Call of Duty: WWII review

Adam Mathew 5 November 2017 NEWS

cod-review“We shall fight on the beaches, buy OP loot there also”

Gleefully hatcheting alternate-reality Nazis in Wolfenstein this month was all well and good, but, obviously, any game depicting actual Nazis needs to be true to the source material, respectful to the fallen. I figured Sledgehammer Games would be the first developer to get that – what with the hilarious “Press F to pay respects” meme that haunted their military burial scene in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. You'd think lessons would be learned, and that Call of Duty: WWII would absolutely always revere our greatest generation and the sacrifices they made, but there are times here when it really, really doesn't.

Mostly because, as always, this package is neatly separated down the middle into two diametrically opposed halves that are tonal strangers to one another. A thoughtfully-crafted, well-researched narrative component exists one side; a cash-hungry multiplayer thunderdome for sweaty, sweary teens makes up the remainder (and pays the bills). The former mode tells one of the best WWII tales since Ubisoft's now defunct Brothers in Arms series. The lootbox-infested latter mishandles history a bit, but is one of CoD's finest hours in terms of fun and replayability.

In PvP multiplayer, the problems start with the tone-deaf addition of a Headquarters social space. On paper it sounds pretty cool: 40+ player avatars can interact with one another to set up MP matches and *shudder* watch one another call in parachute loot boxes that spew out gear (an attempt to elicit greed and envy in the playerbase). Combining what is essentially a Vegas-style casino hang out with Normandy beach, D-Day +3, is a bit on the nose. A beachhead where several thousand people recently died horribly, or survived and were broken by PTSD, isn't my idea of a feel-good venue for a bit of PlayStation Home 2.0.

Look beyond that distasteful display, and a decent multiplayer experience is waiting beyond. Obviously, we're back to boots on the ground – which means no trench wall-running, or Rocketeer-esque boost jumping – so most of your favourite tactics from Black Ops II onwards have to be rethought. My current favourite is the esport friendly Uplink mode that's metamorphosised into something called Gridiron. It’s based loosely on American Football from the 40s; you have a ball, you can pass it, run it, or shoot it. Throwing it into goal gets you 3 points, if you run it in, you get 7. I can see myself thrashing this pigskin for a long while to come.

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I'm also partial to War, a multi-objective mode that has Allies against Axis in a series of three-act scenarios. For example, you'll have to storm the beaches under human-controlled turret fire in the first phase, destroy the enemy's radio equipment on the second, and wrap up your assault by slapping 6 pounds of ka-boom-boom on Jerry's artillery. It's asymmetrical stuff that pleasingly asks all players to constantly vary their tactics. The three maps on offer feel quite well balanced and Sledgehammer has captured the feel of being part of a larger battle, too.

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Multiplayer fanatics after a more intimate challenge can fall back on that old chestnut, Nazi Zombies (which, technically, also features undead American GIs too). This four-person co-op survival mode offers more of the same: kills = money (or “jolts”), jolts can be spent opening new areas or better guns/abilities, and the rotters get more pissed off as you clear waves. Mercifully, the neon-infused B-movie schtick has been shelved in favour of good ol' fashioned dank and horror. Figuring out the many secrets hidden in this labyrinthine European village – preferably with three like-minded bad-asses who know how to communicate well and coordinate the deployment of their class powers – is a ton of fun. It's also nice to see Sledgehammer telegraphing a “Casual” path through this madness to leg-up the newbies.

Last of all, at least in terms of what the CoD playerbase cares about, is the obligatory solo campaign. I quite enjoyed playing as the idealistic Texas farmboy, Pvt “Red” Daniels, a grunt who becomes the meat in the sandwich between Sgt Pierson (a cold-hearted, competitive prick) and Lt Turner (a by-the-book squad leader). Watching the tension develop between those two is an interesting five-hour arc, as is forming bonds with your fellow squaddies (in particular the bookish Stiles and your BFF, Zussman). Some of this bonding happens due to quality script writing, but also in the field when you rely upon these ally NPCs to physically dispense extra ammo, medkits (your life is finite now), artillery strike designations, and a weird sixth-sense effect that lets you spot enemies through walls. It's a nice gameplay wrinkle, but the overtly gamey nature of it can spoil the era mood (and the large icons that sit on your “vending machine” pals are distracting, especially when an enemy grenade icon gets obscured by one).

