Activision have packed away the rocket boots and hung up the jet packs, taking their Call of Duty franchise back to its Second World War roots.
Ever since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Activision have been backing themselves into a corner. Each annual edition of their Call of Duty franchise had to be bigger and better than the last. Having wiped out North America, and then the world, the series ended up exactly where I hoped that it never would, on an alien planet.
As far as I’m concerned, as much as I enjoyed playing it, with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare the series jumped the shark in such a spectacular manner it would make Fonzie blush. From Advanced to Infinite Warfare, they’d even ran out of suitably hyperbolic titles.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Call of Duty was well overdue for a reset.
With Call of Duty: WWII we head back to the German occupation of Europe and once again, get to fight against the most deserving of enemies. Even the staunchest members of the PC brigade would have trouble arguing against filling Nazis with lead.
Repeat after me… the only good Nazi is a dead Nazi. It was true in 1944 and it is still true now.
But, the only thing worse and more deserving of your bullets than a Nazi is a zombie Nazi. Call of Duty: WWII has that covered for you as well.
Call of Duty: WWII is a game of three parts: the story campaign, the online multiplayer game and the co-op Nazi zombies mode. For many the cinematic campaign merely serves as a training exercise to the multiplayer mode, to others, the single-player element is Call of Duty.
In the opening scenes of the first Call of Duty game’s campaign, players parachuted behind enemy lines early in the morning of June 6, 1944, just before the D-Day landings. Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty was the spiritual successor to EA’s 1999 Medal of Honor, which was created by many of the same developers. MOH had already, very graphical, covered the Normandy landings only a few years before.
For this return to the Second World War, Call of Duty: WWII’s campaign, once more, places us on a landing craft heading to the shores of Normandy. Back in 1999 I though the Omaha Beach landing sequence in Medal of Honor was a very effective way of illustrating the horrors of war. In 2017, the visuals of COD: WWII pull no punches. Players, via the game engine’s almost photo-real visuals, brutally recreates events that on that beach and the bravery of the men who, in one day, turned the tide of the Second World War.
The graphics of Call of Duty: WWII are phenomenal. The visuals for the last few COD games have really raised the bar for first-person shooters, but in returning to the mud and grime of WWII, the graphics really get to transport us back to occupied France in 1944.
Featuring the likeness and vocal talents of Josh Duhamel from the Transformers movies, the campaign goes all out to provide players with a movie-like experience. Sledgehammer Games have mixed things up a little by introducing a health bar that doesn’t automatically refill. You need to use a medikit to heal. Your squad-mates can resupply you with ammo, grenades, medikits and intel on the enemy location with just a button-press, if they are in the vicinity.
On the whole the campaign works very well. There are a few quick-time- style elements that I wasn’t too hot on and there were some areas where progression seemed more about luck than any sort of skill. Still, I found the return to WWII a reset for the series which, to be honest, was getting a bit ridiculous.
The multiplayer game pits the Allies vs. the Axis across a series of maps and game modes. There have been changes to the class system, in that player now choose to sign up to one five divisions: Infantry, Airborne, Armoured, Mountain and Expeditionary. Basically, you are talking soldier, scout, heavy, sniper and (kind of) engineer.
The multiplayer game features a social hub-come-lobby where players can hang out, visit a shooting range and challenge each other to one-on-one duels. I can’t say that I was overly excited about it, preferring to play an online match than hang about.
Multiplayer has the usual selection of modes. Of particular note is War- an objective-based team match that has one team attacking and another defending in a historic scenario, for instance, the Normandy landings with the German team defending the beachhead whilst the Allies storm the bunkers. As the attackers succeed in their objectives the defenders are force back to the next position. This could be my new favourite mode.
Kill Confirmed overtook Domination as my favourite COD multiplayer map a few years back. Collecting the dog tags of your kills adding a bit of spice to the usual team deathmatch mode. Of course, old favourites like Capture-the-Flag and free-for-all also serve to get the adrenalin pumping.
Perhaps because I’m getting older, but the return to the classic boots-on-the-ground gameplay suits me a lot better. The vertical gameplay of recent iterations put me at the mercy of wall-running, rocket-booted ninja multiplayer opponents.
As well as online opponents, you can play the multiplayer maps solo with bots, with friends over a local network and even split-screen.
The Nazi Zombie mode adds a co-op mode in the typical over-the-top sci-fi style that is usual of COD’s zombie modes. We’ve not gone up against zombie Nazis since the first zombie mode back in COD: World at War. This time, the mode includes the voice of former Doctor Who, David Tenant, as one of the characters you can play.
The gameplay is similar to previous zombie modes in that it is a wave-based game, whereby your kills equate to credits that can be used to upgrade weapons and kit. In order to progress your team needs to work together to both hold off the zombies and carry out objectives in order to unlock the next section. Nazi Zombies is an acquired taste and one best shared with friends rather than randoms.
Call of Duty: WWII may not be the return to greatness that I was expecting, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. The game is visually stunning, especially running on a PS4 Pro in 4K HDR. The single-player campaign is, for the most part, a lot of fun. Multiplayer is great- although I’m not so keen on the hub, or the loot crate thing. Zombie Nazis is Zombie Nazis. Fans of the recent sci-fi Call of Duty games may be in for a shock with WWII’s down-to-Earth gameplay, but I for one am glad the franchise has returned to it’s roots.