Title: Call of Duty: WW2
Platforms: PS4 (tested), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: November 3, 2017
Rating: PEGI 18
Reviewed by Max Alexander
Call of Duty: WW2 sees the series return to the Second World War setting for the first time in nearly 10 years. A lot has changed in Activision's flagship shooter series since the release of Call of Duty: World at War back in 2008. We’ve fought the Viet Cong in Black Ops, donned exoskeleton suits in Advanced Warfare and even been to space in Infinite Warfare. Long time series fans would be forgiven, then, to think this could potentially grind the competitive and fast-moving nature of the series down. If this was ever a concern for you, I am happy to report Sledgehammer Games has done a terrific job of ensuring the pace is very much still there.
As we have come to expect in recent times, Call of Duty: WW2 comes bundled with three prominent game modes. Campaign, Online Multiplayer and Nazi Zombies. All of which are good experiences in themselves even if it can feel somewhat jarring to jump between storming the beaches on D-Day to mowing down Zombies as Ving Rames. Having these three game modes is what we have come to expect of a Call of Duty title these days, but I can’t help think that if you lost the zombies aspect, you’d ironically have a more complete title.
This is mostly because the main campaign does such a terrific job of setting a more sombre scene, one of loss and camaraderie. We follow US Army Private First Class Ronald "Red" Daniels and his squad as they storm the beaches of Normandy with the 1st Infantry Division, all the way through to the Battle of the Bulge. With him is a team that don’t just serve a narrative purpose but actually are integral to your success throughout the seven-hour story mode. For the first time since Call of Duty 2, we no longer have regenerative health and so we have Private Robert Zussman on hand to throw you med packs when there are none on the field. Sergeant William Pierson will temporarily call out enemy targets for you, by highlighting them on the battlefield. Private Stiles dishes out grenades and Lieutenant Turner keeps you stocked up with ammo.
Each team member serves a purpose and when one of the team is missing, you certainly miss them. It makes the cast essential and needed in a way not seen in previous titles. Missions where you are running low on ammunition and not having Turner with you, see you swapping out guns and desperately conserving ammo. Or searching for Zussman to toss you a med pack because you're down to your last few hit points.
Adding to the heart and human nature of this year's campaign are moments when you can play out a rather heroic act by rescuing a fellow soldier from attack or dragging a fallen ally to safety, so they can be patched up by a medic. There are even times when the enemy will surrender when you overrun them. Giving the player the option to give mercy to the enemy does give you a noble satisfaction that can be quite rare in games of the genre.
Unfortunately, we do seem to fall into the same trap of shooting waves and waves of enemies to progress more often than I would have liked. These portions of the campaign are broken up by one-off missions that see you tackle such things as defending a fleet of bombers in a fighter plane or driving a tank through the streets of Germany. Trying to take out enemy Panzers and infantry alike.
These parts play out fairly well, although on nowhere near the same scale as rival title Battlefield 1 does. The tanks section feels a little clunky and somewhat claustrophobic as you drive circles around a block of flats, trying to get the jump on an enemy Panzer. Sections like this can see you driving/ flying for long periods of time try to get a lock on the enemy and doesn’t do much to raise tension. Neither does the heavily scripted stealth sections that at times, feel like going through the motions of taking out conveniently-placed enemies that appear and stand in just the right place for you to sneak up on them.
The campaign otherwise does a great job in telling a more grounded story with some nice set pieces, even if it can come across a little bland at times. But levels like Liberation make the campaign worth visiting this time around rather than be overlooked in favour of multiplayer as it sometimes is.
Multiplayer has always been Call of Duty’s shining jewel, and this year's iteration is no different. Matches feel fast and frantic, all the while offering a more tactical edge for you to make use of all the weapons classes available. Maps such as Gustav Canyon are a sniper's dream, with long stretches of land to take your shots. Alternatively, maps like Pointe du Hoc will offer some close quarter combat in the trenches, with plenty of bottlenecks to make use of your flamethrowers and shotguns.
