Call of Duty: WWII (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 17.11.2017

Review for Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4

War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Well… okay, that might not be strictly true. As odd as it may sound, a large chunk of humanity somehow manages to find entertainment in conflict, which is a pretty strange concept in itself given that it's the ultimate outcome of an argument that's gone a little bit too far. Films, TV shows and videogames are all consumable forms of media that latched onto this a long time ago and have been exploiting it ever since. Speaking of which, it's time once more for Activision (possibly the biggest enabler of armchair warmongering) to shake its annual money maker with the latest iteration of its obscenely popular Call of Duty series, WWII. After an early hands-on report, Cubed3 now submits the final dossier.

It's been three years since Sledgehammer dropped Advanced Warfare on an unsuspecting/vaguely suspicious COD buying public and by doing so they heralded in a new era of futuristic combat that saw soldiers power sliding, wall running, and boost jumping at breakneck speeds courtesy of a form of enhancing Exo-suit. It was a move set that both Treyarch and Infinity Ward also adopted and adapted for Black Ops III and Infinite Warfare, respectively, and while all these games did crazy figures in the sales department there was still a noticeable decline in the number of units shifted. COD fatigue was always a likely cause of this sales drop as getting a new iteration that doesn't fundamentally change its format a great deal once a year, every year... well, even the hardiest supporter needs a break every now and again. Then the 'boots on the ground' crowd got involved and these guys have got pretty loud voices that are hard to ignore. Could it be that Call of Duty has evolved so far from its World War II origins that series veterans have actually started to miss the good ol' days of ancient weaponry and only being able to sprint for 25 yards at a time before tiring out? Sledgehammer seems to think so as it has bitten the bullet and taken a step back in time to revisit familiar territory for the latest entry to the series.

The single-player campaign commences on 6th June, 1944 with a war that's about to become very real for U.S Army Private Ronald 'Red' Daniels as his platoon steels itself to disembark its landing craft onto a heavily fortified Normandy beach. It's the first in a series of landmark skirmishes that was attributed to turning the tide for the Allied forces and, funnily enough, it also appeared in Medal of Honor a good fifteen years earlier but hey, the less said about that the better. World War II has gone on record as being one of the most brutal and horrific conflicts in the history of mankind, accounting for an estimated 65 million deaths, a great many of which were innocent civilians. Trying to compress all that down into a videogame without trivialising the atrocities that took place takes some doing, and while Sledgehammer isn't treading new ground by any stretch here, it has managed to deliver a solid shooter that zips along at a ferocious rate. It's a shame that the story underpinning the action sequences feels so hackneyed, as it goes all out to try and elicit an emotional reaction from the player but, unfortunately, falls a bit short with its intent.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4

Red's camaraderie with his squad, in the downtime between engagements, is the seed that kick starts his personal journey to redemption, and it's this burgeoning relationship with his fellow troops that serves to remind of classic wartime dramas, such as Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, mixed in with a few other recognisable clichés for good measure. There is nothing actually wrong with how the story is handled at all, per se, but it just feels a little bit out of place in a Call of Duty entry. When something awful happens to one of Red's squadmates, it's hard not to just shrug it off as this is COD and a few hundred nameless grunts got killed leading up to this point. Do games desensitise the player? Probably. However, people aren't looking to WWII for an emotionally wrought rollercoaster ride, as they just want to shoot Nazis in the face and, thankfully, this is something that the game excels at. That's not to take anything away from Sledgehammer's artistic vision in any way, but look back at any previous entry in the series and the generally thin story is used purely as a device to link a bunch of high octane sequences together and, truth be told, that's all it really needs to be. With that said, Red's comrades do have some use as each of them has a specific role that can be called upon in time of need, which usually amounts to fulfilling requests for ammo, health packs (no more regenerating health by the way), target acquisition or a replenishment of grenades.

Operation Cobra, the Liberation of Paris, the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge were all pivotal historic engagements that eventually led to the downfall of the Nazi war machine, so their appearance in this campaign does add a sense of gravitas to proceedings. In terms of mission structure, there's a pretty good variety on offer here ranging from a stealthy sabotage mission alongside the French Resistance, an over-watch mission sniping from the top of a church tower, to manning a captured AA gun in a bid to prevent certain death from above. Visually, it looks fantastic. Sledgehammer has really done a superb job in portraying the filth, destruction, and the aftermath of war without pulling any punches or shying away from some of the truly unspeakable acts that occurred in the concentration camps. However, there are the occasional glimpses of hope scattered about the campaign that are as surprising as they are unexpected when they happen. During particularly fierce bouts of combat, the enemy can wave the white flag and actually surrender. Mercy can be shown when this opportunity arises and will even be punished if reneged upon. A mission gets derailed further into the campaign when Red and his platoon directly disobey orders in favour of helping a number of German civilians escape to safety, which is a worthy, but ultimately thankless, task that results in punishment. War has many costs but the resilience of the human spirit isn't one of them.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4

