Reviewed on PS4, copy supplied by publisher.
Going back to the series’ roots, Call of Duty WW2 offers up a strange mix of breathing new life into a franchise, whilst also acting as a reminder of the glory days.
As FPS games go, there is a fair bit to do in Call of Duty WW2, so without further delay let’s pick this boi apart.
The first mistake WW2 makes is politicising the game by having the antagonists be Nazis…
Okay, enough hijinks. In all seriousness, the story will be familiar to anyone who has been in the same room as a dubya dubya two shooter before.
The protagonist is a good old boy from Texas, who is pretty much a more coherent Forrest Gump. With his band of brothers, the main dude (I’m not sure his name matters) storms the beaches of Normandy on D Day, liberates Paris and eventually pushes the naughty German forces back into their motherland and across the Rhine.
It’s pretty much your standard America saves Europe story, but with a heavy-handed approach towards symbolism and historic detail.
There are some major historical and political themes from World War II that are relevant today – perhaps more so than ever this year – and the way the game skirts past some of them to focus on action is a bit jarring.
I don’t want to wade into spoiler territory, but I found the depiction of concentration camps and the rationale behind their appearance in the game was extremely forced. It was almost like the writers decided they needed to acknowledge the atrocities of war, so they shoe horned them into the narrative and – I use this term extremely loosely here – the character arcs.
That being said, as far as shooter campaigns go, this one wasn’t bad at all. In fact, if you disassociate it with the actual war, it has some outstanding moments. The highlight is a mission in which you play as a female member of the French resistance who has to infiltrate a Nazi base. The break from pew pew action was a welcome one indeed.
In the same vein, I found myself enjoying the stealth levels in CoD WW2. Playing out unlike the usual “get noticed and you fail” missions we’ve seen so many times before, the stealth segments were more like the Dishonored franchise, where in if you’re noticed you have to suddenly change tact and fight your way to an objective.
Overall the campaign is a fun ride, but without the lasting memories of classic CoD levels like Modern Warfare’s All Ghillied Up. It feels like a safe bet, but that’s not saying it’s bad. It’s exactly the kind of thing you want to play on a lazy weekend.
Hands up if you like lootboxes! No? Nobody? Okay, yeah. Well the bad news is that CoD WW2 has lootboxes featuring prominently in the online multiplayer component, and to be honest, I still don’t get why they’re there aside from making Activision some dirty coin.
Accessed in the Destiny-like hub area, lootboxes come crashing down out of the sky for all to see, well… all if anyone is actually in the area, which they almost never are, but more on that later.
Inside the boxes you’ll find your usual range of cosmetics, calling cards and attachments. None of which I’m too sure how to access because the customisation system is so complex.
I’m sure it’s not great reviewing practice, but I really could not be fucked learning the over complicated ways in which Activision wants me to shell out on micros. I play CoD games to shoot people, not to learn a needlessly intricate system for spending more money on a full priced product. The different tiers of solider customisation are far too varied, and don’t seem to really matter enough to learn. You can get by with just playing matches and unlocking attachments and weapons by leveling up the traditional way, so why even include the rest of it?
With all that shit out the way and to one side, I actually enjoyed the competitive modes in WW2’s online multiplayer. I haven’t enjoyed a Call of Duty game in the better part of a decade, and I was pleasantly surprised to find this one so engaging.
The pace is slower due to the antiquated weapons and a lack of jetpacks, bringing shooting back into the forefront, which is kinda a big thing it comes to shooter games. Being able to viably use a sniper again feels good, as it should.
CoD WW2 has adopted a division system, with different weapons and class based tiers for you to select. Each division provides perks for their selected weaponry, for example: infantry can attach bayonets to their rifles, and mountain division can hold their breath with a sniper rifle.
Given how easy it is to unlock each division, I quite enjoyed this mechanic, and prestiging each separate division and unlocking new gear is a nice touch for those who put the time in.
The game modes themselves are varied and enjoyable, with the usual spread of your standard FPS modes, and a few new ones, like War, where teams take turn to progress a tank through evolving maps.
War isn’t a bad addition at all, but when it comes to this sort of mode, I think it’s best to rely on games like Battlefield to handle them and leave CoD for shooting each other to shit. It’s why I pick up games like this.
Unfortunately, there is one major downside to CoD WW2’s multiplayer, and that is the servers. They are kind of a steaming mess. I mentioned before that the online hub is absent of players, and boy is it. Even trying to party up with friends feels like pulling teeth as constant disconnects ruined a majority of the sessions I tried to play.
Server lag is present when you’re in a game too, with shots sometimes not registering in kill cams. It’s pretty shitty when you snipe and learn that the bullet you saw fire on you screen didn’t even leave your gun for the enemy in the kill cam. When each shot counts it’s a bit of a game ruiner.
All of the network and server issues are a real shame, because in my opinion the CoD WW2 multiplayer is solid at its core, but in its current state it’s a mess.
For a mode that’s been a cartoony gimmick for a while now, CoD WW2 Zombies surprised me with how terrifying it is. The Final Reich is a really engaging and fun co-op mode to play with friends, and leveling up your characters to better work together is a really nice touch. There’s no way to really win with Zombies, you just get better at not dying, and that’s what makes it so fun.
Each play through I went on with friends we were slowly getting better at working together against the masses of undead, which is what you want.
Oh, and on the downside… zombies has its own selection of lootboxes, because of course it does. I’m not even going to talk about what’s in them because I’m pretty much flat out refusing to acknowledge their existence in games from now on. You can get by without them, so let’s pretend they don’t exist. Don’t move, they can’t see us if we don’t move.
Overall CoD WW2 is a fun and flawed ride, but it’s still great to see the franchise put out a game that is in my opinion immensely playable.