It was clear that the Call of Duty franchise had come to a crossroads when it launched Infinite Warfare last year to rather lukewarm reviews. The game had gone so far into the future that the game stopped resembling a Call of Duty title and instead felt more like some sort of Titanfall-esque space shooter. Because of that, Sledgehammer Games went back to the workshop and returned with a classic take on the series, bringing it all back to where it started: World War II. What follows is a surprisingly good game despite its old-school setting, a multiplayer that harkens back to the Call of Duty days of old, and a story mode that is every bit as riveting as it should be.
When it comes to campaigns, World War II-themed ones are usually treated with the utmost care. It’s easy to botch a story that’s fictional and wholly fake, but when it comes to things that actually happened, you definitely have to tread more carefully. Sledgehammer does that here, and they did not disappoint. The campaign puts you in the shoes of Ronald “Red” Daniels, a member of the “Fighting” 1st Infantry Division. Among your division is an eclectic mix of soldiers, and like most WWII games, you spend most of the campaign going through some of the more historically significant moments. Storming Normandy and pushing through the German frontline as the war ends.
Unfortunately, the only experiences you really get are from the American side, and as such that’s the only side you see the war from, which is a bit of a shame considering how large-scale the actual battles were. However, the characters found within are good enough that you don’t feel like you’re missing out on much. The campaign lasts around 6-7 hours and runs through 10 story missions, with plenty of stunning set pieces and battle scenes thrown in to make any war buff satisfied.
Obviously, when it comes to Call of Duty, the thing that most people look at is multiplayer, and that has been revamped in a sense to resemble the games of the past rather than the games of the present/future. Doubling jumping is gone (thankfully), wall running is a thing of the past, and incredibly upgraded weapons with weird abilities are no more. Instead, it’s back to the basics, and back to bare bones, “normal” feeling Call of Duty multiplayer, which, if you didn’t know, is great.
Prior to Call of Duty: WWII, I don’t think I’ve had as much fun with a Call of Duty multiplayer experience since the launch of Black Ops II. WWII isn’t as fast paced as those titles, but it somehow manages to feel fresh while also capturing a general nostalgia. The create-a-class system still exists in the game, although players now choose Divisions to play with. Those divisions house the perks that players are used to, so figuring out how you want to play is much more than just creating a setup and running out, and more so focused on figuring out what guns you’d like to use and how they best fit with a particular Division.
Of course, what would a game be in 2017 without some sort of dedicated hub and the ability to open loot crates, and WWII has both of those things.When you’re not playing in a game, you’ll find yourself in the Headquarters, a central hub of sorts that allows you to accept challenges, test out new weapons, face off in 1v1 battles, and of course, open up supply drops that you receive. Thankfully, the supply drops don’t offer much in the way of major game-changing stuff, but instead simple things like different emblems, calling cards, or grips for your weapon that might look different. Despite the complaints of the loot crate in today’s gaming world, I never felt forced to buy them or ever really felt like I needed to spend actual money at all.
Core multiplayer aside, Call of Duty: WWII does introduce one new game mode simply titled War. The mode is an objective-based, multi-part game mode, sort of like Battlefield 1’s Operations mode. Attacking players must push through three main objectives in order to win, while defenders get various chances to stop them. The thing that separates the mode from Battlefield, however, is the emphasis on various objectives. Instead of just passing through the areas, certain maps encourage you to succeed and ensure your tanks survive, while others might be more generic and just require you to run throughout the map. It’s a fun addition and one that will do a lot to help break up the monotony that players might feel while playing the multiplayer.
The last thing to talk about when it comes to Call of Duty: WWII is the Zombie mode, and what a breath of fresh air it is. Packed with stars like David Tennant, Ving Rhames, Kathryn Winnick, and Elodie Yung, the Zombie mode found in WWII is simply great. While I won’t jump too deep into the story due to spoilers, the general gist is that a group of artifact hunters are on the hunt for various artifacts stolen by Doctor Peter Straub. What follows is a zombie mode that eschews normal “horde mode” and instead presents players with a Raid-like experience. Calling out positions, colors, and symbols were needed to progress through certain areas, and the game is still every bit as difficult as the previous zombie modes were. This experience feels like a true survival-horror title, which is ridiculously impressive considering that it’s just a side-mode packed into an already full game.
When all is said and done, Call of Duty: WWII is a vast improvement on Infinite Warfare and a much-needed reboot for the entire franchise. For the first time in a long time, Call of Duty feels right, and the sky is the limit if the various development teams continue to try and innovate as the games progress. The campaign isn’t special but worth the play, the multiplayer is grounded and fun (again), and Zombies is a thrilling, survival-horror surprise. With the release of WWII, Call of Duty is once again the king of shooters.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Call of Duty: WWII for the PlayStation 4 provided by Activision.