The Call Of Duty franchise has found it’s way back to earth in the renowned war-based shooter series latest release. Yes, boots are back firmly on the ground as Sledgehammer Games take the reins of the series in Call Of Duty: WWII. As the title states we become reacquainted with the WWII roots that once saw the series prosper and packed into the game we see a heartfelt campaign, the forever popular zombies mode and COD’s famed multiplayer. The developers have ditched the exo-suits, boost jumps and laser weapons for this particular installment and it’s unquestionably done the series a favour in doing so.
No sacrifice too great – a motto that rings true throughout one of the more emotional Call Of Duty stories we’ve seen to date. The game primarily follows Private Ronald “Red” Daniels and his platoon. Although the campaign feels a bit “been there, done that” with it’s not so original, Call Of Duty-esque storyline , you still plough through a story choc-a-block with intense action sequences, diverse gameplay all broken down with dramatic cinematic custscenes that push character development through the commendable voice acting of the main characters. There’s immediate focus on Daniels’ relationship with the other members of his platoon, especially his tight friendship with his fellow private Zussman. There’s a very typical group dynamic, there’s a nerdy photographer, the cocky best friend, the noble leader and his second in command who’s a bit of a nut. There’s a fantastic amount of emphasis on just how unrelenting WWII was in this particular COD installment and it makes for a much more poignant story as the stress of the Nazi rein tests the bonds between the members of the platoon.
The COD: WWII campaign starts on a high note in regards to gameplay not the hell that begins to unravel. Hitting the beaches of Normandy on D-Day is like playing out the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. You must advance up the beach, pushing through waves of Nazi’s in hope of reaching and ultimately destroying the German bunker defence. Heaps of trauma unfolds around you as your comrades get peppered by the German infantry as you make your push. As you play out this opening sequence you really get to delve into Call Of Duty first-person shooter greatness at it’s finest. The gameplay is fast-paced, strikingly intense, hard-hitting and peaks your interest instantaneously. After relentless gunfire, showers of grenades and few intense button mashing sequences in which you have to drag the analog into a pulsating circle then press a separate button to execute, all as a Nazi soldier bears a blade to your throat, you reach the end of the first chapter and subsequently open up a whole new can of worms.
As you progress through the 12 chapters of the campaign, you come to realise no two chapters feel the same. In one mission you find yourself shooting down enemy planes that govern the skies, in the next you’re commandeering a tank, dwarfed by a Panzer tank that’s trying to hunt you down. A few chapters on you’ll find yourself weaving in and out of an American bombing run formation in a P-47 Thunderbolt, shooting down Nazi planes that are taking shots or posing as the enemy in the hornets nest, stealthily trying to navigate your way to an exchange point. Moreover, thanks to the squad system implemented in this COD installment, standard shooter sections feel fresh and different. As you play through missions, members of your platoon are able to provide you with ammunition, replenish your grenades or hurl a health pack at you in a dire time of need. This is helpful in preventing you from running around a heated battlefield in search of ammo and great for keeping your medi-kit reserves high to counter the lack health regeneration. Transitions between these varying aspects of gameplay are sleek and effortless as you swap between the different playable characters fighting different parts in the war. For instance, Daniels doesn’t just appear in a plane when needed, instead he calls in an airstrike in which the map then pans out to the pilot of the plane leaving you to take over. As a result the game flows fluidly, definitely constituting a more enjoyable experience, creating immersion.
Call Of Duty is renowned for dropping in the occasional star appearance. We’ve seen Gary Oldman as Viktor Reznov in World At War and Kevin Spacey as Jonathon Irons in Advanced Warfare. Call Of Duty: WWII follows suit introducing Josh Duhamel who does an exemplary job of voicing Pierson, second in command of Daniels’ platoon. Pierson’s seen the most unforgiving side of war and it has rendered him a bit of a loose cannon. He’s unpredictable and doesn’t take kindly to following orders issued by his superiors and although it makes him a pain of character, it also makes the campaign’s proceedings somewhat erratic too, certainly shaking your confidence in any obvious outcomes. However, Pierson isn’t the only part of COD: WWII that’s a little rough around the edges. COD: WWII is riddled with cinematic cutscenes, supposedly to draw a more profound focus onto our protagonist and his relationship with his fellow privates, fluffing out the story. Sadly, by the time I reached the end of the campaign I was almost giddy I didn’t have to watch anymore of them. Cinematics felt unbearably unstable, frames where inconsistent and I’d experienced first hand what it’d be like to have poor eyesight and have to watch a movie without my glasses that I’d misplaced.
Call Of Duty’s main appeal if not zombies is it’s renowned multiplayer and COD: WWII without question exerts that same FPS multiplayer finesse the series is so well favoured for. In this multiplayer boots are back on the ground so there’s a lot more focus on player on player combat and skill as opposed to the luck of being able to wall-run or double jump away in the middle of a fight. Sledgehammer Games have also put to rest their standard create-a-class system and instead introduced divisions. There are a total of 5 divisions to choose from as of the moment (with more expected to be introduced in upcoming DLC) including: Infantry, Airborne, Armoured, Mountain and Expeditionary each of which featuring their own weapon skills and combat training. Perks have been wiped off of the board also meaning you must level up your divisions in order to expand your horizon of weapon skills. A new create-a-class system isn’t all that’s new to WWII’s multiplayer. Alongside a new post-game “kill-cam” system in which the most impressive kill of the game is showcased as opposed to the very last one (more like an Overwatch Play Of The Game) and new objective game mode called “War” you see Sledgehammer Games have introduced a new social hub known as “Headquaters”. Here a total of 48 players can watch each other open loot boxes, test out score streaks, attempt warm to new weapons in the firing range and get stuck into 1v1 duels should they fancy.
Nazi Zombies also makes an appearance in WWII – a blatant nod to the more iconic zombies mode of World At War. This cooperative zombies mode in which you face endless waves of the undead features an original zombies story-line and although based in the same era, is actually set in an alternate reality from the main campaign. The story in which the Nazi’s attempt to swing the war in their favour by creating an army of the undead although ultimately sci-fi/ fiction, is actually based on some real events as stated by co-founder of Sledgehammer Games Michael Condrey – spooky eh? A new class system is implemented in this iteration of the COD zombies mode in which players can play as one of four classes: Offence, Medic, Control or support. You are able to customise class loadouts with perk equivalents known as Raven Mods which entitle you to varying skills and benefits as you play much like multiplayer. You can choose to take the casual path or the more favourable hardcore path, all of which offering you insight to the story, especially thanks to the in game hint system where parts of the story are unveiled as to allow the player to follow certain paths and ultimately progress.
Despite a “samey” story and unbearably unstable cutscenes, COD: WWII is a huge step up from the Call Of Duty instalments in recent years. In removing any trace of double jumps and wall-running and revisiting their roots of rattling MP40’s and the hitting the deck running crouch mechanic, Sledgehammer Games have steered the Call Of Duty franchise back onto it’s more successful path. With an earnest campaign brimming with sentiment on a very serious era, a fresh-ish multiplayer and a new zombies series that nods to it’s more successful predecessors it’s safe to say my fate’s been rekindled in the franchise once more. It’s agreeable that the ensemble of developers that work on this game have set the bar far too high for themselves with the more iconic titles such as Modern Warfare and the first Black Ops title that serve as the face of the franchise, but even so it’s satisfactory to see the series back in it’s comfort zone again, a place where it once boomed without a hint of competition.