We’re edging up on the end of the summer game drought (which is more of a misnomer these days thanks to indies just releasing whatever they want whenever) which means it’s time to start hitting up betas for the big releases of the coming season. We talked about Destiny 2 a little bit ago, for instance, and today we’re going to talk about the private beta for Call of Duty WWII, the latest and greatest in the long-running series of shootybang simulators that the gaming literati loves to hate.
Well, if someone who holds a serious opinion about whether or not video games are art doesn’t like something, that means I’m probably going to love it, so I dove in headfirst to check out what fans should expect come November.
This beta, of course, focused entirely on WWII’s multiplayer. As a relative amateur when it comes to that side of the series, WWII doesn’t change things up, at least mechanically enough to make things feel all that different from the norm. TTK is still incredibly low, so matches tend to be fast-paced respawn-fests where having someone pop up behind you means instant death. You still have a progression system to work your way through, so the majority of guns and gear are going to be locked away until you’ve gone through some matches.
Of course, this is COD, so you’re basically thrown into the deep end up from step one, meaning you’re going to serve as meat for more veteran players until you either get a handle on what you’re doing or quit. All of this is par for the course for this series. You’ve got several game modes here, ranging from standard team death match to more objective-focused fare like a point capture mode, but generally speaking it all largely boils down to pointing your rooty-tooty-point-n’-shooty at a bad guy and pulling the trigger. I teamed up with fellow editor Nia Bothwell for some gaming as well, but generally speaking having both of us in a match didn’t help much…probably because neither of us are all that good, so we were bringing our teams down twice as hard. Sorry, guys!
What’s new, then, is the setting and all that comes with it. This is WWII, after all, so we’re well and truly out of the realm of railguns and laser blasts…well, unless this game swerves in a really interesting direction that would guarantee an instant recommendation from me. Instead, we’ve got classic old-school weaponry that tends to rely on brute force over subtlety. Clip sizes tend to be fairly low and reloads outside of SMGs tend to take awhile, but damage tends to be fairly high so engagements are decided very rapidly one way or the other. You can choose from several divisions with varying skills and bonuses, ranging from your standard Infantry to the more mobility-focused Airborne to the shotgun-based Expedition, and these play a big role in how your character controls and what ranges you’re best at in combat.
On the presentation side of things, at least on PS4 the private beta looked and sounded great. In particular, something has to be said for the firearm sound effects; the old beasts that you’re armed with here roar and boom in a really satisfying fashion, making blasting away feel really solid. Environments and characters look good enough for what they are as well. Control-wise, well…I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to trying to control an FPS with analog sticks, but that’s what I was doing here and it’s serviceable. Surely it’s possible to achieve some level of mastery, judging by the fact that I was consistently murdered by players who clearly had a much better grasp on controller usage in FPS games than I do. C’est la vie. We’ll see how things go when I’ve got a mouse.
All in all, the Call of Duty: WWII private beta was an enjoyable enough experience. I’ll admit that I preferred the more experimental direction the series was taking during the Advanced Warfare era, but if we’re fated to go back in time then there are certainly worse WWII shooters out there. Here’s hoping that the new game’s campaign is as solid as the multiplayer appears to be!