Well here we are again, another year, another Call of Duty (CoD) title. My relationship with the franchise has been a bit sporadic since the first Black Ops entry, mostly skipping titles or only playing them at family members houses for the zombie mode. Moving into the future just didn’t do it for me since there are just more intriguing futuristic shooters out there that do it better, so when I heard they were returning to WWII my curiosity was piqued. I can say confidently that this is the best CoD I have played since Black Ops, but it still isn’t on par with World at War.
Let’s get one thing out of the way early here, I am not one of the people who demand historical accuracy in a game like CoD. The series is meant to bring you through some aspects and locations of the war, but by no means is it going to be a 1:1 realistic representation. CoD: WWII tells the story of a young recruit (Private “Red” Daniels) in the U.S. First Infantry Division who experiences combat for the first time on D-Day. After surviving the beaches of Normandy, your squad will fight their way across Europe, engaging the enemy in iconic battle locations such as the Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge, as they make their way into Germany. There are 11 missions with an epilogue that will only run you around 5+ hours depending on difficulty and if you collect everything.
There is nothing in the campaign that is really surprising, you’ll be going through similar situations that you have gone through for years in CoD before it went futuristic, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything new to show or do better than the previous entries. For instance, we of course get another D-Day entrance, but this is done way better thanks to the high production value. It is the best D-Day sequence I have seen since Saving Private Ryan. There’s also a fun sequence where you take control of an AT-6 plane that offers some freedom in the air and some intense dog fights. Another positive change is the removal of automatic health regeneration. Health packs make a return in this game, making health management and taking cover in trenches more important, especially on the harder difficulties. At times you will be moving with a squad who can throw you a health pack, replenish your ammo, spot enemies and call in an air strike. You can trigger these squad moves once they have recharged and a few times you will need to rely on that 1 health pack that gets tossed to you.
Speaking of your squad, they are well acted in motion capture and voice over, but unfortunately only a couple get much focus. There is one character in particular you will end up loving and feeling for and another that is a bit of a war story cliche, but I wish they gave a bit more depth to the other characters. Luckily they substitute their pointless presence in the story for giving them the squad abilities to help you out during combat. Having these squad abilities gives them a sense of purpose while they are there, but that’s where their usefulness ends. Their AI is beyond dumb. Well, the AI in general is pretty silly. Your squad AI couldn’t even hit the broad side of a barn with a flamethrower. They are so non-threatening that the enemy AI will often times stop shooting at them once you enter their sight even if they were in a melee fight.
CoD: WWII is one of the best looking CoD’s I have seen, but the graphics are still a mixed bag. Storming Normandy Beach looks fantastic. Limbs flying everywhere, bullets zipping by you, diving behind cover with the detailed sand and realistic looking foot prints. Then you get into the run down cities and forests and the up close details and textures start telling a different story. Luckily this isn’t too noticeable in heavier action stages until you need to dive into cover, but in sections where you’re running through the forest during a mortar strike, the game looks fantastic.
The sound department also has its ups and downs. Like previously mentioned the voice over work for the actors is delivered well, with the proper amount of emotion and intensity I would expect from WWII soldiers. The vehicle sound effects are also well done from your planes and tanks. The only let down and unfortunately one of my biggest problems with the sound design are the weak sounding guns. None of them seem to have any impact. It’s like I’m shooting BB guns at Nazi’s. Throwing on my headset with the Dolby Atmos app certainly helped with giving the guns a bit more oomph, but it really showcased all the other ambient sounds even more. The planes flying over head, tank shells and grenades exploding around you, Nazis and teammates screaming. It can get very intense at times.
The multiplayer is largely the same, even shoving in modifications to weapons that shouldn’t be in the game like holographic sites just to keep a similar feel as the recent titles. I realize this is just the multiplayer mode, but it just seems wrong having a red dot site on a grease gun. While the gameplay is largely the same, there are a few good additions and some others that were put in to capitalize on micro-transactions. Let’s start with the good. They introduced Divisions, which help let players customize further to the gameplay style they like by giving certain bonuses. For example the Airborne Division gives a class skill of a suppressor, leveling up in the division can grant you skills like sprinting for longer distances, increased sprint speed, extra piece of lethal equipment, and more. The Divisions can be swapped later if you want to change up your play style. This gives you something to constantly look forward to, giving a sense of progression for many hours.
Now, the bad. The map design is nothing special at all, mostly favoring up close weapons. The servers are horrendous, somehow a massive money making machine with massive renown can’t seem to provide dedicated servers or even stable servers at all. They also included a new social hub similar to Destiny’s, which feels very out of place here and more often than not you will be in an empty area due to the terrible servers. The social hub seems like a tack on to showcase their loot drop system, which can now be purchased with real money. You can call down a loot drop which opens for everyone around you to see, which seems like a fun idea if you’re with a group of friends and you can show off your winnings. But this was obviously included to get people to watch each other open boxes to encourage you to buy one yourself to get that or an equally epic item.
The Nazi Zombie mode remains as my favorite feature of CoD, offering a co-op experience online or local up to 2 players. The base game only comes with one map which is kind of disappointing, but there is enough here to keep your group busy fighting through the mini story and the waves of fierce undead. The zombies look extra gruesome thanks to the updated graphics and there are some pretty twisted looking creatures on display here. I don’t believe this map is one of the better ones I have played, but it certainly is still a ton of fun figuring out where and what to do with your buddies.
CoD has always been a well put together package of content and if you’re willing to drop the money on a season pass you will get plenty of content to keep you busy. Returning to WWII and its roots of boots-on-the-ground combat definitely paid off. The campaign, while nothing surprising, still was a lot of fun and it was nice seeing some familiar locales highlighted with new tech. It isn’t without its problems, however. The bad AI, bad servers, bad map design, focus on a loot box social space with micro-transactions, and the weak sounding weapons all hamper this promising entry into to the series.
Call of Duty: WWII is available now on Xbox, PS4 and PC.