Call of Duty: World War II
Available on: PlayStation 4, Steam, Xbox One
Release Date: November 3rd, 2017
Developer: Sledgehammer Games, Raven Software
Reviewed on: Xbox One S
Call of Duty WWII’s release was a crucial one for me. After three years of bitterness towards the franchise, I was beginning to miss my adrenaline-filled nights of combat with my clan mates. I was at my wit’s end with Call of Duty and had divorced the entire franchise.
I sheepishly installed the beta hoping that I would have a fire rekindled in me for what used to be my favorite FPS, and was left cautiously optimistic by the end of the trial period.
I fought the urge to install the full game for day one gaming and made a decision to wait it out the first week and watch my partner play instead, thinking that I could gauge from his enjoyment of the game if it was, in fact, worth the investment. That lasted all of about 30 minutes.
Unfortunately for my other half, he didn’t get to play much that night. I promptly commandeered his controller and began making a mess of his KDR. After an overnight install, I was once again hooked on the Call of Duty franchise.
Call of Duty is well known for its compelling campaigns and WWII has not let us down. Even with the installments in the franchise which I strongly disliked the multiplayer aspect of, the campaigns were still well worth the time investment (looking at you Ghosts!).
The first thing that will strike you about the campaign is the overwhelmingly spectacular graphics. Possibly the best I have seen in a video game. The almost photo-realistic environments and characters are breath taking.
The WWII setting is naturally going to be very foreboding, full of atrocities, and confronting. The pacing sends you on an emotional roller-coaster from start to finish, going from full-on raging war scenes, to spy-like espionage, to character building and heartache. The staging is constantly being changed up meaning it’s very hard to become bored with bullets whizzing past your ears, turning your focus to vengeance then back to tragedy, then fear and anger. This element of the campaign has been done extremely well and you could be forgiven for thinking that you were inside an episode of Band of brothers.
I particularly enjoyed the change-up for how you heal your character. Instead of the typical hide for 10 seconds and your health will re-gen approach, you now use med kits to heal. You can only carry a certain number of these which makes using them appropriately and sparingly a real consideration. This also adds a layer of suspense to the missions as you are more focused on your health level than you would normally be. This doesn’t mean the missions are actually harder to complete than normal, simply that an illusion exists that you are more vulnerable now and that creates tension.
I enjoyed every moment of WWII’s campaign, to the point that I even caught myself staring wide-eyed, jaw-dropped at the screen as I completed a certain mission involving a train. I won’t say any more on that so as not to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t embarked on the campaign yet; however, that mission is one of the most action-packed, visually spectacular, adrenaline-pumping missions I have ever played in a Call of Duty campaign.
Whilst every aspect of this game is not historically accurate, it’s not meant to be. It is a game and should be treated as such with a historical influence not backbone. Think of this as a theatrical embellishment of a loose re-enactment of historical events and try to refrain from focusing on the finer details.
The only gripe that I have with the campaign is the framerate drops. Quite often immersion would be broken due to very clear framerate issues. This should not be a thing in a single player experience such as this. These drops would occur intermittently but were clearly happening and ranged from rather small just noticeable drops to larger screen shutters.
Here is where I really lose a lot of hours. Call of Duty’s multiplayer has been responsible for hundreds upon hundreds of hours of lost productivity for me over the years. With how WWII’s multiplayer is starting to shape up I can see myself losing a couple hundred more.
I’ll start this section by getting my complaints out of the way first. The spawn positioning in some of the game modes, particularly Free For All, is really bad. I mean – make you want to smash your controller bad – that kind of bad. On more occasions than I wish to admit I have found myself spawned on top of, or right in front of the enemy. It’s an instant death for you and when this happens 4 or 5 times in a row it’s enough to make you turn the game off. This is an issue that needs immediate attention however, the global spawn positioning in Call of Duty has never been perfect and probably never will be. There are so many factors to take into consideration and the algorithm for this is continually evolving. If only we had the technology to be able to identify where the other players on the map are and not spawn players in front of them. I look forward to a day when that kind of groundbreaking technology exists (yes I’m being sarcastic and yes I am a tad salty).
The system for unlocking perks and such also needs a bit of an overhaul in my opinion. This is really geared towards better players and those who have the spare time to really sink a lot of hours into the game. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily faze me, looking at this from the view point of that everyone should be able to enjoy the game and not get slaughtered because they don’t have 50 hours a week to invest into the game, is where my complaint comes from. So buckle up casuals because you have a hard slog in front of you.
The map layouts I also have mixed feelings about as a couple of them feel well-proportioned whereas others simply promote camping and sniping, or are a maze of rabbit warrens and tunnels. I understand that this creates variety for a range of different play styles however it does make it very hard for you to settle into a grove. I feel that this is a real consideration that needs to be closely looked at when the expansion pack maps are implemented.
The “boots on the ground” experience that we were promised is definitely present. You really feel like a return to the form of old has finally arrived and its oddly refreshing considering this is nothing new, simply a reinstated norm.
One main difference in the multiplayer is a new mode called ‘War’ which is a blast to play. Objective team-based gameplay – that is exactly what this franchise needs. This game mode really encourages you to work with your team mates and can be quite gratifying. I recommend you spend some time in this game mode if you are feeling a bit fatigued by FPS games as this will really spice back up your passion for it.
You are given the ability to choose from a variety of different divisions which each have their own attributes and tie into some of the orders you collect over time. So be sure to play around with each division until you find your jam. I really enjoy this aspect of the multiplayer as it adds variety without becoming overwhelming (looking at you Black Ops 3!).
