When I heard that Call of Duty was ditching the future-tech of the past few games I was more than a little excited. Having been a fan of the series since its PC inception back in the day, I have always associated it with the real-world locations and recreations of actual battles than the seemingly artificial sci-fi settings of Advanced and Infinite Warfare. My fond memories of Call of Duty and, more importantly, its sequel, mainly revolve around the comparisons between Activision’s flagship war game and its old-school main rival, Medal of Honor. Being thrust to the frontlines of battle is an exhilarating experience, but the reality of battle with single-fire rifles and rapidly dispensing machine guns is far more intense an experience than zapping robots with laser beams. Suffice to say, my expectations were set rather high.
This could have been a set-up for massive disappointment. It is the bane of our current gaming industry that companies frequently fail to make good on their promises and release titles to the market that are massively below the standards they have shown in demonstrations and at gaming expos. In the age of YouTube comparisons, people have become increasingly picky and sceptical about parting with their hard-earned cash, so it is no surprise that anything that does not meet the exacting standards of the consumer is likely to be mercilessly savaged in online forums. For some games, an angry internet can be the death-knell that summons them to gaming Hell. In terms of CoD:WWII, while it may not look quite as impressive on standard consoles as it did at its first reveal it is still a fantastic game which looks amazing and plays fantastically.
In order to be fair to this game it is necessary to treat it as a package of three parts. Each aspect of the game has its own merits, so we will look at them individually before considering the game as a whole. First up, as it should be in the eyes of any self-respecting gamer, we’ll look at the main campaign
Beginning with the infamous beach landings at Normandy, players are thrust into the boots of Private Daniels as he climbs into a landing vessel and prepares for his fate. I was slightly perturbed by a jerky framerate in the first few cut-scenes using the in-game engine, but the overall graphical fidelity was more than enough to establish the amount of work that had gone into recreating this part of history. It looks great. Once the first mission is underway the game is relentless. Every battle is pitched and savage, thanks in no small part to the lack of rejuvenating health which has been replaced with medi-kits, and once you get into the game itself the frame rate is much smoother. Gunfights are intense affairs, providing plenty of opportunities for hi-octane action, but in-between the main skirmishes are some excellent narrative sequences that allow you to get to know your squad mates.
These moments of peace help the player to develop a sense of belonging amongst their fellow soldiers, but they also give a sense of reality and emotional connection during some of the campaign missions. Frequently you find yourself torn between completing an objective and trying to pull an injured soldier to safety, and this, along with numerous ‘heroic actions’, are interspersed throughout the game to make you feel like you are a part of something much greater. This is a simple-yet-effective way of drawing you into the experience and these sections work very well on-the-whole.
Without giving too much away, as there are some brilliant moments that I would hate to spoil, the campaign is one of the most satisfying CoD narratives in recent memory. It may not have the twists and turns of some of its predecessors, but it delivers on a much more believable level. This feels like something which actually happened. Overall, the single player aspect is well-worth the price of the game in my opinion and is worth a few replays on the harder difficulty levels to access all of the hidden trinkets and to give yourself a proper challenge.
Now, for most of you CoD is probably more of a multiplayer experience. I am more than aware of this fact, but I always play the campaign first (regardless of whether or not there is a double XP bonus for the opening weekend) and I still feel that games should be judged on their merits as a single player experience as equally as their competitive aspect.
Players can fight solo or in teams and compete in a variety of game modes across a decent selection of maps. An average fight lasts about 10 minutes and is every bit as pulse-pounding as you might expect. In all honesty, I spent the first few rounds just trying to figure out the maps and getting a feel for it, but once I hit my stride I felt confident in holding my own. It’s a real change from the last few games and it was a bit of a mixed feeling initially to rewire my CoD brain to remember that I could no longer double-jump and wall-run to get around the map more quickly. That said, it does feel more like a genuine war game without the futuristic bells and whistles to contend with and it didn’t take long before I was settling back into my bolt action sniping. Kills are satisfying and thought-out-tactics are well rewarded, but many players still seem to operate as lone wolves and this can make some matches frustrating.
A new feature this year is the inclusion of a hub environment where you can meet up with other players and order new ordinance or train with new weaponry and killstreaks. It’s a pretty simple idea, but it shows that the developers are listening to the community and have looked at ways of taking this kind of experience to the next level. I also quite liked being able to look at the finely-detailed character models in third person to appreciate how solid they look (plus you can admire the outfits you unlock to ensure you look extra dapper on the frontlines). There’s a whole wealth of game modes, including the new ‘standard’ soccer-type game mode which tasks teams with the need to collect a ball and deposit it in the opposition’s goal, and beyond the simple run-n-gun mechanics of death match things get much more team-focused once communication is imperative. Whichever way you like to play, there is more than enough to keep your trigger-finger happy for another year here.
Finally, we come on to the infamous ‘Nazi Zombies’ part of the package. For many people this is what keeps them coming back time after time. In comparison to the other aspects of the game, Nazi Zombies is an incredibly tense affair which requires more than just a quick trigger finger. This is more of a case of resource management than simply pointing and shooting, with each map requiring the player (or players) to keep a close eye on areas of entry as they build barricades and hope to survive increasingly challenging waves of the undead. Every second counts and every gun, barricade and upgrade requires you to spend the points you amass with each kill. Whilst the campaign is gritty and realistic, the zombies mode is dark, brooding and intensely atmospheric. What makes this so special is the randomly generated enemies who can sneak up on you at any moment; playing with other players requires patience, teamwork and effective communication, so get yourself a squad and enter the darkness below.
Overall, this is an impressive package which delivers on all fronts. While it may not convert those who don’t usually play these types of games, those who have been looking forward to the next instalment won’t be disappointed by any stretch of the imagination. It’s time to strap on your boots and get back to the frontlines, soldier.