Call of Duty: WWII's multiplayer section effortlessly ticks all the requisite boxes expected of a typical Call of Duty experience and regressing back to a more traditional 'human' paced locomotion system brings with it a welcome change of tempo when compared to, say, Infinite Warfare, for example. Most of the familiar modes are present and correct: Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, Kill Confirmed, Domination, Free-for-all, and Capture the Flag. They all make a welcome return, as well as a more analogue take on Uplink, called Grid Iron, which is basically American Football with firearms. Ground War (18 players) is noticeably absent from the rota and this probably isn't such a bad thing really as limiting each game type to a 6 vs. 6 showdown serves the compact map layouts well. The ebb and flow of play, combined with the swift respawn, ensures that there are never any lulls in the action, although camping can still be an issue at times and while this is a blight that tends to affect all online shooters to some extent, the quick turnaround between life and death in a typical COD match still has the capacity to amplify rage like no other game. Truth be told, irrespective of what era this is set in, very little has changed at the multiplayer component's core, so it's unlikely to win back those lapsed COD-ites that have already made their mind up about the online portion of the series. The old saying 'don't hate the player, hate the game' seems like an appropriate phrase to trot out at this point, but it's actually perfectly fine to hate the player when it comes to Call of Duty... it makes the constant failure easier to cope with in the long run.

In addition to the long established multiplayer stems, there is also a brand new mode called War, which adds a multi-stage Axis vs. Allies objective-based match that plays out in a similar fashion to some of the main campaign missions. Both teams take turns to attack (while the other defends) through a series of choke points, each with a specific outcome that needs to be met successfully if they are to move one step closer to the final objective and victory. Of course, to make this slightly harder, each stage has to be completed within a four-minute deadline, which can be tricky when lumbered with teammates that don't work efficiently as a squad and totally ignore the objectives in favour of hanging back to snipe (personal gripe there). The defending team can quickly construct walls and barricades in key areas to hinder progress, and these need to be destroyed with a planted explosive to pass, which eats into the remaining time limit, although these obstructions can actually be used against them by a smart team of attackers. There are currently three maps bundled in the game but hopefully this will increase with upcoming DLC. Operation Breakout sees the Allied Forces pushing forward to try and destroy the Axis anti-aircraft guns; Operation Neptune tasks the Allies with a D-Day style storming of the beach with the ultimate aim of blowing up the Axis' coastal defences, while Operation Griffin gives the Axis the opportunity to get one of three tanks across a bridge before it gets destroyed by the Allies. While it's a great addition to the series, the only downside is that it seems to be at the expense of multiplayer maps for the other modes as WWII only shipped with a paltry nine. Currently, though, this is the only mode where the phrase "Ze enemy hedgehog is blocking the way" can be regularly heard in the kind of over exaggerated German accent that wouldn't sound out of place in an episode of 'Allo 'Allo. It's worth playing it for that alone.

The loadouts and perks system has been subjected to an overhaul and is split into five different Divisions that cater to a particular play style, as well as complementing and enhancing the attributed weapon sets. Each Division also brings with it a number of passive abilities that level up and improve with continued usage and, much like the player's ranking and weaponry, it can be subjected to a prestige and reset once it hits the maximum limit.

Infantry is a versatile division perfect for COD noobs for their well rounded abilities, and the bayonet charge makes them a threat both up close and at a distance.

Airborne caters well to the run 'n' gun merchant, 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.

Armored is a British division that takes joy in desecrating the King's English, spelling 'Armoured' as if the group was American. Pedant much? Armed with a Light Machine Gun, its skill set caters to heavy weaponry, making the division an essential member of the team in a defensive stand.

Mountain is a Canadian sniper division that assists with the task in-hand by offering silent movement, invisibility to enemy Recon Aircraft whilst on the move, as well as focusing aim more effectively when looking down sights. Perfect for those that enjoy a good camp.

