To most gamers out there, Call of Duty has fallen by the wayside since they started introducing jump-packs, body armour and the ability to rip the door off a tank using nothing but your bare hands. When Battlefield 1 was released, it took us back to basics with an outstanding look at an alternative World War 1 and every gamer knew that Sledgehammer Games needed to really step up their efforts to bring a new lease of life back to the Call of Duty franchise. In effect, it was do or die.
As soon as the teaser trailers were released, people across the gaming community started to get excited. It looked as if Call of Duty was back, this time wearing a huge gold necklace and demanding your lunch money. Although people were reluctant to be drawn into the hype, it was impossible not to.
WWII takes place following the Normandy attacks as you walk in the footsteps of a southern private called Ronald ‘Red’ Daniels. It is during the opening stages of the campaign that we are introduced to the other NPCs that will play a huge role in the story to come. Sledgehammer Games does a fantastic job of portraying the brotherhood that these men have formed on the trip over to Europe and you genuinely get the impression that these guys care a great deal for each other. As the story unfolds, the story throws moral curveballs, forcing you to think about whether the mission is more important than saving the innocents from the grips of the German war machine. It is a brutal, unflinching look at World War 2 that really hammers home just what our lads went through over in Europe, and just how hard they fought to save us from oppression.
The gameplay has also been improved slightly, and it is here that Call of Duty: WWII really makes a name for itself. Instead of your health slowly regenerating, you are now forced to take cover and use medi-packs in order to heal yourself and get back in the fight. You start each mission with a couple of them in your inventory, but you are then forced to ask your comrades if they can provide you with one. Each of the main NPCs in the game have a certain ability that you can call on to aid you, from providing you with ammo packs to calling in mortar support. You can also complete ‘Heroic Moments’, which include dragging a wounded NPC to cover or shooting an enemy soldier to try and save one of your squad and get them back in the fight.
WWII also goes back to vintage Call of Duty, as you are able to take part in a game of hide and seek involving tanks and a fantastic dogfight that takes place in the skies above The Battle of the Bulge. Although this has been done in the newer editions of the franchise, I found these segments more realistic and they really felt at home in the context that Sledgehammer Games were trying to set.
One of the biggest talking points of WWII is just how damn pretty this game is. Each cutscene feels like you are watching a film, and as you take control of your character, the levels have been designed to an insanely high level of detail, with ruined buildings, torn up soldiers and even the terrain adapting to the weather conditions and the damage done in firefights. This game is possibly one of the most beautiful war games that I have ever played, and really does contribute to how the game plays. I came across no bugs or glitches in the gameplay when I was playing through the campaign, either; something that is always a plus in my book.
However, what lets the otherwise fantastic campaign down is just how short it is. I managed to finish the campaign in about six hours, and I couldn’t help myself from thinking that so much more could have been done to really flush out the storyline. Additionally, now that I have finished it, I have found that I am in no rush to replay it.
As with any Call of Duty game, there is a huge focus on online multiplayer, and WWII is no different. Standard matches are still this game’s main way to play online, however they have released a fantastic new feature called War Mode where you can take part in huge fixed battles with objectives to achieve, something that was reminiscent of Battlefield. It is very much an attack and defend format, but I found these missions to be hugely enjoyable and made me forget about the obnoxious community that seems to have followed this game.
But while playing online, I was often hit with numerous server issues, such as a delay in connecting to a game and sometimes waiting up to fifteen minutes to try and find a game. Once I was playing a match, there was an insane amount of lag and I found I was often booted from the match due to a poor internet connection. The Call of Duty servers have had a lot of downtime to try and fix these issues – this really should have been stress-tested before release.
The acclaimed Zombies mode also makes a return, but this time we seem to have more of a plot to go along with it. Zombies has an insane cast to go along with it and you basically play as one of the four playable characters that have been tasked with stealing lost Nazi art and find the main character’s brother. Although it is nice to have some sort of plot to follow, Zombies is stupidly hard work if you are on your own, and so it is best to play with friends – if the server lets you.
Sledgehammer Games have put a lot of effort into saving the franchise, and WWII really does makes huge steps in order to try and regain the prestige that the franchise has to offer. Although it would have been nice to see a longer campaign and to be able to play longer than ten minutes online, if you like your war games, then I would seriously recommend adding Call of Duty WWII to your collection.