Another year means another Call of Duty. Every year they sell 20+ million copies and is always successful. I have not been a fan since the release of Black Ops in 2010. The games were always far from perfect, but they became more dull, less creative, and got more ridiculous with the sci-fi evolution that the last few games have made. Now, they are back in their “roots” to be in World War 2. I put roots in quotes for a reason because going back is not entirely true. The theme is, yes, but a lot of aspects are different enough to make the game feel unique, but fails to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I really like this game, but falls short from greatness.
The story focuses towards the end of the war when America sends soldiers over to Europe. The game starts with the invasion of Normandy. You and your squad must push forward deep into Europe to fight off the Germans. You play as Ronald “Red” Daniels, a young Private in the United States Army. Daniels and his squad will team up with a French and United Kingdom resistance forces to achieve victory.
This short campaign has a lot of good qualities but falls short in many ways. Starting with the positives first to get them out of the way. Gameplay is full of different mechanics such as having a health bar for your character. You need to find health packs or get some from a teammate in order to heal. Your squad will have a few other support actions too besides giving health. Characters can spot enemies and give you extra ammunition when needed. The game feels more tactical and team-based with these mechanics. You can lean over cover to take a few shots while still remaining relatively safe. There are some missions that give some variety such as driving sections and stealth missions. The graphics in the game are pretty, but sometimes look a bit inconsistent. Still, it is the prettiest game yet in the series. The cut scenes look incredible and will stun players by the detail. These are all great ideas, but almost all fall short in some capacity.
Needing a health pack can be tricky since there is a cooldown on your teammate. Once the cooldown is complete, then he can give you a few more health packs. I was caught a few times with no health and no way to heal which left me getting killed multiple times. The variety of the missions is not enough and when it gives it to you, the mechanic will feel off in some way. Driving feels silly on how loose the steering is. The game is so linear that it makes it feel pointless to try to steer. You can hold the gas and scrape against the wall, but keep moving forward towards your objective. Stealth missions sometimes work well but feel off on how enemies can spot you. Overall, these sections are not that fun. You usually can just fight off everyone or follow a path in order to walk around all of the enemies. My favorite is a stealth mission in which you play as a spy for the French resistance. I wish there was more to that mission because it had a lot of potentials to go to a really cool direction. The game’s AI is painfully bad. They either miss every shot and are unable to notice you being in front of them or are magically able to kill you right away. Nothing has changed in terms of AI and game difficulty in this franchise at all.
Characters and story development are pretty weak. The story feels sometimes disconnected in its pacing. The overall tone is bizarre and unnatural. The game starts off as a serious take on World War 2 in a Saving Private Ryan style. Showing the brotherhood the men feel for one another and the brutality they must face. To demonstrate the horrors of the war, it is only done a few times, and most of the time it is hard to take it that seriously. There are moments of over the top action sequences that are cool but do not feel right for this story. I am not sure on what type of story the developers really wanted to tell. A heroic, compelling story about World War 2, or an over the top action story with the theme being World War 2. When promoting the game, the developers prided on how accurate this experience will be, but none of what they said about this campaign is correct. The accuracy is pretty weak at times. More on the inaccurate side of the game when I get to the multiplayer. For the characters, they are all pretty bland. I feel like these characters have been made before in World War movies and games. The most rememberable character is Sergeant Pierson, who plays such a stereotypical character that I remember the same type of guy in Call of Duty 3. The chemistry between these men is inconsistent. There are times with great dialog that makes it feel they have a real connection. These moments are too far and few that make everyone feel unimportant. The story is fun but has a lot of issues. It is the first time since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare that I actually enjoyed playing the single player.
