I wont lie, I’m not a massive fan of boots-off-the-ground gameplay. Despite the fact that the last band of Call of Duty installations housed a mechanic in some form that allowed players to zoom and dart around the environments, the gameplay remained solid and well structured. Still, you just cant beat classic boots-on-ground gameplay, and that’s been one of the strongest selling points for Call of Duty: WWII. It’s easily my most anticipated Call of Duty since Black Ops II, and now that it’s here has the end result paid off? Yes, make no mistake about it this formula is the Call of Duty that we’ve all been waiting for. Sure it may be a little rough around the edges but for the most part, it’s something the long running series has needed for a good while now. This can be said not only about the multiplayer aspects of the game, but the campaign and the excellently crafted zombies content too.
Much like the very first Call of Duty, Call of Duty: WWII takes us back to the devastating Second World War. Players are instantly transported to June 6th, 1944, the events of D-Day on Normandy beach. It’s a disturbing scene to say the least, but then that goes without saying. Tucked into a small boat whilst approaching the seafront, you’re rapidly thrown into the fray as bullets rain from all directions. Before you know it almost the entirety of your fellow troopers are shot down, leaving you with no other choice but to jump overboard and storm the beach on foot, and that’s when it hit me. Soldiers were dropping into a sea of red left and right, heavy artillery continued to slam our platoon and I was tasked with taking on what seemed to be the impossible. It’s also right about here that I noticed the subtle yet noticeable changes that have been made to the functionalities of play. Hell, I was playing on the easiest difficulty setting and even then the game was giving me a run for my money, but given the theme and the setting, WWII shouldn’t feel like a walk in the park. It’s brutal, it’s moving, and it’s completely intense.
Self healing is now a thing of the past, or at least in the campaign it is. Instead you’ll need to rely on your trusty First Aid kits to replenish your health. These do tend to come in decent supply and when you find yourself without a kit, you can call up on your medic to lay one on you from time to time. You can only carry up to four of these at once and they don’t fully heal you to maximum health, which effectively makes the combat more edgy. It’s a welcoming move because you’ll no longer be able to simply hide behind a rock until your health regenerates automatically, forcing you to think fast on your feet and carefully deduct which confrontations are worth the risk. The same format is laid out for grenades, ammo, directional support and air-support. Unfortunately QTEs (Quick Time Events) make a return, which is a long dated mechanic and can prove to be frustrating when you hit the wrong button or fail to align the analog, but mercifully there’s only a handful of them throughout the campaign. Still, it’s 2017…
I’ve never been one for dishing out spoilers or ruining any pivotal plot points, so I’ll dance around the story as much as I can. The campaign clocks in at roughly five hours in length, which will naturally inflate per higher difficulty tier. Throughout the course of the story you’ll mostly be seeing the hardships of a single platoon, but there are moments in which you’ll play as characters that are supporting the war effort too which helps to break up the pace to a small degree. Despite the short campaign, Sledgehammer have stuffed a remarkable amount of action to flesh out the experience. You’ll be chasing trains, infiltrating an embassy, capturing iconic landmarks and much more. The cast of characters are voiced magnificently well, with Josh Duhamel’s portrayal of Sergeant Pierson effortlessly stealing the show. The writing can at times prove to be corny and cliché, but for the most part the voice actors put in 110% to uphold the personality within. The conclusion did have me scratching my head in disbelief at how sudden and rushed it felt, but I cant deny that it was the ending I was rooting for.
There’s a good level of replay value to be found within too, and my oh my haven’t we come a long way from simply replaying missions to locate the all too dull intel? Instead WWII offers up a selection of items and scenarios to take you off the beaten path. Each mission houses three mementos to collect, and once collected you’re able to read up on what you’ve nabbed via the menu screen. You can also perform a total of 23 heroic actions, which can range from saving unique allies that are locked in a struggle to forcing enemy troops to surrender. Mementos and heroic actions are automatically saved as soon as you collect or execute them, meaning you don’t have to replay each mission and redo what you’ve already unlocked. These additional goodies along with the new gameplay mechanics do collectively dish up a campaign that’s well worth playing through more than once, but it’s the genuine feeling of camaraderie that pulls through the most.
