Played on: Regular PS4
What I’ve Played:
- Completed the campaign
- 20+ hours of multiplayer across all game modes
- Played multiple rounds of zombies, spent 5 hours on the mode
- Went through multiplayer prestige once
Everybody’s familiar with Call of Duty. Ever since the release of Call of Duty 2, we’ve been given a new entry in the series every year, and especially following the release of the last two titles, franchise fatigue began to manifest, both in sales and reception. So instead of the recent sci-fi stuff, we have Sledgehammer Games revisiting one of the most horrible points in human history with a campaign that shows the horrors of war, a multiplayer experience that retains the quick, close-quarters combat that keeps player glued in their screens for hours, and a cooperative mode that requires exploration and teamwork to survive waves of Nazi zombies. This shooter is far from perfect, but it’s the best Call of Duty release in years.
A Personal Journey
In the campaign, you play as U.S. Army Private First Class Ronald "Red" Daniels of the 1st Infantry Division, and your first mission is to storm through and survive the Normandy landings of 1944. Famously known as D-day, this battle has been portrayed in past games, but what we have here is a great modernized interpretation of a key moment in the war. They kick things off with a historical event, but the reigns are slowly given over to the relationships of the men in Daniel’s platoon. The intimacy keeps you invested as you navigate the horrors of war. Camaraderie, brotherhood; these felt like the prime focus of the narrative. The Nazis were just fodder. The real enemy was closer, in the struggle of, say, whether to prioritize the life of your fellow brother or to do whatever it takes in order to fulfill the mission. There’s no grand antagonist that these characters have to overcome, not beyond the situation they’re trapped in.
The gameplay of the 6-hour campaign is as grounded as the storytelling. The return of med kits and a life bar changed the way I approached the campaign. The fear of death is ever-present if your life is low, and searching an area before leaving proves beneficial, since an extra med kit is always something good to have at all times. Ally AI isn’t going to save your skin by shooting down a charging Nazi - they are completely useless in that regard - but they do have their moments. Each member of Daniels’ platoon can be ordered to give you aid if you kill enough enemies. One can toss you a med kit, one can highlight nearby enemies, and one can even make you call in a mortar strike. This gives more opportunities in tackling each firefight.
The campaign brings the player to all sorts of far-flung locales, from the snowy forests in Germany to the streets of Paris. There are gameplay elements that stray from all the shooting, giving you command of a tank squad and even a fighter plane to support Daniels’ platoon. Stealth sections are also here, and they often provide opportunities to thin out the opposition before the firefight begins.
A majority may consider multiplayer as the sole reason to pick up a Call of Duty title, but this personal World War II tale is something to experience, and it’s also the best way to get your feet wet before going online for a few competitive matches.
The Call To Arms
For the multiplayer portion of WWII, it will be familiar and much intact to series veterans. The game can be exhilarating and frustrating at the same time, and it may look simpler than previous entries since the weapons and streaks available cater to the specific setting, but it all came out better in the end, with gameplay leaning more towards positioning and reaction time. The available weapons and maps cater well to close-, mid-, and long-range gun combat scenarios, but the fact that there’s only nine standard maps available with the base game could see this title wearing out faster to veteran players. If you count the three exclusive maps for the new War mode, that makes twelve.
There are nine modes available, with the usual suspects like Team Deathmatch, Domination, Capture the Flag, etc. The new mode called War is an attack or defense game mode focused on objectives, and it has its very own maps that are bigger and segmented, providing various objectives for the attacking and defending teams to accomplish. It’s a great enough addition that, with adequate support and popularity, I can see it becoming a staple in future titles.
Variety exists between game modes, but finding matches in less popular modes has become a challenge. This is a problem found in past games, and it looks like WWII is no different. It’s really based on where you are. Matchmaking was at least doing a good job at pairing me up with those nearby. For most of my time online, I found myself playing with those in Southeast Asia. Latency issues on the PS4 were never a problem during my time with the game.
The Progression System That Keeps On Giving
Headquarters is another new addition to the series as well. It’s a social hub for players to gather and do various activities and pick challenges before heading to a match. I appreciate this space, but the problem I face on a daily basis is counter-intuitive. As of this writing, Headquarters is always a ghost town. There are no players to interact with and it’s a shame since there seems to be a social progression system where one can level up and earn rewards.
The usual leveling progression is still in place, but this time we also have the Division system, which is the developers’ take on a class system that aims to cater to different playstyles. Some perks, attachments, are division-specific, which gives each division personality. I like how the Airborne division are the only class that can have suppressors in their SMGs, or how the Armored division have bipods on their LMGs.
Lootboxes are a thing here and while some might not appreciate the addition, so far it’s simply for cosmetics like pistol grips, banners, and unique outfits for each division. The daily and weekly challenges, plus a few lootboxes earned through leveling, felt like a decent amount of content to fully customize your soldier. The need to buy isn’t there so far, and hopefully during Call of Duty WWII’s lifespan, it stays that way.
Zombies make a return, and the first map is a big puzzle to solve. There’s a finite number of zombies that come at you during each wave, and it all just gets more complex the longer you survive. Objectives are laid out with vague clues on how to progress and unlock more of the map. It’s over-the-top from a gameplay and narrative standpoint. You can tell the devs were having fun with it. Matches can last from 5 minutes to 2 hours. This mode shines when you and a couple of friends tackle it together for the first time. This co-op mode has a separate progression for skills, and with a little communication, different gameplay styles can complement each other well.
Call of Duty WWII is a great package, and a good title to pick to revisit the series if you so happened to fall off the wagon a few years back. Community events seem to be a thing for the multiplayer portion (Winter Siege now available) and ranked play is now active for those that really want to get serious. Daniels and his platoon’s journey made me wish for more campaigns like it, and it’s a fun affair to blast zombies with a few buddies. Sledgehammer Games has given the franchise a good boost. We will most likely see another Call of Duty next year, and whatever it is, I hope the series sticks to their guns, because this definitely paid off in the end.
- Great campaign with a solid narrative featuring enough twists in gameplay to wear out any accumulated redundancy
- Impressive sound effects and visuals found in both the single player and multiplayer portions of the game
- Call of Duty’s known combat is well complemented thanks to WWII’s setting, making for a more grounded experience
Headquarters is a good addition but fails to work as intended
A small number of game modes are heavily populated while some are close to dead, leaving you forced to join the more popular modes
The maps available is not nearly enough and will wear thin
[This review is based on a PS4 review copy provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment Hong Kong.]