Call of Duty: WWII Review by MaurickShepherd

11 Jan 2018 11 Jan 2018
9 0 0
The last few years have been rough on Call of Duty. On both a critical and financial level, the franchise has been fluttering on a lower level than the predecessors had held onto for many years. While discontent has been present in the franchise since Modern Warfare 2, fans and dissociated gamers have been very vocal about how the direction and repetition of the franchise has become tiresome and predictable. After Infinite Warfare, the franchise was risking its fans, identity and culture.

So it was in the hands of the developers that gave soldiers jet packs and threw them into space, Sledgehammer Games, to recapture the bloody, intimate action that gave Call of Duty its namesake. So they reversed the clock to the bloodiest war in the world's history: World War II.

So here we have the newest entry in the Call of Duty IP, Call of Duty: WWII, named aptly to show gamers exactly what they are going to get. Trading the jetpack fuel and titanium suits for boot polish and M1 clips, Sledgehammer packs this game with the standard three modes we have all come to expect from the series: Campaign, a co-op mode, and multiplayer.

The campaign introduces us to the same war we've fought before in a way we've seen before. The first mission, subtly named "Stronghold," throws us into the blood-soaked waters of the English Channel, stuck in a crowded Higgins Boat, viewing it all through the eyes of Private 1st Class Ronald Daniels. As we await the sound of Normandy's sand to nestle under our boat, we witness the horrific outcomes of those around us who aren't so lucky, explosions sending bodies and limbs into the air and water around us. Sledgehammer took full advantage of the current-gen console power and made the most visceral and gut-wrenching D-Day portrayal in a video game to date.

As the campaign rolls on, Sledgehammer Games slowly unravels the complex relationship soldiers within the 1st Infantry Division have. Avoiding spoilers, the game does a good job of telling this story through excellent acting from the mo-capped men and women portraying the small unit you're in. Certain moments in the game stick out, one involving an underground library in particular for me. There's the expected tank and airplane missions that take you out of the sole perspective of Private Daniels, and I found these missions the least engaging. They just sort of felt bread-and-butter to me, and while I understand why Sledgehammer opted to include these, I think it took me away from the developing plot I was interested in.

Outside of that, certain set pieces irked me throughout the game, including an utterly A-team-esque train scene that was just comedic to me. Again, Call of Duty's big set piece moments are becoming the biggest annoyances simply because any immersion the game had built up to them suddenly disappears when you're watching the unfathomable occur on your television.

The story fails to live up to those first few missions, as a result. The writing felt like it took a major dive after roughly halfway through the campaign, as people become more caricatures than characters. I was satisfied with the single player campaign, but I would easily target it as the weakest link in the trifecta of content in this game.

Nazi Zombies takes a more linear approach than prior games. While you're able to still freely run trains on zombies and survive as long as you can with up to three friends, the "Easter Egg" keeps an objective list for all players to work toward, similarly to the campaign (without all the annoying 'follow' objective monikers). The atmosphere is more horror-focused in the newest undead iteration, which is something I've always wished for. I loved the light-hearted approach to IW's zombies mode, but I equally was happy with how Sledgehammer used their vast horror gaming experience (many of the developers carried over from Visceral Games, responsible for the early Dead Space titles) to craft a different experience for the long-running zombies mode.

The standard pack-a-punch and perk machines are there, with slight twists to them that make them interesting to utilize and learn about. The objectives are fun to work toward, if a tad repetitive at parts. I was still very excited and intrigued to delve further into the lore that's planted all throughout the snow-covered village of Mittelburg, Germany, and all the dark secrets underground.

It wouldn't be a Call of Duty, however, without its multiplayer. Once known as revolutionary, the last few iterations have struggled to find its own stride to make it as memorable as the Modern Warfare trilogy. With WWII, although that answer still might be missing, it certainly feels more comfortably familiar yet newer than those games before it. You're introduced to Headquarters, a first for the franchise. Although comparisons will rightfully be drawn to Destiny's Tower, the social space feels natural and unique enough to quickly dispel those thoughts and become its own. Players can open supply drops in front of friends and randoms, test out loadouts at the firing range, update challenges, and try their skill at the 1v1 arena, which is itself more fun than anything I could find at any of Destiny's social spaces.

But social spaces aren't what makes a mulitplayer mode such as Call of Duty's. Thankfully, the gameplay is solid and the guns all feel great and balanced, with a slight exceptions to shotguns (or maybe I'm just bad). The standard game modes are mostly back, only missing the quite popular Ground War mode, which essentially prevents there being an 18-player game mode for the first time since it was introduced in the franchise. The 10 maps that launch with the game are fairly good, although I personally haven't played that much of the standard game modes. For me, the best game mode to grace a Call of Duty in generations is War.

Essentially "Operations" from Battlefield 1, players are pitted against each other as the attacking or defending side, charged to complete a set of objectives across a large map. From gathering fuel for empty tanks to building bridges, these objectives are quite fun, especially with a group of friends. Tactics are needed to successfully fend off/complete objectives in the time limit given, and the amount of experience points players earn from this mode is easily the largest considering the time spent per match. Sledgehammer Games even took it upon themselves to remove K/D counts from this mode, ensuring you won't land on a team with people who camp and only care about a ratio that doesn't benefit their team whatsoever. It's a nice touch that shows Sledgehammer Games is listening to its active community and paying attention to the details.

Call of Duty: WWII doesn't reinvent anything. By returning to WWII, however, they aren't hiding that fact. What they do is bring WWII gaming to a new generation of players that would have to travel back to 2008 to experience Normandy in first person. For those of us that have been around long enough to remember the craze that was WWII games in the early 2000's, this is a bit of a nostalgic trip. For all, however, there is a solid entry in the franchise that returns boots to the ground and leaves enough space for further entries to explore humanity's darkest hour.