Expeditionary are French in origin and specialise in close quarter combat with incendiary shotgun shells and a shovel.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4

In a bid to make Call of Duty a more sociable experience for the online hordes, there is now a headquarters set on a beach landing staging area site that acts as a player hub between matches, not dissimilar in execution to the Tower in the first Destiny release. Here, combatants can hang out, play old Activision Atari games in black and white (Pitfall FTW), hit the shooting gallery to test out new weapons, learn how the score streaks work on the score streak range, shoot the breeze, and then shoot each other in the mini 1 vs. 1 arena. The ubiquitous loot crates are a presence that is hard to ignore when the option to watch other players open their ill gotten gains right in front of your very own eyes exists. While this is pretty cool in itself, it's hard not to be slightly suspicious of Activision's motives here, as it feels like some kind of psychological trick in a bid to drive forward sales to hit those projected loot box targets. Joking aside, earning loot boxes doesn't seem to be too much of a chore given that there appears to be a constant stream of them incoming as reward for levelling up and fulfilling orders from the Operations Bunker. All the housekeeping chores that went on between matches in previous iterations can be dealt with in the HQ, which gives the entire endeavour a more organic feel. Want to decorate your weapon? Go visit the Gunsmith. Fancy watching a few live matches being played? Amble on down to the theatre. Is it time to Prestige? A visit to the General is in order. Unfortunately the HQ is currently functioning in an offline capacity only making it impossible to see all these social aspects in operation, which is a real shame. Sledgehammer does seem to have been plagued with numerous server issues since Day One, with many matches being stricken with lag and sudden disconnects. It's not been the smoothest of launches but it's something that will no doubt get fixed in the near future.

Moving on... last, but not least, is the ever popular co-op Nazi zombies mode, which for once is actually thematically fitting with the rest of the package. Story-wise, it's familiar territory: stolen artifacts, Nazi experiments, strange happenings in the Bavarian village of Mittelburg, yada yada yada… it's a good job there's a squad of precisely four people at hand to retrieve the aforementioned artifacts before those Nazi scientists go too far with their experimentation and… oh, wait. In a first for the zombie mode, there is actually a playable prologue (single-player only), which is a nice touch that gets the undead ball rolling and introduces the principal players of the piece. As usual, it's an odd bunch of misfits that have been thrown together and, to its credit, Sledgehammer has cobbled together yet another star studded cast to play them. Naming names: there's German engineer Marie Fischer (played by Katheryn Winnick, better known as the formidable Lagertha from Vikings), ex-art thief Drostan Hynd (David Tennant, swearing up a storm with his distinctive Scottish brogue), French Resistance operative Olivia Durant (Elodie Yung of Marvel's Daredevil/The Defenders fame), rounded off nicely by Captain Jefferson Potts (Ving Rhames, who is all about popping a few caps in zombie asses). Legendary cult German actor, Udo Kier, a dab hand at playing the villain, also lends his vocal talents to the lead scientist, Peter Straub.

While zombies has always come across as a fairly light-hearted proposition in the past, Sledgehammer has opted to go with a full-on gory, horror-inspired take for WWII, which is a far cry from the corny B-movie vibe that Infinity Ward rocked in last year's model. With regards to the shuffling cadavers' gruesome character design, it isn't a million miles away from DooM. It has to be said that being trapped in a darkened chamber with a frenzied horde of these horrific ex-humans, momentarily glimpsed by the muzzle flashes of panicked gunfire is pretty damn terrifying. That said, Mittelburg is lovely this time of year and besides enjoying the company of the friendly local biters, it's also worth paying a visit to the underground bunkers and pencilling in a stopover at the nearby salt mines, but just watch out for those traps and be sure to bring plenty of Jolts (the local currency). Lovers of Easter Eggs should have a field day here trying to uncover the many hidden secrets the village holds, while those that find joy in decapitating the undead with a sharp shovel also have a fairly compelling reason to pay a visit.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: WWII on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Yay… boots on the ground! Hopefully that tiresome, overused phrase can finally be airlifted out of the gaming lexicon as Call of Duty is all about that terra-firma trench foot experience, baby. It will be interesting to see if the fickle game-buying public starts to hanker after the good old days of wall-running and power sliding in a few years from now, but as it currently stands, Sledgehammer has delivered exactly the product that was needed to revitalise the franchise at exactly the right time. Call of Duty: WWII is an explosive return to the series' roots that does have a few minor issues and can occasionally come across as being a bit generic, but for the most part is pretty solid in execution. Whether it's enough to win back lapsed fans is anybody's guess, but the highly polished campaign, habit forming multiplayer, and the satisfyingly creepy zombies mode gel perfectly together to bring a package that should at least appeal to the diehards.

Developer

Sledgehammer Games

Publisher

Activision Blizzard

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
K-Pop Korner - The Best of Korean Music
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Azuardo

There are 1 members online at the moment.