the art department at Sledgehammer, because they’re doing something right.
And that's really it for the campaign, it tells a very narrow view of the second world war, and it tells it decently for Call of Duty. It would have been nice to have some other perspectives, World at War for example showed American, British and Russian campaigns, and felt like it was much wider in scope. All and all this is one of the better COD campaigns, despite lack luster game play, the gripping story and characters prove that the writers have at least some idea what they're doing.
Unfortunately, this game only goes down from there, I next want to talk briefly about zombies, the now yearly "third mode" present in far too many COD games.
Now, I have played far too much zombies in my time. I have done every single Easter egg for every single zombie map multiple times and know the series like the back of my hand. That being said, I am very quickly getting worn out by a new zombies every year, considering the amount of work required to get an Easter egg done, so I wasn't too keen to see it would be returning for World War II.
This zombie mode is... meh? It's fine I guess, at its core its just the same old thing you've been doing since nacht der untoten, but its buried beneath mounds of too many Easter eggs to even count. I got bored of this zombies very quickly and haven't even completed the Easter egg, though I do plan on doing so eventually. From the few games I played it was enjoyable enough. They decided to go with a much darker tone then in previous games and it's more annoying then anything. Every time you turn around and see a zombie behind you a stupid little jump scare sound effect plays which gets old after about the third time it happens. The base game map was interesting enough, certainly a lot to explore, it was very dark however and it made it annoying to navigate the sewers without upping my brightness to annoying levels. Most of the perks have returned under different names, the only exception being juggernog, which functions much differently. Now it only costs 500 points to start, and it grants you 3 lethal hits per purchase, and every time you run out, you need to re-buy it and the cost goes up by 500 points every time, which... why? What moron thought that would be a good idea? Despite this, the zombies are surprisingly easy as the map has many open areas where you can easily avoid zombies. The new characters are... whatever, Ving Rhames is there so... great, I guess? This zombies is quite a chore and if you haven't played previous zombies I'd suggest you avoid this one. I don't really have much to say about zombies considering how little I played this one so far, you can customize your weapons in a similar way to black ops 3 and IW and there are effectively perks now which you charge up and activate, although the one which makes you invisible for a few seconds is the only one you should ever really use. Each of these has passive abilities associated with them which you unlock with in game currency or something... I got really confused by the create a class system in this mode and just got dizzy trying to figure it all out, what happened to black ops 1 zombies where you just start playing? Now I need to equip perks and guns to play zombies? If you're a long-time fan of zombies maybe give this a try, the only reason I'll be playing it is to finish up all the Easter eggs, besides that, I'd recommend you stay away form this zombies.
What happened guys? There is so much wrong with this multiplayer I don't even know where to begin. Somehow Sledgehammer heard the community call for a slower paced boots on the ground COD and gave us a boring shell of a call of duty multiplayer. Now I think I'll start with the thing on everyone's minds these last few months, loot boxes
Loot boxes: why would anyone buy these?
It should come as no shock, but the predatory loot box system first introduced in Advanced warfare is back in full force. These things make Activision so much money that they'd be foolish not to include them in their games. The loot box system in this game is one of the most needlessly confusing things I've ever experienced in a videogame. Despite still being included in a game like black ops 3, at least the system made sense. The more XP you earned the more crypto keys you earned, once you get 10 you can purchase a common supply drop, and once you get 30 you can purchase a rare supply drop. Each supply drop had a collection of 3 items, being either camos, emblems, titles, costumes, or even new weapons. Supply drops could also be purchased for real money. Still a very predatory system, but one that made sense. It World War II, it's nothing like that. To start, there are too many types of supply drops. Common supply drops, rare supply drops, heroic supply drops, zombie supply drops, rare zombie supply drops, weapon bribes, event supply drops, dupe protected supply drops, and more. Earning supply drops is confusing and inconsistent, there are about a billion different ways to earn one, but each requires either luck or going through a series of menus getting more and more confusing the deeper you go.
To start, at the end of every match a random assortment of players get a supply drop, it could be nobody or it could be 4 people, but it seems completely random who does, and does not, how you performed in the match doesn't seem to matter.
You can also go to a guy named Major Howard in the headquarters (more on this stupid headquarters later). He gives you a series of daily and weekly challenges which you must manually select, complete the associated challenge (it will be something like get 10 kills while crouched) then return to Major Howard and redeem the reward (you don't get the reward automatically). The rewards for these challenges include XP, XP boosts, social score (more on that later), loot boxes, and actual weapons for some very time-consuming tasks.
Now, that's not even all, there is also another currency called "armory credits". You get these as a daily login bonus, for getting duplicates, and for completing certain Major Howard challenges. Now, with these, you can go to the supply drop girl in the headquarters and you will see that she also has challenges for you, however, you must purchase these challenges with armory credits, upon completing them they can give you supply drop rewards. Confused yet? Now all these things took me weeks of playing to figure out, because navigating the menu is a nightmare in this game, and you need to load up to the headquarters, talk to the right people, and navigate their menus to figure out what is going on.
