Just a day before Sledgehammer Games’ next Call of Duty installment, I was prepared to grab two big guns and liberate the United States from the hands of the Nazis. But a letter came in, asking me to join the First Infantry Division to once again invade Europe to end the war. So I decided to leave 1961 and the fate of America to B.J Blazkowics so I can go back to 1943. There I began my 1 year training alongside the men I’m going to fight alongside with – my brothers in arms.
Activision decided to go back to the franchise’s roots, pretty much similar to what EA did to Battlefield but instead of going for The Great War, the former took the path to Normandy instead. Was the choice worth it? In my opinion, Sledgehammer Games did a splendid job portraying World War II – its horrors, the men’s lives disappear in front of you, the emotional impact it brought to every single player, Call of Duty: WWII is not just a great game but it’s an emotionally dark and visually beautiful experience.
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platforms Available: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Release Date: November 3, 2017
This review is based on a review code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment and Activision.
You’re not jumping out from an airplane to parachute your way down to Normandy, no. You’re in the frontlines with your fellow First Infantry Division platoon on the Normandy beachheads. Though it would have been great if Sledgehammer named which beach you landed on because the only name you get was “Normandy Beaches”.
Similar to the previous installments, you’re in the boots of an infantry soldier who just began putting dirt on his weapons. Private Red Daniels, a local from Longview Texas, has signed up for the First Infantry Division to fight for his country, and to eventually stop the war. While the story is all about his experience in the field, it’s more than that. The struggles you face in difficult situations, torn between your duty as a soldier and the survival of your squad, these are the circumstances that make the story alluring as it portrays the emotional path that soldiers took in World War II. As expected in most World War II stories, Call of Duty: WWII’s narrative is relatable to the Band of Brothers series – instead of following the Airborne Division’s tale, WWII gives players the eyes of a soldier from the First Infantry Division.
While the writing is not as awe-inspiring like Band of Brothers, it does have its own way to keep you progressing through the game with its impressive set of characters. Initially, you might feel that it’s just “another” World War II first-person shooter, but it shows you a more cinematic experience than any other Call of Duty and World War II games out there – I am not talking about Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, no, because hell it’s one of the best shooters out there, but I’m talking about the games based from “actual events” not from a fictional world.
Since this is still a Call of Duty game, it is your typical linear first-person shooter experience pretty much like the previous entries. You go to this point here and there, kill some baddies, all those stuff. However, there’s this distinct feature that made the game stand out from the rest – that’s making the players vulnerable in every heated battle you’re thrown into. Health bars and medpacks are back, and this time you’re not Captain America with unimaginable regenerating ability, no. You’re fragile and easily breakable, so when you rush into a territory where enemy squads are waiting for you, don’t expect to just go back to retreat to cover because you’ll die once that last shot will land.
You will need those medpacks to survive, and luckily, you’ll have one person from your squad who can hand you medpacks whenever and wherever you like. But take note though, there’s a cooldown every after you ask for one through killing enemies. Sledgehammer made a wise decision ditching the overused hide-and-cover-to-regenerate mechanics to make the game feel realistic.
But it’s not just medpacks, you can also ask for ammunitions and grenades if you run out. You can also take advantage of the reconnaissance assistance from one of your squad members to highlight enemy targets. Another perk is you can also call in mortar fire and the squad member throws you a green smoke grenade to pinpoint which area you want the mortar shells to land. These add-ons will be introduced to you slowly as you progress deeper into the campaign.
To those who loves the history of World War II, you’re in for a treat. You’ll expect the famous World War II armory from both factions such as the M1 Garand and the powerful German KAR98K. All of them are powerful in the campaign, you can easily gun down enemies with your weapons.
As powerful as those weapons are in real life, the controls and combat in Call of Duty: WWII present itself with a solid foundation. Unlike the previous Call of Duty entries, the controls moves smoothly when you try to turn and look with the right analog stick which makes shooting feels a lot more fluid. Even if first-person shooters are best played in PCs, I’m saying this confidently that you can also show off your skills with a PS4 controller. With a smooth control experience, the combat is just as gruesome as the actual World War II. You’re stuck in a spot where you see that there’s no hope, the enemy AIs outflanks you in certain locations, but it’s sad to say that there’s only minimum improvement with its AI intelligence. They don’t react immediately when they see you which gives that window of opportunity to kill them.
But aside from the stupid AI, you know what I like the most in Call of Duty: WWII? It’s authenticity. When Joe Salud, the Art Director from Sledgehammer Games, said at the closed media briefing at ESGS 2017 last week that Call of Duty: WWII is going to be more realistic and authentic I was, honestly, skeptical if that were true. But I’m glad to say, that it was. You get to witness enemy soldiers who surrender that give you the freedom to take them in or shoot them. But it’s not only that, you also get to save wounded soldiers in the battlefield. These minor situations lead to a more organic approach to Call of Duty: WWII’s gameplay.
