Call of Duty: WWII Review
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: November 3, 2017 – 81% on Metacritic
There have been 8 installments of Call of Duty since World at War released in back in 2008, and with each passing year another Call of Duty was here then gone, the franchise growing more and more stale with the series moving increasingly into the future. Call of Duty has made a triumphant return to World War II, and although it comes with its fair share of flaws, this is the freshest the series has felt since the original Black Ops.
The story follows a squad of American soldiers throughout the war, starting at D-Day and ending with the fall of Germany. As much as the story revolves around the events of the war, equally it focuses on the dynamics between each character in the squad. A brotherhood forms, bonds are broken, people die, and you see first-hand how the war changed people. I thought the campaign was particularly refreshing – I felt a genuine disdain for some characters and a real connection between the squad. If this game’s squad was put into a full-length blockbuster movie it would fit in with the best of the WWII films.
While not as groundbreaking or surprising as the first Modern Warfare, or as mind-twisting as the Black Ops series, Call of Duty WWII’s story fits right in with some of the best of the series thanks to the excellent dialogue and performances of each character. If not for that, the campaign would be very generic. The story of World War II has been told the same way a thousand times over in video-games, and although it hasn’t been told in such a grand way for a decade, it would be nice to view the war from a different lens.
“I felt a genuine disdain for some characters and a real connection between the squad.”
The campaign takes about 5-6 hours to complete on regular difficulty. Spending the time to search for all of the collectibles you can find on each mission and completing some of the secondary objectives like saving downed AI (which I thought was an excellent addition – the soldiers would die if you didn’t drag them to safety) will add a few more hours to the campaign. It’s a respectable length for a modern shooter, and I appreciated the brevity in its experience. Nothing felt too dragged out, and as I mentioned above, the story it was able to tell itself nicely in the length of this game.
The multiplayer launched with server issues which dampened my initial experience. How does the single-biggest video game franchise in the world, which sells millions upon millions of copies every year, release with server issues? It’s unforgivable. However, server issues were cleaned up in a matter of days and the experience has been steady ever since. Although there aren’t too many maps that are included, they are all designed well and provide a variety of gameplay styles on each map. I fully expect a ton of paid map packs to release in the next calendar year for this game – I don’t expect to purchase them.
“How does the single-biggest video game franchise in the world, which sells millions upon millions of copies every year, release with server issues?”
The loadout system has been redone for Call of Duty and it is now much more digestible than its previous 10 point perk/attachment system. Now, you have one perk that you can choose as well as a different class-specific perk depending on the regiment you choose for that loadout. Guns have a different amount of attachment slots and plenty of customization options from skins to sight reticles. In addition, the excellent custom logo editor is back and with it, I was actually able to replicate the Mythic United logo, which I love. Why can’t every game just do this?
Weapon selection is pretty limited unfortunately. World at War had more weapons, attachments, secondary’s, perks, and options for players to explore while remaining very intuitive. WWII is stripped back in this regard, and while simplicity can be bliss, it’s laughable that a game in 2008 has more than a game in 2017…
New to Call of Duty are Headquarters and War. Headquarters is a social space where you can open loot crates, take-on and complete challenges, and interact with other players in-between matches. More importantly, this is the space to open loot crates and, disgustingly, to watch other players open loot crates. To be honest, I think this mode is a waste of processing power. I respect and understand what Sledgehammer was trying to accomplish, but I’d rather have a fluid menu system to work in, rather than running around a virtual space that does nothing more than to lengthen the amount of time you have to play. This has been altered since its initial release, so you are no longer required to use Headquarters, thankfully.
War is Call of Duty’s answer to the Battlefield series. Two teams take turns on large non-linear maps as the Axis & Allies attacking or defending various positions. While some games turn into which team is throwing more grenades than the other, sometimes there are fantastic matches where everything clicks and I understand why they included this mode in the game. Much like other gimmick modes added to the previous Call of Duty’s, I think this mode will only appear in this iteration. It’s a novel idea, but too often does the match turn into something it’s not supposed to be.
“…I’d rather have a fluid menu system to work in, rather than running around a virtual space…”
Zombies have turned into a humorous mode in the past few iterations of the series. Now, in a return to the series roots, Nazi Zombies is back in a much more serious, horror-based mode. Unfortunately, this mode is based around memorizing the map and spending a considerable amount of time to really enjoy the experience. If I had all the time in the world, this mode would be great. The return to classic nazi zombies is fantastic, but it’s still plagued with the flaws of the original mode.
Until recently, Call of Duty’s gameplay has never been the issue. It’s easy to learn and difficult to master, which is one of the qualities of most great games. Ditching the craziness of Advanced Warfare, Black Ops 3, and Infinite Warfare pays tribute to the mantra of “less is more”, because it truly is. Traditional boots-on-the-ground gameplay is back, with no crazy wall running, explosive RC-car killstreaks, or jetpacks to be seen anywhere. It’s you, your gun, and maybe an airstrike if you’re good enough.
Gunplay is as great as ever – no weapon feels unbalanced and no matter what class you are playing as you always feel like you have a fighting chance. The power is the player, not the game. Equally, the weapons all sound wonderful. There’s a certain grit to World War II and it’s weapons that come across beautifully in this game that only helps to immerse the player in the experience.
Call of Duty: WWII is visually stunning, although it pales in comparison to its competition. Cutscenes during the campaign are shockingly life-like, and when transitioning from cutscene to gameplay it doesn’t remove you too far from the experience, which has been the case in all video-games since their inception.
More importantly, the developers have taken a great deal of time and effort to replicate as much real-world detail in each map/campaign mission as possible and it pays off. When playing the game I never felt like I wasn’t dropped into World War II. This is quite a big deal – when games remove you from the setting you know you’re playing a game. When the game keeps you immersed, that’s when the magic happens.
“Cutscenes during the campaign are shockingly life-like, and when transitioning from cutscene to gameplay it doesn’t remove you too far from the experience…”
Call of Duty: WWII is a great return to form and a direction that I applaud Activision & Sledgehammer Games in taking. After taking a hiatus from the franchise since Advanced Warfare, I’m glad to be back playing Call of Duty again. If not for the fantastic character interaction and writing of the game, the campaign would stick out as generic. I’d love to see Call of Duty look at World War II from a different lens rather than just the American experience. Server issues also plagued the game at launch, which I have to dock points for. Multiplayer is as great as ever, and the industry-leading gameplay which Call of Duty is known for remains 100% intact. Zombies are back but it carries the flaws of the previous iterations. If you are solely looking for a single player experience, buy this game when it goes on sale. Otherwise, the multiplayer, campaign, and zombies modes combined make this game a worthwhile purchase. It feels good to like Call of Duty again, but I can’t help but remember how great World at War was in 2008.
Call of Duty: WWII is a fine return to form, and it’s worth playing if you are itching for a modernized World War II game. World at War is still superior in almost every way.
We live-streamed the game on launch day. If you’re interested in watching a bit from every mode, I’d encourage you to look through our stream recap!