Here’s another report on my continuing disconnection from the hobbyist video game community at large: I actually really liked sci-fi Call of Duty. Infinite Warfare was pretty damn good, while Black Ops 3 was fantastic! I’ll take more cyberpunk military shooters whenever someone’s ready to make them. Doesn’t look like the Call of Duty folks are going to be ready again for awhile, though, as we’ve gone back in time to WWII for the latest in the series, the aptly titled Call of Duty: WWII. As always, the single-player and multiplayer aspects of this game are essentially different games altogether, so they’re worth talking about separately.
The campaign is what I’m typically after when I pick one of these games up and WWII doesn’t disappoint. We follow American soldier Daniels as he takes part in various historical moments, including D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers and the like you’ve got a pretty good idea of how this all plays out – there’s camaraderie, heroic sacrifices, picaresque moments of victory, that sort of thing, and I didn’t think it took many surprising turns if you’re familiar with this sort of media. For those more interested in the gameplay side of things, you might be surprised to discover that this is one of the very few FPS titles out there without regenerating health; you’ll have to collect and ration health packs to survive. Personally, I tend to prefer regeneration as a means of addressing smaller mistakes and punishing larger mistakes as opposed to health packs as a means of rationing how many smaller mistakes you can make, but I realize this is a matter of personal taste and it certainly doesn’t ruin the campaign.
WW2’s multiplayer is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s more of the usual CoD run-and-gun action, meaning I spent a whole lot of the getting the crap shot out of me while fumbling around with dual analog sticks. Perhaps one day Sony will release some kind of official mouse-and-keyboard option for shooters on console, then I’ll show the Internet who’s boss. Gameplay modes include the usual deathmatch and objective options, and you’ve got unlockable gear and perks in the usual style; there’s more of a focus on picking a combat style and sticking with it, since the various “divisions” that you can choose from offer rewards for loyalty. One note: It was interesting to see that my complete amateur impressions of the maps on offer were fairly accurate per most others’ experiences based on what I’ve read. They’re mostly tight, closed-in spaces that are unduly rewarding to shotgunners and SMG-ers while rendering long-range weapons largely useless.
On the other, there’s a drastically expanded emphasis on the social side of multiplayer Call of Duty with Headquarters, which is essentially a hub area that players can visit between matches. You can play old-school Atari games, which is a nice touch, but every other aspect of this ended up feeling a little strange. It might be because while I enjoy the series, I don’t live and breathe CoD, so this wasn’t a feature intended for me. Being able to watch other people open their loot crates and stand around emoting ended up feeling a little strange rather than endearing as I suppose it was aiming for. For social action with friends I found I preferred the Zombies mode, where undead and shit could both be shot in equal measure with the help of voice chat.
Presentation-wise, well, this is Call of Duty, the Ur-Franchise, the Moneymaker, the Midnight Launch, the Capitalized Video Game. Of course it looks and sounds great on pretty much everything it’s on. It looks even better on PC, naturally, but if you’re playing on console you won’t be disappointed. I primarily played this one on PS4 Pro and found it to be a completely acceptable experience in the action film style that the series is well known for.
Again, I hate to admit it but I found myself a little disappointed at the return to form – and the era – for this series; as a sci-fi aficionado I thought Infinite Warfare was a great time and Black Ops 3 even more so. Still, the amount of money, time and effort that went into crafting Call of Duty: WWII into the well-oiled machine it certainly is shines as always. It’s a step back, both in time and what the game’s aiming to be, however, and as a result those of us who have been hurting for a more traditional style of scripted FPS should find exactly what they’re looking for here.