The Headquarters (HQ) is the new social area in WWII which reminds me a lot of the tower in Destiny. Basically, this is where you will go to team up with friends, check your mail, get orders, purchase bits and pieces from the quartermaster, and a variety of other activities.
Now that the HQ is actually working (server issues at launch meant this area wasn’t populating with other gamers) one attraction I think is fantastic is the 1 v 1 pit. Yep, that’s right “1 v 1 me bro!”. You can join a queue and watch from above whilst others battle it out in the 1 v 1 pit – lots of laughs had right here.
There is so much that you can do in the HQ. A firing range, access your supply drops, visit the gunsmith, play old-school video games, train at the score streak training range, make emblems, go to the theater and watch the division films, prestige your weapons and divisions, the list goes on and on.
This is a great inclusion in the game and just when you think the HQ can’t get any better you then discover that there are Easter Eggs to collect!
Call of Duty’s base multiplayer mechanics have always been the same and most likely will continue to be well into the future with the occasional new game mode added, so there’s not much to report on in that regard. It really comes down to if you are a fan of boots on the ground or jet packs and rainbows. I prefer boots on the ground so WWII is really working for me.
Zombies. Waves and waves of zombies, oh how I love thee. I am a massive zombies fan (particularly Black Ops 2) so I am always a little pessimistic when it comes to any other studio than Treyarch taking this on. Luckily for me I love story-driven zombie plots and Sledgehammer are brilliant at creating intricate and engaging stories. You play as one of four characters: Marie Fischer, Jefferson Potts, Olivia Durant, or Drostan Hynd who are Monuments Men/Woman that are trying to recover priceless works of art that were stolen by the Axis powers during WWII.
You stumble across a Nazi research facility in a village called Mittelburg where some pretty gruesome and unthinkable atrocities have occurred in the attempts to create an army of un-dead to help the Nazis win the war.
The setting is on point, bolted together mechanical zombies, ominous pits, electricity-deprived environments, all the ingredients to make a horrifying zombies mode. As expected electricity can, in fact, be turned on by finding the right switches and so you begin your journey of hunting them down, locating parts and opening doors.
Whilst you can’t change up too much without becoming a different entity (looking at you again Ghosts) you can change just enough to brand this mode with your own stamp and Sledgehammer have achieved that.
My only complaint is that I feel that compared to many other zombie modes in the franchise, WWII’s attempt is not as difficult as you would expect or hope it to be. I feel like the difficulty level has been lowered to cater to more of the CoD audience instead of really delving into its own identity and staying true to the zombie addicts like myself.
All in all, Nazi Zombies is a lot of fun, the matchmaking is solid and the framerate held well. If you don’t normally play zombies I recommend giving it a crack as you will likely be pleasantly surprised.
GRAPHICS / SOUNDTRACK
The graphics in WWII change with the mode you are playing. The campaign showcases some of the best graphics I have ever seen in a video game, whereas the graphics in multiplayer are visibly downscaled to compliment the framerate. This is understandable however somewhat disappointing.
Sledgehammer’s environmental artists are to be commended for the quality of WWII’s visuals. Re-creating historic locations with such accuracy and detail could not have been an easy feat, yet one that has been done with precision in WWII’s campaign.
There are times during the campaign when there is so much happening on the screen that you can barely keep up with it however the quality of the visuals is barely compromised (save the odd framerate drop). I continually would stop, jaw open, and stare at the screen in disbelief that I was playing a game and not watching a movie.
Splendid work has been done on the campaign aspect of the graphics Sledgehammer, splendid indeed.
The graphics in the multiplayer I praise highly but nowhere nearly as high as I do that of what you will experience in the campaign. The environments are still very detailed and impressive however feel a bit washed out compared to the campaign and slightly more grainy (if that’s even a proper descriptive word). The best way to put it is that the multiplayer seems to have been downscaled to compliment the framerate which results in a slightly less spectacular visual experience.
The soundtrack is superb. Really well placed theatrical pieces that emphasize the grandeur of crucial moments as well as the isolation and fear in others. The soundtrack is an extremely important part of the gamer’s immersion into a game and how invested you become. Sledgehammer again has not let us down on that one.
Much to my delight, the weapons sound like proper weapons being fired and reloaded. We have previously had to deal with very “tinny” sounding gunshots and others that sound like bullets being fired into a barrel of water. WWII’s guns sound authentic which really makes a huge difference even if you’re not a history buff.
The voice acting is very well done, with properly placed accents and voices that actually match faces. There is nothing more confusing than when a character opens their mouth and the voice coming out of it clearly doesn’t belong to that person. This is an extremely important part of any story that is being told because if you can’t connect with the characters, creating an attachment to the outcome and an investment into the safety of the protagonist can be extremely difficult. The absence of this makes for a dull game in my opinion. I was easily able to connect with the characters, from Ronald “Red” Daniels (Brett Zimmermann), to Robert Zussman (Jonathan Tucker), both have a strong presence on the screen which is cemented in by the strong voice acting of both Zimmermann and Tucker.
Faith in the Call of Duty franchise – Restored.
I am very impressed with basically every element of the game (apart from a few minor gripes about framerate drops and spawn positioning). As someone that was expecting to strongly dislike this game, I am utterly relieved to say that I am very impressed with all game modes and look forward to losing hundreds of hours of productivity playing it.
If you are new to the franchise this is a great place to start as there is a real return to form in WWII. Sledgehammer’s take on zombies is refreshing whilst staying true to the identity of the game mode, the campaign is compelling and visually spectacular, and the multiplayer is fast-paced boots on the ground fun.