While most know the Call of Duty franchise for its hectic multiplayer modes, and the people who have slept with my mother that fill the servers, the series also has a history of engaging and interesting campaigns. This trend was cemented through the previous generation, when Modern Warfare and Black Ops set the world on fire and continued all the way to last year’s sci-fi inspired Infinite Warfare. This, combined with rock solid gameplay and performance, have made Call of Duty an evergreen franchise, even while it moved away from its roots thematically. With the release of Call of Duty: WWII developer Sledgehammer Games has brought the franchise back to World War 2 for the first time since 2008’s World at War, but not quite all of Call of Duty’s signature traits have come back for the ride.
While I have generally preferred single player games in the past, online multiplayer has gradually started to become a bigger focus for me. There’s no denying that Call of Duty’s multiplayer is the biggest draw for the majority of the game’s fanbase and Sledgehammer have brought a new feature in WWII’s new Headquarters. Headquarters acts as a brand new social space in the game, similar to Destiny’s Tower, where you can see other players picking up orders, buying items from the Collection or opening their supply drops. There is one issue with Headquarters though, and that is that it’s been turned off since just after launch and there is no timeframe for when it will be back up. This may also have something to do with the general instability of the game’s servers, with server disconnections and being booted from matches not being too uncommon. I don’t doubt that these issues will be fixed – there’s no other option considering the franchise’s multiplayer focus – but be prepared for some connectivity issues for at least the near future.
Once you’re in a match however, you’ll find that the gunplay in WWII has been stripped back from the ultra-mobility and supers of Infinite Warfare. The game plays like the classic Call of Duty of old, with characters that move with normal human-like speed, guns that actually existed and no super abilities that can completely destroy a game’s balance. In a world filled with near- and far-future experiences, it’s actually a bit refreshing to be able to go back to an experience that feels somewhat more pure and simple in its mechanics and execution. While regenerating health has been nixed from the campaign, it’s still present in multiplayer. You still have different character classes with differing starting load outs, guns that can be customised and scorestreak abilities to use, but those have been synonymous with Call of Duty and shooters in general for years. In action, WWII feels fantastic, with highly responsive controls and a 60fps frame rate that seems pretty much rock solid. If you’re looking for a ‘classic’ Call of Duty experience in a world of sci-fi shooters, this should certainly be your cup of tea.
You’ve got a whole range of match types and modes to make use of the fantastic gameplay as well. There’s the classics like Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination and more, but the most interesting addition is War. War is a new and more narrative focused multiplayer mode, where you play as either the Allies or Axis that are inspired by real-life battles from World War 2. In War you’re given backstory and commentary to why you are fighting, as you work with your teammates to successfully complete battle-specific objectives to secure your success. There’s also the always-present zombies mode, this time called Nazi Zombies. There’s a small twist this time, however, with the introduction of four different character classes in Nazi Zombies. If you’re looking for a solid horde mode to play with friends, this might be where you spend most of your time in the game. Throughout these different multiplayer modes you’re completing objectives and earning credits/supply drops to get new emotes, costumes and more cosmetics for your character and weapons. At the time of this review, these credits cannot be purchased using real money, but Activision have confirmed that this option will be coming. This does have the potential to create an imbalance between players who are/aren’t spending money on credits to progress faster, as you can use them to unlock weapon attachments.
Up to this point, everything has been what I expected from a Call of Duty game, but that feeling started to wane as I played through the campaign. While past games in the series have had fantastic campaigns, Sledgehammer Games’ WWII falls short, with few of the memorable moments that are synonymous with the franchise. The campaign largely follows Ronald Daniels, a farmboy who wants to survive the war, save his friends and get back to his girl in America. Feel free to stop me if you’ve heard this story before, because you probably have in any number of films, novels and games based on World War 2 and any other war for that matter. Instead of a campaign filled with memorable set-pieces, great characters and an engaging narrative, WWII has that same war story you’ve heard a hundred times before. There are still some interesting parts to the campaign, including an investigation/stealth section about halfway through the campaign where you take control of a woman from the French Resistance, but those parts are few and far between. In a series where campaign design and content has largely been commended, it’s disappointing that WWII’s campaign just feels generic and forgettable.
While they may not all be memorable, the set pieces in WWII look fantastic. In fact, the entire game in general looks excellent. Every environment in the game is filled with heaps of detail. Cities are filled with unique textures, building architecture and rumble as far as the eye can see. Forests are densely packed with foliage, the skies look amazing, and all of this is made even better by the game’s utilisation of HDR. Character models are incredibility detailed and instantly recognisable as the actors they’re based upon. Explosions and other effects look great as well and add to the overall experience. Considering the games strict adherence to 60fps, the level of visual fidelity seen in the game is even more impressive.
The return to the boots-on-ground version of Call of Duty has largely been a successful one for the franchise, with the gameplay feeling fresh and fun once again when other recent titles started to fall flat. On the other hand, the campaign is one of the least memorable in the franchise and is fairly generic. If you’re looking for a new shooter to put some hours into, Call of Duty: WWII is a great choice, but if you’re looking for a memorable campaign there are better options elsewhere.
- Super smooth framerate
- Return to boots-on-ground style gameplay feels fresh
- Game looks fantastic
- Campaign is generic
- Network issues at launch