Of course, despite all this, you can always just purchase supply drops with real money, doing that is very simple of course and the game will make it impeccably clear how to give them your money from the get go.
So, okay, you've acquired a supply drop by some means, now what? Unfortunately, this mess of a system isn't done screwing with you yet. You can open your supply drop from the main menu or in the headquarters, but the rewards you get are so lazy and uninspired. You can get your standard titles and emblems, as well as different outfits for your player, these are mostly boring looking, and it took me a while to figure out even how to equip them. For whatever reason, there are no longer camos in supply drops, instead they are replaced by "weapon variants" which completely change the look of your weapon while offering an XP boost (thankfully none of these variants give you any kind of gameplay advantage), again figuring out how to equip these things in the awful menus is a nightmare, I'll detail this moronic menu later. You can also get "pistol grips" which put some stupid image in your pistol grip... okay... but my hand is covering the pistol grip the entire time, so you can't even see it while playing? Great design guys. There are a ton of these pistol grips and I don't understand what separates their rarity, so the picture of the shark is a common grip, but the picture of a bomb is rare? Why? You can also get "taunts" from supply drops, which are just so painfully lazy. You use these at the end of games if you finish top 3, and the most exciting ones are your guy sitting down or something. The issue is, these taunts are repeated multiple times under different names, seriously. So, you can earn two taunts called different things and they play the exact same animation, truly unprecedented laziness.
Finally, you can earn actual new weapons from supply drops. These are usually DLC weapons that aren't exceptionally powerful, but still annoying to not have access to after purchasing the 60-dollar game.
Now fret not player, for you can obtain these supply drop items using your armory credits through an even more convoluted system of menus. You need to go to the supply drop girl, and open some menu from there, and it will show you a series of super rare supply drop rewards, now, when you click on these rewards, each one shows the subsequent items that need to be purchased to get the final reward. So now to get the top tier reward, the random assortment of rewards below it must be either purchased with armory credits (and you will need a lot of armory credits for some of these) or found in supply drops. If that makes no sense, good, it's not supposed to make sense. I still don't even know if every possible supply drop reward can be obtained this way (being either purchased outright or by purchasing all the items leading up to it). Now, when you look at an item you're interested in through the create a class menu, there is no indication there of how much armory credits it costs or if it can be purchased at all, you would need to manually launch the headquarters, and go to the supply drop girl and scroll through all of the randomly assorted options until you find what you're looking for.
This entire system is beyond moronic, I have had emails from Activision with detailed explanations trying to explain their system. My advice is avoiding this system at all costs, you will lose brain cells trying to make sense of it. Now unfortunately the garbage supply drop system is just the tip of the iceberg.
Headquarters: A place to do nothing for 4 minutes
A new "feature" to this game is the headquarters, I can't fathom what they were thinking with this. It is effectively moving the menu into its own map where dozens of players can run around, a hub world with no purpose. The headquarters contains a series of people you can talk to which are just glorified menu options. Want to prestige? Talk to the prestige guy. Want new challenges? Talk to the challenges guy. These things have always been menu options, and there is no reason whatsoever for them to be actual NPCs you need to run to and talk to. It isn't even like you have the option of not interacting, if you want to do anything you need to wait the 30 seconds while the headquarters loads, run to whomever it is you need and talk to them. Beyond that, the headquarters have some other useless stuff to keep you "occupied".
You can go to a shooting gallery and shoot at stationary targets to your heart's content.
You can fight other players in a silly 1 v 1 arena. You don't get anything for winning, just social score.
You can try out all the score streaks, this is about all the headquarters is good for, because score streaks are way too difficult to obtain in game, so this is about the only time you'll ever be able to use them.
You can spend armory credits to spend classic Atari games, which... okay kind of cool I guess.
Other than that, everything in here is just a glorified menu option. There is this new thing called social score as well, it does nothing. You can go up to any players and "commend" them needlessly, giving them social score and hoping they reciprocate. This just leads to most players in the headquarters being AFK hoping someone will give them social score. You also earn social score for opening supply drops in front of others (so they're more inclined to purchase them), playing the 1v1 thing, and completing certain challenges. So, what does social score do? Nothing. Well, if you get enough of it you get some dumb aesthetic stuff, that's it. Why this is in the game, I have no idea.
So yeah, the headquarters is stupid, I have no idea why they didn't just make it menu options.
The menu: How do you mess up a menu?
