Another year, another Call of Duty.
It has become almost formulaic on how the game evolves now. Game released in November, enjoy it for a few months, let the season pass come around with some cool ideas to add on to Zombie mode, don’t pick up the season pass because none of my friends play Zombies and the new maps seperate the multiplayer community, then new game from new studio gets announced late spring-early summer, hate the idea, see it at E3, enjoy it, play the game, and repeat cycle.
As much as that formula has stayed the same, there is enough changes done with the latest entry to the series to warrent some sort of conversation and this is all thanks to the series going back to its roots in WWII.
COD: WWII’s storymode follows U.S. Army Private First Class Ronald “Red” Daniels, a soldier in the “Bloody 1st” and his squadmates. Red gets his first piece of action during the Normandy Landings on D-Day and from there, it’s the 1st job to push through Germany’s defences, liberating Paris, and capture Rhine.
While the story itself is rather straight forward, it comes with the Call of Duty twists we come to expect. High action set-pieces that turn into over-the-top destruction and carnage that we all know and love makes a return. What changes from previous years is actually how the campaign plays, as it ditches the “hide-behind-the-courner-sucking-your-thumbs” gameplay mechanic that has been used in shooters for some time to bring back the health bar.
Seeing a health bar is pretty jarring for a Call of Duty title, but it works for WWII as the game attempts to make you care for your squad by having them give you items like health packs, ammo, grenades and highlighting enemies. These skills are different per squad members and will only be able to be used depending on who is teaming up with you.
But Call of Duty WWII is no Brothers in Arms. Aside from 3 specific soldiers, most of the cast including Red himself, are mostly forgettable. The story also doesn’t seem to have the impact as previous Call of Duty titles and plays it rather safe in comparison, even its most dramatic scene feels sort of a thing that just happened rather then a lead-up of things to come or a drastic change.
Generally COD:WWII’s story is just flat, while it’s not the worst Call of Duty has done, we almost expected a more emotional presentation that historic moments like World War II opens up for. Given the series history for pushing the gun (see Modern Warfare’s Nuke scene, or Modern Warfare 2’s No Russian mission) it’s very disapointing that Sledgehammer missed their chance to do something amazing here.
COD:WWII’s multiplayer plays and feels similar to previous titles, but the return to boots on the ground feels very refreshing after all the wall-running, sliding, technology enabled combat that plagued the series since Advanced Warfare, and let’s be honest, there is another series that does this so much better.
Still, Slegehammer and Raven Studios have thrown enough in here to make it feel different. The new Divisions gameplay perks give us a new way to level up our characters and provide some additional ass-kicking abilities that are subtle but effective like the ability to add a third attachment to a weapon, longer sprint times, or incenerary shells to load into your shotgun.
While most of the game modes make a return, the new War mode is probably the highlight of the list with a Mission based scenario in which players attempt to fight through a level to complete a specific goal. This feels almost similar to Timesplitter’s Assault mode, or more modern – Overwatch’s Escorting matches. They’re fun team base matches that can provide plenty of entertainment for those looking for something more than shoot the other guys until they’re dead.
Finally, we also have the return of Zombies. Once a Treyarch staple, the co-operative shooter mode has seen some special love here thanks to Sledgehammer’s experience on EA’s Dead Space. This year’s Zombies comes backed with an interesting story which features 4 soldiers who are experts in recovering stolen art from the Nazis, whose train is derailed by a giant monster and are then thrown into a village filled with Zombie Nazis.
Zombies once again features a stunning cast lead by Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha in Vikings), Elodie Yung (Electra in Netflix’s Daredevil), Ving Rhames (Marsellus “Does he look like a b***h Wallace) and David Tennant (The Doctor). Probably the most impressive cast that we’ve seen in Zombies yet, plus with David Tennant lending his voice, it feels like we’re watching an alternate Doctor Who episode where The Doctor is a foul-mouth gun-tolting jackass fighting zombies.
The other thing that makes Zombies impressive this year is the overall tone. While generally, Zombies set a cheesy b-movie vibe that doesn’t really instill fear, meanwhile COD:WWII’s Zombies just sets a tone that where the Zombies may actually be a threat, that they can pop out of nowhere and that you’re never sure what is chasing you. Zombies gameplay is also improved greatly thanks to it’s own version of the Divisions system, giving players the opportunity to choose a role in the match and build their characters based on it.
The Multiplayer and Zombie mode are connected via the game’s Headquarters, a social hub allowing you to pick up game challenges, do 1v1 battles, and test out your guns in the shooting range. There isn’t much that is special here but it is a pretty interesting way to possibly meet other players.
The Headquarters is also where players can spend their mission cash and their own cash on *shutter* Lootboxes.
Now before I go on and say Lootboxes suck, because they do and Star Wars Battlefront will remain a horrible example of how that system works, Call of Duty WWII isn’t completely evil. Lootboxes are given randomly at times after matches, plus completing Headquarter missions will give you more to unlock. The boxes unlock 3 items and are mainly decorative items, and items that allow double XP with the exception of a rare gun upgrade that only seems to provide an extra skin for the gun and additional XP if you use it.
On top of this, you can use your in-game cash to purchase the items found in the lootbox. Unlocking all of the items in a specific tier will unlock one of the rare content. So the boxes don’t actually give you a pay-to-win tone, rather more like a pay to spend less time unlocking the useless stuff you really want. Granted, we’re still not fans of lootboxes, but there isn’t much to complain about here.
There is very little to hate about this year’s entry at the moment, and it seems that thanks to the Headquarters and the frequent updates done to the War Mode, COD:WWII might actually stick around a bit longer then we would expect. If you’re feeling series burnout, it’s probably doesn’t do enough to pull you back in, however it is one of the better Call of Duty experiences within the past couple of years thanks to the return to basics which was sorely needed in the series.