Activision is back at it again with the worlds favourite war shooter franchise, and they’ve decided to go back to basics. From the marketing campaign (Get the squad back together) to the content of the game itself, Call of Duty: WWII is selling itself on nostalgia.
Do you remember when Call of Duty used to be good fun with your mates on Xbox Live? Before you took that boring job in finance and your console gathered dust? When celebrities weren’t the main antagonists and it was just the Axis? When all you had to pay for beyond the retail release were map packs, and loot boxes weren’t a thing…? Wait… forget I said that.
Call of Duty: WWII’s closest genetic neighbour is quite obviously 2008’s World at War. 9 years later, the main menu is still similar, but there are a whole lot of bells and whistles in place to whet the old palate.
First off, let’s talk campaign. World at War’s campaign, whilst not the most fascinating entry in the series (here’s looking at you, Modern Warfare) worked well and provided some standout moments. WWII’s attempt certainly does push those same buttons, and even has a few emotional turns.
There’s definitely a degree of effort in here, and it’s not something you should forget about in favour of the main multiplayer loop. Standout moments include an off-piste stealth mission where you infiltrate a Nazi headquarters as a French revolutionary spy and the Battle of the Bulge. It certainly captures the toil of war in a strikingly realistic manner, with viscera, low mood and grimy dug-in firefights padding out the 8-hour experience.
This is mostly due to the graphics, which are truly remarkable and easily some of the best I’ve ever seen on the PS4. It’s one of those titles I found myself stopping to take snapshots during random cutscenes. Speaking of cutscenes, there are a lot of them, and they’re often quite exposition heavy.
Raven software was hired to add a third degree to the campaign, which seems to come in the form of QTE’s, heroic moments and squad abilities. Despite being your brothers in arms, they also become resource mule’s as you build up the meter, chucking you health kits and ammo when you’re in need like Elizabeth in Bioshock Infinite.
This is necessary as your health doesn’t regenerate anymore. There’s an element of scarcity in the campaign that allows for a fresh level of difficulty. At points, I was dying a whole lot, and it provided a very decent challenge that I relished in on Regular mode. The writing is surprisingly decent, with a few emotional turns that actually hit home.
As you’re not jumping all over the world or swapping characters too much the locations can become dull, but if you attack this in short bursts it can be a fun jaunt that doesn’t grind too much. This also works in favour of the narrative, as a long arduous battle for your player character Daniels lets you connect with him.
It’s a typical war camaraderie story with your stereotypes like the alcoholic, orders driven Sargeant and his compassionate man-over-orders driven colleagues. Nothing too mental, but it’s Call of Duty! It gets points for having a go.
Overall, I enjoyed it and thought that it was a middling campaign in the many stories Call of Duty has plied fans with over the years. The ‘heroic moments’ was a forgettable addition that has you dragging squaddies out of the line of fire or letting Nazis surrender for a few ticks on your moral compass. Whatever.
Now, Nazi Zombies. This was perhaps the greatest surprise for me. The current state of it, which is the prologue and one map, is very very good. The location is sprawling and mysterious, the jump scares and new enemy types are engaging, and the characters are well voiced and endearing. David Tennant and Ving Rhames are two of the main characters! They do a great job, too.
It has turned the obtuse easter egg missions of Der Reise on its head, allowing you a notebook and signposting for each of the requirements. Some might say this removes the heart, but really, it’s integrated pretty well as to not show all of its cards, and I really liked it, as it distracts you from the monotony of Zombies gameplay. The pack a punch and weapon upgrade tools return, with a host of perks and armor upgrades baked in too.
Strangely missing is the ability to build up windows, and the excellent ‘MAX AMMO’ deathly cries from the VO that I loved in World at War. A shame, but it doesn’t detract too much and is super duper fun, even if you’re just playing on your own and joining three other players.
The multiplayer doesn’t change too much gameplay-wise from the beta, which was at best reminiscent of World at War. I didn’t feel like the game was too unbalanced, and there are tons of perks and means to outfit your soldier to suit your ability and play style which I enjoyed. The division system takes the plunge out of prestige in a refreshing way that rewards play but doesn’t disrespect your free time.
Whilst it’s not the best Call of Duty multiplayer experience, I do believe that it harks back to a time before it lost its way. It’s getting to the echelons of Modern Warfare 2 and World of War, and with a few balance patches, it might well be.
To my knowledge, there is no Bloc or Rust here which will make it into any Top 10 lists, but the maps aren’t too uninspired either. I enjoyed the loop of a map like Gibraltar or London Docks, but it wasn’t devoid of the typical spawn kills or camping spots that cloy after hours of play.
Multiplayer maps being used in Campaign and vice versa is something I’m not a big fan of, but they actually work well here and recreate some of the finer moments of the campaign.
One of it’s finest aspects is the brilliant War mode, which is like Call of Duty’s attempt at Rush from Battlefield. Players must disregard kill/death ratios and XP missions for the greater objective, which ranges from laying your life on the line to blow up a bridge with your comrades, to pushing three sets of tanks up a field to steal fuel. It’s very fun, and perhaps the games best offering besides Nazi Zombies.
However, if you’re all about progression you may want to stick to the other, more conventional game modes. Gridiron is wacky and interesting, perhaps not finding its feet quite yet but you can see the concept, and it is clever like Halo’s Griffball.
Unfortunately, on top of this, we have loot boxes that you call down on the beach of Normandy in the new Headquarters (pretty much Destiny’s social zone for Call of Duty)
Headquarters is a cool addition. Social hubs are a neat way to keep multiplayer fresh but also a great way for players to kick back and hang with friends between matches. There’s enough content in it to make it worthwhile too.
However, there is always the looming dread of a microtransaction in the air when you visit, and as I’ve been playing, I’ve been solo, as the servers are still having issues. This hasn’t affected multiplayer gameplay, but my Headquarters haven’t been populated since launch.
All in all, the multiplayer is hard to knock in comparison to other multiplayer shooters out there. It’s Call of Duty again, and if you like the feeling, its back and mostly as good as it can be for current generation consoles.
The sounds are all crisp and unforgettable, and the music is catchy across the campaign, menus and multiplayer. A strong entry in a previously waning franchise, Call of Duty restores itself as the best fast-paced military shooter on the market right now.
This copy of Call of Duty: WWII was provided by Activision PR. Our Editor-in-Chief Jordan Oloman spent 12 hours killing Nazis, again, for the second time this week, alive and dead.