The menu navigation in this game will frustrate you to no end. Call of duty has had basically the same menu systems since it started out, but this one completely changed everything. I can't really describe how poorly designed it, you kind of need to experience it for yourself. Here are some examples:
Earning an outfit from a supply drop, you need to go to the create a class menu and press personalize, now you don't just get every outfit laid out for you, you need to sift through a bunch of subcategories to find the one you unlocked, can't find it? Well that's because it is specific to a different division, so you need to equip a different division to use that outfit. However, if you get a taunt or helmet, you go to a separate menu entirely outside of create a class, and these ones are not specific to divisions, why all the soldier customization is not all in the same place is beyond me.
If you earn a weapon variant, you would think you go to create a class and press personalize weapon after equipping it to equip the variant, nope. You need to re- equip the weapon and select the variant from a list that pops up after you select it, if you accidentally equip the base variant you need to re- select the weapon again.
There are 3 weapon types in this game based on how they are earned: leveling up, prestiging divisions, and from supply drops. If you look at the weapons in create a class, there is basically 0 indication as to the type of weapon each locked weapon is. There is a little symbol beside it which tells you, but there's no indication as to what each symbol means. Why does it not say beside each weapon "unlocked by doing x"
The fact that to do much of anything requires you load in to the headquarters is a real pain in the rear end.
The general layout of the menus are just a mess and overly confusing, again, you will see what I mean when you play the game.
Create a class: Why only 1 perk?
The new and improved create a class system is just insulting. I really enjoyed the "pick 10" system in previous titles, or even the generic 3 perks systems from older CODs. This system seems like it was designed for a 2-month-old infant, because it is dumbed down to no end. The only real advancement is the divisions system. Picking a division gives you a certain buff, like a detachable silencer on SMGs or the ability to hold your breath while sniping, and the more you use the divisions, the more you level them up. Leveling them up gives you extra buffs while using the divisions, basically just perks. The issue is, you can't pick and choose what perks you want to run, they come in sets. What if I want to be able to hold my breath with a sniper and sprint faster? Well you can't. You are also given 1 choice of an additional perk called "basic training" yes, 1 perk. There are way too many of these things, and you won't use 90% of them because there are too many to sift through, so you just settle for something like faster reloading. Other than that, you get one primary weapon with a few attachments, one pistol (yes it must be a pistol secondary unless you run a basic training letting you run a launcher) with 1 attachment, and a single lethal or tactical grenade, they don't even give you both a lethal and tactical grenade, you need certain basic training to use those. So, the result is the create a class system is missing many important components, and you only have 1 basic training to bring back these components. The attachments are all but useless, the only ones even worth using are extended magazines and sights, because you won't even notice the effect of anything else the buff is so small. So as a result, you basically are left to rely on your primary weapon and nothing else, you can't customize your character to a certain play style because of the lack of customization, all you can do is run around and shoot.
Where are all the modes?
This game is about as bare bones as it gets for multiplayer modes. There are basically just your standard modes, like TDM, domination, and hardpoint. Where's the gun game? Where's the one in the chamber? Where's the new party modes? To be fair, there was a gun game mode in there for about a week and then they removed it... I used to love the part games in black ops 1, things like sticks and stones and sharpshooter were an enjoyable change of pace when the standard game modes got boring.
There is one new game mode in this: war. War seems like their attempt to make a grand in scope full scale war like you would see in Battlefield. The issue is, its still 6 v 6, and it is horribly imbalanced. The attackers are effectively trying to capture a series of objectives before the time is finished while the defenders stop them. There are only 3 maps for war right now and it gets boring very quickly. It is kind of cool charging the beaches of Normandy in multiplayer, but it gets boring fast. The defenders have a huge advantage here, you can jump on a mounted turret and just wreak havoc. I was able to easily get 20+ kill streaks doing this multiple times without much effort. Even if the attackers do kill you, there's only a 3 second spawn delay, and you spawn basically on the point, so it is very difficult to make any progress on the attack. There are also no score streaks so the game feels kind of empty. War mode is kind of fun at first, but after you've played on all 3 maps, it gets boring fast, and you just return to standard modes.
Maps: They're bad
The maps in this multiplayer suck, all of them. There are literally only 9 off launch, because of the 3 war maps (which you can't play standard modes on). The maps are all very similar, 3 lanes, very flat, nearly no verticality. There are basically no advantageous points you want to fight to hold, because any higher points don't give you any useful sight lines. None of the maps have any sort of intractability, besides a few mounted turrets in terrible positions. None are particularly interesting locations and they all feel like the same map. Call of duty is well known for their intuitive map designs, but these maps fall very flat. There's basically one map you can snipe on, because the rest are all just close quarters with no sniper sight lines, meaning everyone runs shotguns and SMGs. Awful maps, just awful.
