Series improves in return to its roots
The office is loud and chaotic. Construction crews have cut a hole between two floors in a Foster City building. Offices await occupants, stairs are being installed, and amid this ruckus Glen Schofield, one of the studio heads at Sledgehammer Games, is gearing up for his young studio’s biggest title.
“Call of Duty: WWII” is a return to the beginning for the franchise. Before “Modern Warfare,” the game that has become synonymous with firstperson shooters started as a World War II campaign. Returning to the origins was a natural move for Schofield and his team.
“We started talking to the company about it,” he said. “They thought the same thing. It was clearly what the fans were saying, as well. The timing was right.”
As Schofield’s team began working on “WWII,” it was less about making the game fun than respecting the material. That’s a delicate balancing act, and one they have done well in the singleplayer campaign, which follows American soldier Ronald “Red” Daniels from D-Day to the crossing of the Rhine.
Sledgehammer cleverly fosters a sense of camaraderie among Daniels and his platoon. It’s led by 1st Lt. Joseph Turner and Sgt. William Pierson, whose command operates almost like yin and yang for recruits. Each team member fills a specific role in combat and offers power-ups that aid in gunfights.
Pvt. Robert Zussman hands out first-aid kits, Turner tosses ammo, and Pierson spots enemies so they’re easier for players to see. Players depend on their computer-controlled squad mates through the campaign’s 12 missions.
The varied level design includes “Call of Duty” staples such as car chases, but the studio surprises players with stealth missions; even one in which players take on the role of a spy. Throughout the stages, Sledgehammer tells a cohesive and sometimes touching story. The only problem is that the pacing is heavy on the front end, but then rushes toward a short finale.
When it comes to the multiplayer, Sledgehammer has taken a cue from “Destiny,” creating a so- cial space called the Headquarters, where players sign up for side missions, gear up and shot their gear.
The big changes come in the form of Division — another way for players to explore customization. Without perks and classes, “WWII” is less intimidating as players choose which of five division to serve, and explore the weapons and skills tied to each of them.
Battles are still fastpaced, and they require quick reflexes, but the one notable addition is the War mode. It pits teams of six in an objective-based match. One side attacks while the other defends, and, the next mission to come depends on the outcome of this one. There’s a tug of war as players adjust to the tasks and try to coordinate attacks.
The last part of “WWII” is the zombie mode, which is where Sledgehammer’s latest entry shines. Owing to Schofield’s background with “Dead Space,” this take on the series’ coop mode is scarier and darker than past adventures. It follows four characters, each of whom has a specialty in combat such as healing, offense, control and support.
The campaign takes players to a remote village, where Nazis experimented on captives. Players discover that the sinister experiments created an army of the dead, and it’s up to the squad of Monument men and women to save humanity.
As in previous modes, players fend off wave after wave of zombies. They can buy weapons and power-ups by spending Jolts. They need to constantly eliminate the undead to earn currency, and then spend it to stay alive. This gameplay loop is addictive, but what’s different is the scope of the adventure, which calls on players to explore the depths of this mysterious village while achieving simple but repetitive objectives.
The revamp makes for a diverse package that should impress veterans and newcomers alike.
“Call of Duty: WWII” marks the return of the franchise.