Call of Duty heads back to WWII
It’s that time of the year again, Call of Duty: WWII is right around the corner! As the title implies, Activision’s annual first-person shooter is finally heading back to its WWII roots.
The three-year rotation cycle between Infinity Ward, Treyarch, and Sledgehammer Games continues, and this time it’s Sledgehammer’s time to shine. After taking us to the future in 2014’s CoD: Advanced Warfare, this next entry dials back the clock to the final years of WWII. Now that I’ve had a chance to play CoD: WWII on PS4 and PC, it’s time to start discussing impressions.
Choose your division
World War II is the biggest military conflict in history and Sledgehammer aims to recreate it in all its authenticity. One way they’re going about doing it is introducing a revamped class-building system focused on specialized divisions. Instead of the traditional create-a-class customization system we’ve used since the Black Ops II days, WWII‘s is much simpler.
Like in early Call of Duty games, you’ll choose a Division immediately upon starting up. There are five iconic WWII divisions to choose from: Infantry, Airborne, Armored, Mountain (Canadian division), and Expeditionary. Each one is introduced via a video clip (with era-appropriate film quality) by its recruitment officer. Naturally being a proud Canuck, I chose the Mountain Division. Oh Canada!
You’ll need to choose a Basic Training skill, which can be thought of as perks that enhance your character. Perks include making less noise when moving, reloading faster, and not revealing enemy death locations after kills. All in all it feels like a nice homage to the simpler and more streamlined system of earlier games. Weapon attachments and mods are similarly streamlined, with a manageable amount to unlock per weapon. I’m really digging this more accessible approach.
Game modes for everyone
From what I’ve seen so far, Call of Duty: WWII offers a little something for everyone. Popular online multiplayer modes like Hardpoint, Domination, and Team Deathmatch make their welcome return.
These modes take place in four different maps (final game will have more) with unique settings and tactical opportunities. There’s Ardennes, a medium-sized map in a snow-covered forest fortified by MG42 machine guns. Gibraltar, a multilevel map with treacherous terrain in a densely fortified bastion. Pointe du Hoc, a fortified network of German bunkers overlooking the beaches of Normandy. And finally there’s Aachen, a medium-sized map with perches that are perfect for sniping.
War Mode is my favourite
New in Call of Duty: WWII is War mode, a team-based mode where you work together to defeat an enemy. It’s highly objective-based and offers something never before seen in the Call of Duty series. Personally, I love it.
The mission, called “Operation Breakout,” pitted my squad of six Allies against six Axis opponents. There are multiple tactical stages to War mode, and at each stage your enemy will try to halt your progress. Instead of focusing on K/D rations or score streaks, it involves straight up teamwork.
To begin, my team had to storm an Axis-occupied base with a Domination-style capture zone. Next, we moved further into the map and had to rebuild the village’s bridge that had been blown out. The third phase is an all-out gunfight as you try to plant a bomb to destroy the ammunition depot. Lastly, your team must escort a tank until it can destroy the enemy guns, without it getting destroyed.
On the flip side, playing as the Axis team, your job is to halt the Allies advancement at each stage. What makes War mode so fun to play is how the dynamics change with these phases. One minute you’re busy repairing a bridge (without getting shot), while the next you’re trying to destroy an anti-air tank. It felt like playing a dramatic moment in the game’s campaign, only with five of your buddies right alongside you. The pre-mission briefing, and cinematic final cutscene only reinforce this notion.
Traditional boots on the ground gameplay
Sledgehammer Games really wants to bring back that old-school Call of Duty experience and you can tell by the gameplay. While the demos I’ve played didn’t include the full slate of weapons and equipment, they did give me a taste. Expect a sizable number of weapons used in the 1940’s including SMGs, assault and sniper rifles, LMGs, and more.
Adding to your repertoire are grenades like smoke, concussion, and standard fragmenting ones. The explosive power and sound they make is truly remarkable, rocking the battlefield with deafening thuds. Smoke, fire, and shrapnel effects were also top-notch―perhaps the best yet for a Call of Duty game.
Whether on the steep cliffs of Gibraltar or the snow-covered forest of Ardennes the action was dramatically real. In contrast to recent CoD entries focusing on future tech, WWII is all about the realities of a devastating war. It’s gritty, it’s grimy, and shows the cold, harsh truth of how fragile life was during the war.
For a game that looks this good, and especially pre-release, the overall performance was outstanding. Maps loaded fairly quickly, and the framerate rarely saw a dip—even during explosive heavy moments. Connecting with friends for online games were easy, too, given that you can quickly see who’s online or already in-game. Sledgehammer still has more time to optimize before release, too.
Call of Duty WWII, like past iterations, includes a level-up system with XP gained after matches. Levelling up seemed to go by pretty fast, and over the course of one weekend I was able to get up to level 25. Doing so increases your rank and opens up more opportunities to personalize your soldier and their loadout. Unlocking new weapons, modifications, or outfits is simply a matter of trading in points gathered. Although I only saw a sample of what will be unlockable come launch, I’m already impressed by what I’ve seen.
Can’t wait to play Call of Duty: WWII? Luckily the wait isn’t very long! The game releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 3, 2017.
See you on the battlefield!