If you are a ‘Call of Duty’ fan, you would understand that over the past few years the developers, Sledgehammer Games, and publishers, Activision, had ventured off on the beaten path.
In essence, they left behind significant portions of their fan base as they introduced new gameplay and concepts. Some embraced the technologically-advanced warfare with ‘exo-suits’ that allowed you to run across walls and quickly boost around a corner; others sledged it hard.
Like a returning soldier from years of war, ‘Call of Duty: World War II’ is back in its traditional - so to speak - form and they got pretty close to acing it too.
‘Call of Duty’ has always been a multiplayer focussed franchise with a single-player campaign to go alongside. The single-player campaigns have never really been a highlight, they had their moments, but it was never something that had you engaged; that’s where ‘Call of Duty: World War II’ has hit it out of the park.
As you might expect from a World War II focused game – if you know your history at least – the single-player campaign has you fight across the Western European Front that by 1944, had fallen to the German army.
There is a lot to include and this campaign only scratches the surface of the historical moments, but does so in a way that provides a unique perspective while maintaining a consistent flow of the story-line.
Playing as the recently enlisted Private First Class Ronald ‘Red’ Daniels, a farm boy from Texas, you build a deep bond with your brothers in arms, or with at least those who survived D-Day; the Normandy Landing on the beaches of France.
Packed into a landing craft in the foggy English Channel, the anticipation and the reality of it all would have been terrifying to experience.
I’ll give the developers some serious credit for this opening act that is a jaw-dropping experience that had me screaming ‘AHH!’ as soldier after soldier fell in front of me attempting to get off the boat.
This experience is thanks to the seamless change from cut-scenes to gameplay we have grown to expect from the ‘Call of Duty’ franchise. Once breaching the dug-in Germans, the campaign leads you north-east through France hoping to achieve the liberation of its overrun Nazi state.
There are moments when you break from controlling the main protagonist Ronald ‘Red’ Daniels, and you’ll control other characters that will ultimately help the Platoon’s mission.
One special moment was acting as a French female spy and entering one of the German Headquarters. You are required to remember details on your official papers/ orders before entering.
The Generals are suspicious as to why they haven’t seen you around before and you are required to answer their questions as to why you were there. Not only did this provide a break from on-going gunfighting, but it also gave a surreal experience as to what it would have been like being a spy behind enemy lines.
I loved walking around these halls, seeing the German Generals interact with the other soldiers and workers, listening to the conversations in German and trying to find the inside source.
As you continue the campaign with your Platoon, you encounter dogfights in the sky as you take on the role of pilots and take down panzers and Tiger tanks in American M4 Shermans.
It is a shame that these acts are brief and not incorporated in the multiplayer element of the game.
These elements of gameplay – such as the act as a spy – could be an entire game itself, so the effort from the developers to include something like this is appreciated, especially as it provides a chance to slow down to take the beautifully-rendered visuals in.
It cannot go without saying that the game is absolutely stunning. Everything about the game made me wish I had a 4K TV with UHD and a brand new Xbox One X to run this on. Despite that though, the experience was still breathtaking at 1080p.
This fantastic graphical achievement was, however, brought to a halt when there were moments in the first few acts where frame-rate drops occurred and distracting stutters in the cut-scenes. I’d need to replay the campaign to confirm that this was cleared up through a recent patch, but I did notice that this stopped occurring throughout the second half of the campaign about a week after the official release.
When the single-player campaign comes to its confronting end – I won’t reveal any spoilers about that – you have hours upon hours of multiplayer fun and terrifying Zombie Nazi Reich campaigns ahead of you.
For those who enjoyed the advanced warfare, it will take some time adjusting to pace without a mechanised suit with jet packs. The OG crew who grew up on 'Call of Duty' will feel right at home.
Despite the lack of technologically advanced ‘exo-suits’, the multiplayer is still as fast paced as ever and trenches have never been so intense.
The traditional 6v6 team death-match is still a winning multiplayer format, however, when you get tired of the same old death-match, there is the addition of the new objective-orientated war mode that has you moving a tank, building bridges and capturing area after area.
Players also get to freely roam in third-person through the Headquarters – a ‘Destiny’ like pre-lobby system. Here you can train in the firing range, claim your supply drops and get into the ‘Pit’ for 1v1 action with your friends.
There are other changes to the previously known ‘Perk’ system too. You’ll have five ‘Divisions’ to choose from, each will have four soldier improvements that you unlock as you rank up. If you are assault rifle focused, the infantry division will serve you better. The mountain division for example is for sniper focused soldiers.
Furthermore, you elect your ‘Basic Training’. With 21 different options, these perks will be familiar to those found in previous ‘Call of Duty’ games, such as the ability to reload while sprinting, having a second primary weapon, reduced ‘scorestreak’ costs and many more.
As far as ‘Scorestreaks’ go, they are much the same from the previous ‘COD’ titles and work well with the relevant technology of World War II.
Despite all this praise I give to this game, I hate seeing doorways that lead to nowhere; they really need to take on some elements of EA’s ‘Battlefield 1’ that allow you to bust open any door in your way.
Also what happened to dynamic maps? These are not existent which really disappointed me.
Overall, the multiplayer has been sanded back and revarnished but remains as the familiar ‘Call of Duty’ that I first fell in love with and put hours upon hours into.
It isn’t there yet but ‘Call of Duty: World War II’ feels like it is on its way to creating a gaming experience that is a culturally, historically and aesthetically significant piece of work.