Now to the meat of the game, multiplayer. A lot of the cool mechanics that you see in the campaign are not in multiplayer at all. This is common for many games to do, but always disappoints me when I like something from the campaign that is not implemented into the online. It is the standard Call of Duty online as usual with some great new mechanics added. As with the single player, let us talk about the good parts of the online then get into the bad. There are a few divisions to select from that are your classes. You can use any weapon for any division, but the game leans you to use specific guns for particular divisions due to certain perks attached to them. They are all pretty standard, but let’s do a rundown of each one. Infantry is based on rifles, both semi-automatic and automatic. You get a bayonet to instantly kill enemies. This is my personal goto class to play. Airborne is focused on submachine guns in which they get a suppressor that you can attach or detach at any time with the press of a button. Armored is centered around with a heavy machine gun that has a bipod attached to it. Expeditionary uses a shotgun that can use incendiary rounds to light enemies on fire. Finally, the mountain class is the sniper class has an assist to focus on while sniping. This is the first in the franchise that I actually like using the sniper rifles. Some maps are a lot of fun to snipe on. Each class is fun and allows for more tactical gameplay, as tactical as a Call of Duty game will get at least. You can prestige a class to gain rewards. You don’t lose anything out of it. Prestiging a gun will reset all equipment on it, but you earn rewards. Prestiging your level, class or gun does not really give you much incentive, but for the players that like it then they will enjoy. The best aspect of multiplayer is one of the new game modes which is War. Mostly like the rush game mode from Battlefield, players on one team have objectives to complete while the other team tries to stop them. This can range from destroying machines, escort tanks, and reaching specific points. The other team will build walls, slow down tanks, and push back the enemy as much as possible until time runs out. There are no score streaks, which allow the player to accumulate enough points before dying to have a special attack with artillery, plane support, or other methods just like the other Call of Duty games. Sadly, there are only three maps, but this is a lot of fun overall. I wish the maps were bigger. The lack of players and the size of maps makes it feel less like a real war. Despite these issues, it is my favorite part of the entire game.
The negatives of the multiplayer for the most part are not too significant. Basic training replaces perks. Instead of taking multiple perks to give you specific advantages, you get one. I like this idea a lot, but most of these new perks are not that useful. I find myself getting nothing out of the ones that I played with. There is a hub world in which players can play minigames, interact with other players, take up challenges to gain rewards and more. This was an interesting idea that is boring. None of the games to play are really that fun. Just tacked on to give the players something to do. It is just a copy of what Destiny has. As someone who is not a fan of Destiny, I do not like this hub world idea at all. You can open loot boxes here to gain cosmetic rewards for your character and guns. There is no reward at all. You feel like you gain nothing interesting at all. The least they could do is give you cool costumes, but it is just like every other game that comes out right now. Another part of customization is swapping your character to make him a female or different ethnicity. That does not work if you are playing as Americans since women did not fight in World War 2. Also, how does it make sense to allow black soldiers on the Nazi side? I understand letting the player choose who they want to be and look like when playing but make some restrictions to allow some historical accuracy. The immersion is taken away on a lot of levels, but these small details pile on in a significant way if you want to make a good World War 2 game. A criticism this franchise always got is how unoriginal it is, and they excel big time with some of these decisions. Just following the herd to have game mechanics that every other AAA game has these days. The worst decision that could have worked is the second new game mode. Gridiron is painfully bad but could have been a great idea. There is a ball that players must score on the enemy goal. Just like the Halo game mode, Grifball. What made this work for Halo is that there are no guns, only melee weapons. When people can call airstrikes and shoot you down, it becomes a chaotic, messy, and straight up annoyance of a game. Having more creative and less traditional game modes would be healthy for the game, but they fail to make it work.
The final piece of any Call of Duty game is the zombies game type. As usual, there is a story to it if you follow along with puzzles that are difficult, but rewarding. The horror aspects that Sledgehammer talked so much about are nonexistent. Sometimes zombies pop up at you and they look creepier, but that is it.They could have made something totally different but decided to just make another zombies game like all the others. Fighting waves of zombies or deciding to do the story related puzzles are your options. If you love this like me, then you will not have a problem at all. It is a lot of fun, especially with friends. You can now choose a class that will have special perks and abilities to give you an advantage. Selecting a few different starting weapons as you level up more give the player an upper hand during early waves when zombies are weak. Each class has a special ability such as going invisible and special attacks. A lot of promises went into the zombies this year that did not come true, but overall the game is a ton of fun.
Despite how much I want to like this game, there is no denying the plethora of problems. As of writing, I still have issues with crashing, glitches, server issues, and more technical problems. On top of that are poor decisions with multiplayer and yet another lackluster campaign. At least I was able to have fun with the campaign unlike every other game in the franchise, but it still fell flat in many ways. I do think people should buy Call of Duty WW2 if they love these games and can accept its flaws. Just know that there are a lot of problems on all levels, but it is insanely fun. War and zombies save this game. What kills the Call of Duty games is the fact that they can not be that creative at all. I hope they can branch out more and that this is a turning point for the Call of Duty juggernaut.
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Image via Activision and Sledgehammer Games