call of duty: wwii
A little bit of history makes everything new again
064 Taking Call Of Duty back to where it all started—the trenches and history of World War 2— turns out to be the smartest thing the series has done in a while. This year’s gimmick is not to have one: The guns are... just guns. There are no drones or tech, and everything can just breath a bit more as a result.
The multiplayer side of things is the biggest winner. While there are probably plenty who are going to flip out that their boost jumps and ‘kill EVERYTHING’ scorestreaks are gone, there’s a purity to the online stuff that the series hasn’t seen for years. Without the tech and gadgets, the focus is far more on your playing ability; about mastering guns, getting to know the maps, and just having fun. After the increasing speed and visual noise of previous instalments, there’s a cleaner purity to the online action here—a slower pace that means you know what and how you died, and maybe what you can do about it in the future.
That’s not to say the challenge isn’t there anymore, it’s just more accessible and understandable. The Division system introduces five basic classes for you to play with— effectively ‘basic soldier’, assault, heavy, sniper and ‘expeditionary’, who leans towards grenades and scavenging supplies. You can access more or less all the equipment available as any option, but each has a set of unique abilities you can unlock as you level up to suit how you play. Infantry, for example, can move faster while aiming down the sights, while Armored are less bothered by explosions, grenades, and other equipment. It’s leaner and, as a result, so much easier to understand and apply.
Two of the big new additions this year are War mode and Headquarters. The first one lets two teams play through a linear objective-based map—stealing or destroying supplies, storming Normandy beaches, or escorting vehicles to checkpoints. It’s a simple addition, but one that brings teams together, focusing and coordinating their efforts on group goals. Each stage is basically a redressed Hardpoint/CTF style thing about holding or taking an area/ object, but the swinging momentum as it moves along creates a satisfying draw. The only downside is that there’s currently only three maps. No matter how much fun they are, we’re going to need new stuff as soon as possible to keep things interesting.
Headquarters, on the other hand, is where you go when you want to take a break and fiddle with your gear. It’s basically Destiny’s Tower, something Activision has been so careful to avoid saying we’re almost impressed. Taking the shape of a D-Day beach command post there are various soldiers scattered around where you can collect bounties for completing objectives, check/change/buy gear and so on. It’s also where you can open your supply drops, test your guns in a firing range, and play 1v1 matches in an area called ‘The Pit’ (which is great to just mess about in). It’s perhaps the most interesting part of this year’s game given the
more social and active online life it suggests for the future.
There are lots of interesting changes then, but perhaps slightly disappointingly, zombies isn’t one of them. WW2’ s entry is… basically the same as it’s always been. Which isn’t a bad thing, but the pre-release build up seemed to suggest we’d be getting something new and different. Art style aside—dark and nasty after last year’s day-glo ‘80s fun—this is the same wave-based, area unlocking, power up chasing setup as before. It’s still a challenging and entertaining exercise in coordinated team work and swearing, just nothing like the revolution the secretive trailer teases suggested.
Go it alone
Single-player this year is, for the most part, as competent and entertaining as ever. Again benefiting from a simpler palette, you spend more time ‘in the moment’ rather than jumping from soldier to drone to satellite every five minutes. The reality of the weapons and events you’re playing through also adds an edge. Whether you’re fighting your way through the slaughter of the D-Day landings, or the exploding trees of an artillery bombardment, or even just a French village shootout, the gunplay and action are more direct; the spectacle more impactful with less distractions.
There are a few things that don’t quite work. Certain members of your squad provide the gear you need as you play—extra ammo, health, grenades, and so on. It’s a great idea in theory, as a literal gameplay manifestation of the ‘no man fights alone’ mantra of the original WW2
However, in practice it only works if they’re in range—needing a health pack and discovering the health pack guy’s nowhere to be seen can be a pain.
The story is also a little lacking in places. Characterization feels rather blunt, with various people little more than walking, talking manifestations of their role—friend, antagonist, and so on. It works well enough, but feels more functional than anything. There’s also an oddly lacking sense of why anything’s happening or who the bad guys are. It’s an odd thing to say given that this is built around one of the most famous conflicts in human history, but events just sort of happen with little explanation. Previous World War 2 Call Of Dutys generally did a great example of setting the scene, the scale of events and why X was happening, or Y important. This lacks that coherence and feels more like a shuffled collection of good setpieces rather than a carefully made playlist. A few stealth sections and ‘because people expect them’ vehicle bits are also a bit... [shrugs]. Not terrible, just adding little or feeling a bit needless.
In a way, it’s funny that Call Of Duty had to go back to move forwards, but overall the WW2 retread freshens up the series in a way that another science fiction future jump would have probably struggled to achieve. The single-player has spectacle in all the right places and a good second half despite some rough edges, while the multiplayer’s the most coherent and fun it’s been in ages. It’ll be interesting to see where
goes next year.
“The single-player has spectacle in all the right places and a good second half”
Left Just like in the real war, some Germans surrendered and it’s your call whether to shoot or spare them.
far left The big set-piece battles of World War 2 return and that means BE ACH LANDING !