WWII forces you to rely on your squad just as much as they rely on you, something that’s all the more apparent when you’re separated from specific squad mates for missions at a time. It truly makes you miss their useful resources, something that you tend to take for granted when they’re present and by your side. There’s also a good level of character growth regardless as to the fact that the game’s missions are periodic rather than consistent in progression, which is no easy accolade to boast. I was quite surprised by the dialled down portrayal of the Nazis. It’s no secret that the Nazis were barbaric during WWII and with Call of Duty never being one to lay it on lightly, it’s quite tame in comparison to what I was expecting from the series. This isn’t a criticism by any means, but more of an observation. Either way when all is said and done, WWII houses a fantastic (albeit short) campaign that brings the action, the emotion and a solid well rounded cast.
Sledgehammer have spared no effort when it comes to the multiplayer aspects of play. They’ve introduced some interesting new additions as well as refining the gameplay to emphasise the much needed boots-on-the-ground action. The inclusion of a new social hub makes for some very interesting moments via the HQ. HQ replaces the match lobbies that we’re all too familiar with from COD titles of the past. Here you’re able to gallivant around your soldier’s base. You can test weaponry, pick up challenges, have some 1v1 fun, and even test scorestreaks. Furthermore when you reach Prestige level and re-roll your rank, there’s a neat animation that plays out to showcase your achievement to the rest of the troops in the lobby. It’s an entertaining and in-depth take on lobby-waiting, and one I hope that sticks around for future installations in the franchise. The very first time you jump into the multiplayer you’re able to select a Division.
This new system does away with the long running ‘Create a Class’ system and encourages you to walk a more structured progression through multiplayer. It’s a system that’s very easy to get to grips with and does indeed offer a great amount of freedom to play as you want through the vast amount of choice within. Another new addition outside of the usual collection of game modes is the War mode. Here it’s all about tactical, strategic co-op play. It’s an objective based narrative-driven mode where players must work together as a team to beat back the enemy. You’ll be escorting tanks, holding ground, destroying fuel and more. It’s exhilarating and engaging, but with how competitive Call of Duty is, it remains to be seen how much this mode will be supported by the community. Uplink makes a return in the form of Gridiron, as well as other notable modes such as Free for All, Search and Destroy, Team Deathmatch and heaps more. There’s no denying that WWII’s multiplayer will keep you hooked for a long while to come, bolstered by post launch support and DLC map packs.
That leads us to Nazi Zombies aka ‘The Final Reich’, a mode that Sledgehammer have promised will be every bit as inciting as it is terrifying. The cast offers up a unique and entertaining persona for the mode too, comprised of Jefferson Potts (Ving Rhames), Drostan Hynd (David Tennant), Olivia Durant (Elodie Yung) and Marie Fischer (Katheryn Winnick), who must collectively take down hordes of undead to defeat their creator, Doktor Peter Straub (Udo Kier). Nazi Zombies is a much more accessible version of the mode when comparing to other iterations from previous titles, something you’ll witness straight from the onset via the informative and fun tutorial that can be taken on to give you the basics of play. It’s still not an easy experience, far from it. In fact to this day I’ve never once completed a Nazi Zombies in any Call of Duty title, but this is without a doubt the most fun version of it by a mile.
You’ll still have to start from scratch if you end up on the inside of zombie but the ability to unlock perks for loadouts as well as special abilities adds some form of permanent progression to the mix. The traditional gameplay remains the same regardless to the new lick of paint and subtle changes. There’s secrets to uncover, plenty of mechanics to bond with and suss out, easter eggs to hunt down et cetera, et cetera. It goes without saying that Call of Duty: WWII packs more than enough content to once again justify a return to the series, boasting an impressive campaign, a solid online experience that has depth and welcoming new additions, and a definitive zombies mode to keep you on the edge of your seat. It helps that the game looks absolutely gorgeous throughout all segments of play, the care and attention to detail is through the roof and the in-game character models at last look photo realistic and don’t come with dodgy animations. This, as pointed out above, is the Call of Duty we’ve all been waiting for.
If you’ve found yourself growing tired of current-day or futuristic Call of Duty titles, Sledgehammer have a formula that wont just entice returning players but one that will allure fans that have since lost touch with the series. The return to simplistic boots-on-the-ground action is just what the proverbial doctor ordered, and it goes to show that we don’t need jet-packs or air-thrusters as much as the executives think we do. The gameplay is well rounded, action-packed and thoroughly enjoyable. The campaign (although short) is deep, emotional, and greatly relays the devastation of the Second World War. The Nazi zombies is surprisingly scary but comes as a much more accessible mode than what we’re all familiar with, and the online sections of play proves to be every bit as commendable and well designed. The visuals and voice acting across the entire package is outstanding and despite a few issues here and there, this is Call of Duty in a return to form, and one I certainly wouldn’t advise that you miss out on.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.