Call of Duty: WWII (PlayStation 4) Preview

By Gareth F 31.08.2017

Review for Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4

While releasing a playable beta of an upcoming title is usually a great opportunity for a developer to iron out the bugs and stress test the servers, it's fair to say that Call of Duty has always offered a highly polished, robust experience straight from the bat. Indeed, granting access to a COD beta nowadays feels more like a marketing strategy devised to drive pre-orders and generate a buzz before release - something that becomes increasingly harder when dealing with a cynical gaming community that is especially quick to vent its disdain and weariness when it comes to annually releasing franchises. Sledgehammer Games, one of the three custodians of the COD series, has long hinted at a return to the series' roots with its upcoming entry, and certainly the succinct yet unimaginatively titled Call of Duty: WWII would seem to confirm that. Cubed3 risks trench foot and a hail of bullets to report from the frontlines of the private beta.

If there was ever any proof required of the cyclical nature of gaming trends then the Call of Duty series would make the perfect case study. Despite firmly establishing its roots in the World War II era, it only really started to enjoy true success when it shifted into the modern day theatre of combat, with each iterative release nudging the franchise further into futuristic territories. While it always retained its trademark speed and fluidity, the last three titles in the series, in particular, introduced a chained momentum movement system that added wall-running, boost-jumping and power-sliding into the mix as a viable means of locomotion.

For a large proportion of the COD fan base, it was a step in the wrong direction, forcing many to look elsewhere for their online adversarial kicks. Activision, no doubt after seeing the phrase 'boots on the ground' bandied around pretty much everywhere, decided to go completely full circle and has arrived right back at the place it started: World War II.

With regards to its online component, Call of Duty has always been a fast paced arena shooter that has increasingly grown more sophisticated with regards to its weaponry and score streaks. To say that it can be an intimidating experience for newcomers to the series is quite the understatement, and it certainly possesses the capacity to cause frustration and anger like no other game out there. Reverting back to a World War II epoch is, in some ways, the gaming equivalent of hitting the reset button, with the archaic weaponry of that era forcing everybody onto a level playing field.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4

Hop into any online game of Infinite Warfare, for example, and the chances of getting mown down from any number of automated score streaks will be incredibly high. Pinpoint accurate weaponry with computerised lock-ons just didn't exist in WWII, so almost straight away it strips the gameplay back to a refreshingly pure experience. Sure, it's still fast paced and death will be a frequent occurrence, but it does place far more emphasis on skilled gunplay rather than sitting back and letting your loadout do the work for you. Even sniping, which has always felt a bit redundant in some of the more recent COD titles, feels like a far more viable option for the average player - though whether it can be totally reclaimed from the twitchy, bouncing no-scopers remains to be seen.

The 'Pick 10' loadouts and perks system has been replaced by five different Divisions that act in a similar way to player classes in that they cater to specific play styles. Rather than levelling up and selecting the desired attributes as they unlock, picking a Division brings with it a number of passive abilities that improve with training and gameplay. For example, selecting 'Airborne' is well suited to the run 'n' gun style of play, as it allows for faster sprinting over longer distances, quicker climbing over obstacles, as well as an optional suppressor to mask whereabouts on the mini-map. Snipers will be better suited to select the 'Mountain' Division, as it enables silent movement, grants invisibility to enemy recon aircraft while moving, and focuses aim more effectively when looking down sights. It does feel like a good system that rewards the conscientious trooper for the effort they put in.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4

In total, there were three online multiplayer maps included in the initial test weekend, and Sledgehammer will be adding a fourth map in the next session. From a design standpoint, they feel like typical COD maps in that they're fairly compact, but spawn trapping didn't really seem to be much of an issue during any of the sessions we played through, and this is something that tends to plague every new Call of Duty close to release.

None of the maps felt like the typical three-lane fare that the series seems to churn out, though there were still plenty of narrow thoroughfares that naturally seem to attract action, while promoting a swift flow of combat to a number of key hotspots. Whether it's the filthy trenches and blown out of bunkers of Pointe Du Hoc, the blown out coastal defences of Gibralter, or the snowy woodlands of the Ardenne Forest, they all felt fairly well optimised for Hardpoint and Domination matches. Aesthetically, it looks great, and instantly serves to remind of Treyarch's World at War entry to the series, which can only be a good thing.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4

Sledgehammer is also using the beta to showcase the War game type, which is an interesting new addition to the series. It's an objective-based mode that pitches two teams of six against each other (Axis vs. Allies) with a series of tasks that need to be met to guarantee victory. In this instance, the Allies have been tasked with destroying an anti-aircraft battery that has been shooting down their planes, while the Axis forces remain keen on keeping the above airspace clear, so they need to dig deep and rigorously defend to prevent the incoming forces from succeeding. The action takes place through a series of choke points that need to be progressed through before the time limit runs out, with failure to do so resulting in a lost match and the teams' roles switched over.

First up, the Allies need to capture a fortified base of operations, then build a bridge across a heavily overlooked ravine for their tank to cross. Next up on the agenda is the Axis ammo dump that needs to be destroyed with a slow fuse explosive charge (this can be defused by the opposing team), which ultimately leads on to the final stage that involves escorting the tank to the troublesome AA gun - though the vehicle will tactically retreat whenever Allied troops are absent. The Axis forces are able to build reinforced walls at strategic points, as well as MG nests at prime elevated spots, and receive air drops at the end of each stage that enable one member of the squad to equip a flamethrower. War does maybe feel like it borrows slightly from Overwatch, but a better comparison for those that might be aware of it would be the multiplayer component from the aging PC classic Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4

Final Thoughts

Given the sheer size of its community, it's fair to say that Call of Duty has always attracted a very vocal player base that is quick to critique and hard to please. Love it or hate it, Sledgehammer has at least addressed one of the franchise's biggest criticisms of late by going back to a 'boots on the ground' play style. Whether this will be enough to bring back lost veterans to the series is hard to say, and there will no doubt still be naysayers bemoaning the fact that the franchise is now going backwards. Personally speaking, though, WWII does feel pretty refreshing, and going back in time certainly didn't do the Battlefield series any harm. While it still provides the same high octane core experience that the COD franchise has become famous for over the years, the new War mode, in particular, shows that Sledgehammer does have a few fresh ideas to bring to the table, and it could well be the rejuvenating shot in the arm the series needs.

Developer

Sledgehammer Games

Publisher

Activision Blizzard

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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