Actually playing the multiplayer (hint: it's super boring)
This multiplayer is incredibly boring to play. It is way too slow for a call of duty game and that can primarily be chalked up to the very slow "sprint- out" time. This is the time it takes for you player to get their weapon ready to shoot after sprinting, and to my knowledge it is the slowest it has ever been (I believe it is something like 0.25 seconds). That time seems very quick, I know, but when you round a corner and see an enemy and instinctively pull the trigger you will expect your gun to start firing instantly, but it doesn’t, and a very noticeable period passes before you start firing. If the enemy happened to not be sprinting at the time, they will kill you first 99% of the time. Because of this I found it was almost a necessity to never sprint anywhere an enemy could possibly appear. There is no perk of any kind to alleviate this (I guess because using it would be basically be a requirement), which again contributes to the boring slow nature of this game. Perhaps it could also be I've conditioned myself to the very quick movement of games like black ops 3 (which despite popular opinion I thought had a fantastic multiplayer), so to suddenly go to a very slow call of duty multiplayer is incredibly jarring. Again, the pitiful and uninspired maps don't help any of this, every game it feels like you do the same thing, go down the middle, the right, or the left lane, either shoot a guy or get shot, rinse and repeat. There is never any competition for ground because the maps are just flat.
The guns are decently well balanced in theory, it never really felt like there was one superior gun or one inherently weak gun. The problem was, the map design encouraged primary very short-range combat, so using anything but a shotgun or SMG put you at a disadvantage. The weaponry was interesting, many familiar world war II guns like the MP- 40 and PPSH were nice to see included, as well as some interesting stuff I had never heard of, such as a double barrel shotgun with an included single rifle round chamber. There did seem to be far too few weapons than I would have hoped, and some of them were just not correctly named, such the M1911 being just called the 1911, or some that didn't even have names at all, like the "machine pistol" and the "toggle action shotgun" which I suspect is due to them not wanting to pay for the licensing rights. I imagine that the reason there were so few weapons is so they could sell you more in supply drops later, because it was just sad. There were 3 pistols in the game off launch, compare that to something like world at war, which had 5, and the game came out a decade ago.
At its core this is just standard Call of Duty multiplayer, there' basically no strategy, just run forward and shoot anything that moves. There's certainly some fun to be had here when you get passed all the awful menus and maps, the issue is I got bored way too quickly, and it felt like a chore to play after the first few hours. I never really got a feeling of boots on the ground nostalgia I was hoping for, I think that is largely due to all the garbage burying the actual game play, I could never overlook that.
Kill streaks are ruined
I hope you take advantage of the score streak training in the headquarters, because those things are incredibly rare in multiplayer. They opted to go for the score streak system present in most CODs the last few years, meaning any points you get (assists, capturing points, as well as kills) contributed to your next score streak. That's not inherently a bad thing, it encourages objective play and I thought was well done in the other CODs. In this game, oh man do they screw it up. For what reason I will never know, you get substantially fewer points towards your score streaks in this, and the score streaks cost the same. In domination, for example, you only get 50 points per kill, and something like 125 points for capturing a domination point, compare that to 100 points per kill and 200 points for a domination capture in black ops 3. As a result, getting score streaks is a rare occurrence in this game, even with playing the objectives. In a game of domination, to get a simple recon plane, without playing any objectives, you would need to kill 10 enemies without dying, to get a recon plane! Compare that to something like black ops 1, which required 3 kills to get a spy plane. You could quite literally jump on a domination point, kill the entire enemy team while capturing it, and finish capturing it, and the best score streak you would get out of it would be a pretty lack luster artillery barge, amassing you a total of 875 points. Doing the same thing in black ops 3 would amass you 1400 points which gets you RAPS, the third best score streak in the game. The fact that me earning a care package is some what of a rarity kills the longevity of the game for me. 90% of the game is just running and shooting, you almost never amass enough points to use any cool streaks, nor does the enemy, so the game is left feeling very empty. Kill streaks are like the bread and butter of COD games, the constant play and counter play of score streaks was enjoyable and gave you something to do on the map besides run around shooting guys, so the fact that they made them such a rarity is disappointing.
Call of Duty: World War II represents a very poor direction of the franchise. It seems they were so desperate to pander to a fan base sick of futuristic shooters that they forgot to make it unique and enjoyable. Despite a promising campaign, the low points of this game are what really brings it down for me. The multiplayer is a core element to any COD and this is one of the worst multiplayer I've seen by COD. The menu is a jumbled mess, the supply drop system is unnecessarily convoluted, the create a class system is severely watered down, the maps are consistently uninspired and boring to play on, and there are no fun party modes. The campaign is enjoyable for what little there is to it, but it is too short to justify the full priced game on its own. Long time fans of the franchise will want to pick this up for completion's sake but beyond that I really can't recommend this game. You will feel let down if you are expecting a nostalgic experience and if this is your introduction to the series it will turn you off for good.
Here's hoping the next COD brings this once great franchise back from the brink.