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There are other good ideas here, but they almost all come with flaws. Quick-time events happen far too often for my tastes, and there are recurring, optional moments where you have to awkwardly drag a wounded NPC to cover (and these jerks are annoyingly finicky about what constitutes cover). I did, however, love one character-change moment that offered lite-on stealth and conversation choices – it's basically a neat homage to Where Eagles Dare.

On the topic of palate cleansing, the blockbuster vehicle sections are appreciated, but can be hit and miss, thanks to skittish handling at high-speeds. The on-foot experience in this game still has that CoD fleet-footed floatiness, too. That works well for zippy shooty-shooty MP, but feels wrong in a narrative mode that's desperately trying to ground you in realism. I keep railing for an engine upgrade, but I know it'll never happen; not while MP is king and deciding all gameplay design. Until that day comes, this is why we'll have to endure small battlefields and eyesore animation moments, like when two NPC use the same, perfectly synched sprint animation to run through one another.

We reviewed Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher.

Call of Duty: WWII

8.5 EXCEPTIONAL

What we liked...

  • War and Gridiron MP is tight, quite replayable
  • Classic arsenal and OG challenge of Nazi Zombies is pleasing
  • Well-written and directed campaign is mature, thought-provoking
  • Memorable action set-piece moments

What we didn't like...

  • Pew-pew pokie machines and Normandy don't mix
  • Dated solo animations, diminutive arena fighting at times

VERDICT

The fun-factor is high in Call of Duty: WWII, and this back-to-basics reset for the franchise was the right path to take. That said, it's crazy that we have to be oppressed by the same rough edges that persist, year to year, in the world's best-selling shooter. I mean, come on, people. Did we lose a war or something?

Available for

PC/XB1/PS4

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Call of Duty: WWII PC Game
PC
Microsoft Store Pricing not available Buy now
Call of Duty: WWII for Xbox One
Xbox One
Microsoft Store $49.99 Buy now
Call Of Duty WWII PS4 Game
PlayStation 4
OzGameShop $69.99 Buy now
Call Of Duty WWII Xbox One Game
Xbox One
OzGameShop $69.99 Buy now
Call of Duty: WWII (PC)
PC
base.com $78.54
$44.99 GBP
Buy now
Call of Duty: WWII (PS4)
PlayStation 4
base.com $89.89
$51.49 GBP
Buy now
Call of Duty: WWII (Xbox One)
Xbox One
base.com $89.89
$51.49 GBP
Buy now
Call of Duty: WWII
PC
Mighty Ape $89.99 Buy now
Call of Duty: WWII
PlayStation 4
Mighty Ape $92.00 Buy now
Call of Duty: WWII
Xbox One
Mighty Ape $92.00 Buy now
Call of Duty: WWII
PC
Green Man Gaming Pricing not available Buy now
Call of Duty: WWII Digital Deluxe edition
PC
Green Man Gaming Pricing not available Buy now
Call of Duty: WWII
PC
JB Hi-Fi $59.00
Call of Duty: WWII
PlayStation 4
JB Hi-Fi $69.00
Call of Duty: WWII
PlayStation 4
The Gamesmen $69.00
Call of Duty: WWII
Xbox One
JB Hi-Fi $69.00
Call of Duty: WWII
PC
The Gamesmen $74.00
Call of Duty: WWII
PC
Harvey Norman Pricing not available
Call of Duty: WWII
PlayStation 4
PlayStation Store Pricing not available
Call of Duty: WWII
PlayStation 4
Harvey Norman Pricing not available
Call of Duty: WWII
Xbox One
The Gamesmen Pricing not available
Call of Duty: WWII
Xbox One
Harvey Norman Pricing not available
Call of Duty: WWII Digital Deluxe edition
PlayStation 4
PlayStation Store Pricing not available

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