In the multiplayer side of things you have two: the standard multiplayer and Nazi Zombies. But let’s talk about the standard one first. Now, loot boxes has been the topic of this year, and Call of Duty: WWII is not an exemption. The Supply Boxes are going through the same logic similar to the previous CoDs, however, players can see what you get when you open your crates. You call in the Supply Drop with a blue smoke grenade and place it anywhere, you can even try to go to an isolated spot in the Headquarters so no one can see what you’ll get. With the concerns of most players that it’s “pay-to-win”, in my experience, I’m already Level 32 in CoD and I didn’t yell out of frustration about it because in short, the crates didn’t affect gameplay that much for me. Certainly, others might have felt this, but for sure, I didn’t open my first crate until I reached Level 21 and I didn’t experience any disadvantages for not opening the loot boxes earlier.
Putting those loot boxes aside, so how was the multiplayer experience? If you already played the open beta last month, then you’ll probably know how it runs and plays. It’s enjoyable. Call of Duty: WWII’s multiplayer sends you back to the basics where there are no jetpacks and wall-running but relying more on reconnaissance planes, artillery fire, bombing runs, and those World War II stuffs. Then there’s Divisions, it’s a class system with specific perks and advantages. You get to select 5 different Divisions ranging from Infantry to Expeditionary. So, if you decide to take the Infantry Division, the first perk you get is the Bayonet Charge – you get to attach a combat knife to your assault rifles and this doesn’t apply to other types of weapons like the Light Machine Gun (LMG), Sub-Machine Guns (SMG), Shotguns, and Sniper rifles.
So what makes this iteration of Call of Duty’s multiplayer different from the rest? The added War mode, an objective-based mode much like Battlefield 1’s Rush, is what makes Call of Duty: WWII unique. Well, was it fun? Of course it was! Inspired by actual World War II events, War mode is not a Battlefield 1’s Rush rip-off, what makes it standout is its take on different objectives or tasks. You’re in the Axis side, you escort the tanks and destroy those hedgehogs (anti-tank barricades) then steal gasoline barrels for your tanks to progress even further to the objective. What I like about War mode is that in each of the 3 maps, the objectives are not reused which gives it more variety unlike Overwatch and Battlefield 1. Nevertheless, the only concern I have with War mode is that it still lacks maps. Currently, there are only 3 locations in War mode, and hopefully there’ll be more to come out.
In your typical Team Deathmatch mode, there are maps with wider open areas where Sniper rifles and long-ranged weapons can be advantageous, and the other locations makes the SMGs and shotguns a fun weapon to abuse.
One of the most notable feature added to the game is a social hub. I think I mentioned that earlier that other players can you open your loot boxes – Headquarters. Yes, it’s your “Tower” from Destiny, and you can commend players, challenge them in the 1v1 Pit, and go to the Firing Range to boast your shooting kills. You get this MMO feel because of the daily quests you can grab, go to the Mail NPC to receive your rewards and free in-game currency credits every after a certain duration. It’s a nice hub to chill and relax and to meet other players. But aside from the fun 1v1 Pit, there’s nothing much to do in Headquarters.
To close this segment, the multiplayer is already fast-paced, fun and exciting, it’s enjoyable in every aspect and I don’t see myself pulling away from it just yet.
So about that Nazi Zombies mode; I have to be honest here, the only time I remember playing Zombies mode in a Call of Duty game was on Call of Duty Black Ops II with my best-friend almost 2 years ago. The Zombies mode doesn’t really interest me that much, but it’s what makes a CoD game a CoD game. So what the hell. I tried it. There’s this prologue where the game introduces you to the high-profiled cast hired for the Nazi Zombies such as Udo Kier (Yuri from Red Alert) and Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible). You get to fight waves of zombies and have this unique ability that makes your shoot zombies bizarrely with unlimited ammos.
Then after completing the prologue, of course, you have to go to play and kill more Nazi zombies with a stranger right? Right. But there’s a unique feel to it, Nazi Zombies has objectives while the wave counts increases. Killing zombies increases your Jolts, the in-game currency. With Jolts, you get to purchase powerful upgrades like increased weapon damage and armors, and also open gates to allow you to finish certain objectives. You can go solo if you hit that “Ready” button, but it seems that there aren’t a lot of people playing Nazi Zombies yet though. But I have to admit, I did have fun with Nazi Zombies, but the matchmaking needs improvement.
To wrap this up, I didn’t expect Call of Duty: WWII to be this spectacular. It’s been a while since we got an emotionally driven narrative World War II game in this caliber based from actual events. Despite the inclusion of loot boxes (or crates/Supply Drops), Sledgehammer Games did an amazing job with Call of Duty: WWII bringing one of the best cinematic experiences in a first-person shooter this year.