Sledgehammer Games delivered the incredibly underrated Advanced Warfare back in 2014 that gave the series a much needed shot of adrenaline. After three years of toying around with the sci-fi genre, it’s Sledgehammer’s turn again but this time they’re taking us back to WW2 and I’m left wondering why they even bothered.
Call of Duty: WW2
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
MonsterVine was supplied with a PC code for review
I’m probably one of the few people left who still play the campaign in these games before even touching the multiplayer because they’re honestly usually pretty entertaining. Call of Duty has nailed the blockbuster film formula and while the plot is usually nonexistent and you know which allies are going to be the “surprise death”, the set pieces are almost always top notch. Unfortunately that’s not the case here. COD: WW2 is content with bringing us back to the era, but not doing anything with it. You’ll play through the exact same story you’ve seen done in dozens of films or games before with the most bland cast of characters imaginable. I was constantly forgetting the names of everyone because they all play the exact WW2 “character” you’ve seen in media before; there’s the hardass sergeant, the wise cracking buddy, and you the wholesome boy from Texas. And as if to really hammer it in how boring these characters are, they cast Josh Duhamel because I guess those Las Vegas residuals aren’t cutting it anymore.
On the mechanics side of things, WW2 spices things up by ditching the typical jelly in your face recharging health for traditional medkits. In theory this should heighten the tension but I was never sweating for medkits because they’re littered throughout the stages and you even have an ally who can toss you a fresh pack. While on the subject, killing enemies fills a meter that will allow you to activate an ally’s special ability; these vary from the mundane like a free health pack or ammo to mortar strikes. Only the story based characters have abilities and I understood that the point of this feature was to make you care more about these characters, but if anything it did the exact opposite. I’d run over to one of them for my quick resupply and the moment I turned around they just became another random AI soldier to me. Their lack of personality and the overall lack of tension caused me to not take anything happening very seriously which in turn further hurts a campaign that’s in serious need of help.
Just as it is with the game, now that we’re done discussing the story mode let’s get to what you’re really here for: the multiplayer. First things first is the new HQ mode that is a sort of social hub, akin to the tower in Destiny. Here you can walk around with other players and participate in activities like a firing range, practice in a score-streak training area, take on bounties like getting a certain amount of headshots, and even play old Activision Atari 2600 games. What’s perhaps the biggest part of the social space is being able to see other players open their magical loot crates that fall from the sky. Whereas in other games opening your box is a solo experience, Activision has turned it into a social one where you and everyone else can see that you got that sick legendary emote from your crate. It’s a genuinely surreal experience having a half dozen players swarm around me to see what I got and proceeding to discuss it with themselves.
This is of course an incredibly insidious way to inspire players to drop some real-world cash on these boxes. People generally open their crates in the main area of the HQ hub which is conveniently located right next to the Quartermaster who can show you all the sweet cosmetic items that you can buy. Right now you can buy them with Armory Points that are acquired by completing bounties or picking them up every few hours as your “payroll”, but the game has another currency called Call of Duty Points that is their premium currency that they have yet to roll into the game as of the time of this review. Assuming these points only allow you to purchase cosmetic items I don’t really see a problem with it, but if you can purchase unlock tokens to acquire guns and upgrades for said guns before you’re the appropriate level to acquire them then that could be slightly problematic.
The second biggest change to the multiplayer is the inclusion of the War mode that features a pseudo-story element to it. These missions are an attack/defend type mode where both sides are tasked with a specific objective; you might play as the allied soldiers tasked with storming the beach at Normandy while the other team plays as the Axis side hiding in the pillboxes hoping to stop them. If the attacking team manages to complete their objective, then the map will open a new section with a new set of objectives for both sides. When you’ve got a good game going, the back and forth of both teams can make for some thrilling moments. A glaring flaw with the mode is the difficulty of being the attacking side during certain parts of missions. The opening of the Normandy mission for example can be practically impossible to complete as the attacking side if the defenders are able to keep the other team locked down through competent use of the various miniguns and superior cover. The fact that your soldiers look nothing like the AI ones storming the beach doesn’t help since you stick out like a sore thumb making things even easier for the defenders. Getting put in one of these situations is far too easy and makes you want to stop playing what is supposed to be the game’s highlight mode. I can definitely see War being pretty hit or miss with the community who are known to generally stick to the typical deathmatch modes, but the mode is pretty neat despite its flaws.
My absolute favorite feature of Advanced Warfare’s multiplayer mode was the firing range; here you could try out any of the game’s guns while you were in the lobby waiting for the next match to start. This was great because it allowed you to get a feel for a gun without having to be stuck with it for an entire match. Because apparently somebody thought this was a bad idea, Sledgehammer have decided to not bring this feature back and we’re back to the old way of gambling with a gun you might not enjoy. The soldier customization menu is also a complete mess. Navigating it doesn’t feel good and even something as simple as equipping the DLC outfit I got was a pain because it was hidden deep in the menu that I only found because someone mentioned it in the Steam forums. There’s also over a half dozen elements you’re dealing with like armory points, COD points, social points, upgrade tokens, prestige upgrade tokens, XP for yourself, XP for your weapon, XP for your division, loot crates and more. The post-game screen is just an overwhelming amount of information as bars are filling and things are unlocking everywhere.
Fans of the Pick 10 system despair, for it has been killed in favor of a more limited loadout customization system. WW2 replaces the old (and good) way of things with Divisions: classes that give special perks for leveling them up. Using the Infantry division in your loadout, for example, will allow you to equip a third attachment on your primary weapon. Each division tells you what sort of upgrades you’ll unlock at each level, but it’s safe to assume that picking the sniper division will grant you upgrades for sniping. Some divisions will offer gun specific rewards that you can only use when you have that specific division equipped as well, which means you want to use your five loadout slots for each of the division types. Perks are also gone in favor of Basic Training badges that you can only equip one of. Score streaks are also quite uninspired with most them being a variation of dropping a bomb out of a plane. I honestly don’t see the reason for changing a system that wasn’t broken, and like the decision to move to the WW2 era this seems like it was done just for the sake of shaking things up.
Nazi Zombies is of course back, although can we really say the mode is ever “back” when it’s been in every release for the past few years? This time around they’re going back to the horror roots of the mode with a level that takes you from spooky village to spooky underground mines, to spooky laboratory. The level isn’t very creative from a visual standpoint, but the team did a good job making it at least feel incredibly eerie and the new zombie designs are super gross to look at. Besides that, the mode plays exactly how you expect it to with waves of increasingly difficult zombies coming to ruin your day and there’s a story to explore if you’re interested in the zombies lore. While marketing itself as a “back to basics” package, WW2’s zombie mode makes some small changes that fans of the mode may or may not take to immediately. The most notable change is the lack of boarding up windows; once a zombie breaks through that window stays open forever. This small change drastically changes the pace of the mode since before the usual meta was to keep windows boarded up so you could slow down the upcoming wave; now you have to deal with the full assault immediately and there’s no way to delay it. The other change is the addition of classes to your starting loadout. Besides getting to customize the type of guns you’ll find in the level, you’ll also choose one of four abilities such as invisibility or being able to shoot without reloading. This are minor changes on a grander level, but they do add the one bit of variety in a game that is severely lacking in it.
The Final Word
Call of Duty: WW2 is a perfectly serviceable game, but for something that’s supposed to be the grand return to the WW2 era it feels more like a publisher reaction to Battlefield 1 than a genuine interest in doing something new with the setting.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 3 out of 5 – Average