As far as presentation goes, COD:WW2 does a great job of keeping to its setting. When loading up multiplayer for the first time you will be asked to join one of a number of divisions, each accompanied with their own enrollment video. You will be rewarded with division exclusive perks the more you use them in battle, such as Airborne's ability to use suppressors on SMGs or Infantry's additional weapon attachment perk. The decision of which division you choose is not permanent and players are allowed to chop and change between all five on the fly. Being able to swap out a number of perks mid-game can often be the difference between a good and bad game.
All of the things that fans have come to expect from Call of Duty like scorestreaks and classic game modes make a return as well as a new mode called War. War pits two teams against each in very specific war scenarios, be that invading the beaches at Normandy or escorting a fleet of tanks across the an ally defended bridge. Matches are long and arduous affairs with matches being broken into multiple parts. From building a bridge to another where you have to destroy artillery in the enemy base, one team attacking and the other defending.
A new social area has also been introduced. A place for players to interact with each, take out daily contracts and objectives for rewards or trial new weapons at the shooting range. This feature will feel very familiar to players of Destiny as the hub offers essentially the same sort of experience as Bungie's hugely popular title does and is a welcome addition. There is weaponsmith on hand for prestiging and customising guns. An R&R tent that is packed full classic Activision titles such as Pitfall 2 and Private Eye. There's even a theatre to watch the coming ESports games through. There is also an area that is cordoned off and only available for those of us who prestige, giving us yet another reason to want to climb through the ranks. As in previous titles you are able to change your appearance, but don't think you will be peacocking an exotic new armor ala Destiny here. Outfits are in keeping with uniforms worn during the Second World War and are class specific. New cosmetics can be obtained via your quartermaster in exchange for Armory Credits or from loot crates. Loot crates can be obtained by completing objectives or by paying real world money, a trend that is becoming more and more prevalent in AAA titles. While this isn't strictly a pay-to-win mechanic and items received from loot boxes are mostly cosmetic, there are skins for weapons that offer a permanent boost to XP gains, which can affect your experience when competing against others through the levels, which is unfortunate.
And finally, on to the extremely popular Nazi Zombies aspect of the game. Here we veer off from the tone that had previously set by some great storytelling and setting in both campaign and multiplayer mode. We still fight Nazis, they're just not living. Nazi Zombies follows a similar to past iterations of the mode and pit a team of four against waves and waves of the zombie hoard. All the while solving intricate puzzles, which can be difficult unless you have a team that is mic’d up.
As always, this is a star-studded affair and players will assume control of such celebrities as David Tennant, Ving Rhames and Katheryn Winnick. David Tennant in particular being a highlight, with his witty quips. Dialogue is pretty entertaining, even if the story is a little bland. Our heroes are charged with retrieving art stolen by the Axis. Beyond that you will be mainly be trying to figure out some rather complicated environmental puzzles that prove incredibly difficult to figure out if you don’t have a good team that are communicating with you. This isn't just a Call of Duty problem though and more one that can be present in all Multiplayer games that require you to do something other than the basics.
I found myself just trying to unlock as much of the map (which is terrific) as possible in my first run, using the zombie modes currency equivalent, Jolts. And there is a lot of map to unlock. There is a lot to see here and it all links together nicely, so surviving the waves can become easier. Upgrading in this version also gets a boost and there is a hell of a lot of things to upgrade, tweak and ultimately kill zombies with. After the main quest the story does not end and you will find plenty of secrets and easter eggs dotted about as well as six unlockable characters for players to sink their teeth into.
As I mentioned, considering the tone of the rest of the game, this part does stand out like a sore thumb. I personally would rather see Sledgehammer make a fully-fledged stand alone title for Nazi Zombies. It's not that this mode is bad. On the contrary, it's very good and creates a gripping atmosphere, it's just not in keeping with everything else that is on offer.
Overall Call of Duty is a good game which just misses being truly one of the greats in the series. The story, far more personal and relatable if a little bland, the multiplayer incredibly addictive but tarnished by potentially unfair boosts to levelling and Zombies is extremely challenging and fun, if a little out-of-place. Call of Duty: WW2 plays it a bit safe for the most part, in spite of some genuinely big changes.