It’s that time again where Activision unleash the latest Call of Duty game. We have had the stints in the future, the modern take on warfare and now a return to the realism of World War II; pastures well-trodden from times past, so why revisit again you might ask. To be fair, the ultra modern hi-tech madness of the last game was thrilling, and the game before that as well, but there is a special place for wars that actually took place in our history, plus it’s a chance for America to show how its influence in the war led to the allies victory. A reminder Americans have no fear in sharing time and time again. For us the pinnacle of Activision’s Call of Duty WWII past offerings came with World At War, an incredibly engrossing experience filled with passion, frustration and spammy grenades. The question remains then can COD WWII top this?
To put things into perspective, it’s obvious this time Sledgehammer Games and whoever is in charge of the writing has attempted to tell more of a story about brothers in arms. Where previously players might swap between multiple characters and teams, this time stick with the 1st Infantry and a unit of friends banded together in hell on Earth. Sadly, there is little backstory for each of the characters and although we get to see some traits and actions throughout the campaign there is little to feel a totally affiliation with each team mate simply because the gameplay moves way too fast to find its feet. This is a sad payoff to pander to the twitch shooters rather than those who might prefer a more in-depth look at the characters pre-war and during their war experiences.
Players assume the role of Private First Class Brett Daniels, who as you would expect shows off the most badassery you would expect from a COD game. There is an attempt to humanize him during the first D-Day Landings mission, but once the blood is spilled he and his squad find their feet in no time despite being blown to pieces, stabbed and shot at. Effectively, the squad could probably win the entire war single-handed or that is how they are presented at least. The attempt at telling a story and humanizing the characters is commendable but as mentioned is presented in a far too stylized way to have any lasting impact which includes the harrowing epilogue.
Story aside, players are offered the same shooting action gameplay one expects from the series with little changes and this is where some disappointment sets in. It’s clear the enemy AI is the same we have seen for the last decade with nothing new added, so effectively this is a repeat of any other COD game with just the different setting. It’s dull and uninspiring despite some moments where stealth comes in to play and even a touch of Subterfuge as a female French Resistance Fighter. The campaign is entertaining, there is no denying that but it’s a one play deal which won’t require a replay despite the lure of collectibles or playing on the Veteran difficulty which again highlights the cookie cutter enemy AI.
Solo players can dive into the now famed Nazi Zombie mode which is actually pretty fun as a survival experience and neat to mess around with online players in co-op if that is your calling. However, the main meat lies in the multiplayer which as most gamers will appreciate is the main course of the package. Solo players can duke it out against bots in local play to hone skills across an assortment of modes and game types whilst progressing their characters. This is a good move for those who would rather stay away from the ultra competitive online play against human players. In a nutshell there is plenty to see and do for solo players and as with any COD game your mileage will vary depending on how hooked you get on each mode.
In terms of visuals, they can’t really be faulted despite some horrendously low resolution textures at times. Xbox One X does a fine job of keeping the frame-rate up at 60 fps and the visual acuity sharp and detailed. The reality is, players are ushered through the game at such a pace it’s not the kind of experience where you are encouraged to check out the scenery. That said, overall each mission is distinct offering enough visual variety and plenty of fancy graphical touches that never cease to amaze. The character models are fantastic and the general ambiance second to none. It’s great witnessing a big budget title pull out all the stops. Audio is also rather good featuring a rousing score with solid voice performances from all concerned despite some of the banter being a little too predictable in places.
As mentioned, there is quite a lot of content for lone players to sink their teeth into, although playing the campaign on anything less than Hardened difficulty perhaps ruins the experience for a first time playthrough. With a comprehensive Nazi Zombies mode for solo and co-op play adding on the hours alongside the never-ending multiplayer and you have a game that is worth the price of entry with playtime running easily into double figures.
Call of Duty WWII is a gripping game but not very adventurous, not in the same way some of the futuristic games have been. This is a no-nonsense shooter with very little to distinguish it from past offerings. It’s not as thrilling as World At War as far as we can remember (despite the train derailing scene and liberating Paris being two of the major highlights here) but does offer its own take on a war we should never forget. So can this be recommended? Yes, if you live and breath COD and perhaps are looking for something more grounded compared to the wall-running jumping madness of the previous game. However, it’s the same game in different clothing we have all been playing for years and whilst the attempt to relive past glories is great for a new generation of gamers who might have missed out, for veterans it sadly doesn’t do enough to stand out as a must have title.