call of duty: wwii

A lit­tle bit of his­tory makes ev­ery­thing new again

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Leon Hur­ley

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.

Battle sta­tions

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 !

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