Last year was not great for Call of Duty. Infinite Warfare‘s futuristic sci-fi setting disappointed many fans, and Activision was subject to harsh criticism for forcing players to buy the game just to get their hands on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. The controversy and general lack of enthusiasm for Infinite Warfare saw the game’s sales drop significantly from 2015’s Black Ops 3, and so Activision decided it was time to return the series to its roots. Call of Duty: WW2 takes the franchise back to its original World War 2 setting, but does Sledgehammer manage to put the series back on track?
In short, yes. Call of Duty: WW2 is a mostly successful return to the franchise’s roots, with the World War 2 setting feeling fresh after years of modern shooters and jetpack-heavy sci-fi games. Call of Duty: WW2 is all about “boots on the ground,” and is much better off for it, delivering three solid gameplay modes that fans will easily sink hours of their lives into.
Like most Call of Duty games, the Call of Duty: WW2 experience comes in three parts. Firstly, there’s the campaign, which is the weakest part of the experience, but still not all bad. Call of Duty: WW2‘s campaign does some interesting things with the established gameplay formula, perhaps most notably ditching regenerating health in favor of using medkits. While this seems like an insignificant change to some, it greatly changes the way enemies are approached and situations play out in the campaign, especially on higher difficulty settings.
Another change to the Call of Duty formula comes in the form of squadmate abilities. If a member of one’s squad is close enough, players can ask them for a resupply of items like medkits or ammo. It seems as though this feature has been put in place to make players care more about their teammates, but it mostly fails to establish a meaningful connection thanks to a generally lackluster narrative.
Call of Duty: WW2‘s story feels like a collection of World War 2 movie cliches, and it is filled with uninteresting and unmemorable characters. Players take on the role of a generic soldier as they engage in some of the war’s most notable battles on the western front, and while the plot will fail to engage, it’s still worth playing the campaign to see a proper World War 2 game on new-gen consoles. Sure, gamers have stormed the beaches of Normandy a dozen times before, but it’s never looked this good.
As long as players go into Call of Duty: WW2‘s campaign expecting little in the way of surprises, they should enjoy themselves. However, many players are going to skip the campaign completely, and instead jump straight into its versus multiplayer mode. And after spending about a week playing Call of Duty: WW2‘s multiplayer, we can safely say that it’s the best Call of Duty multiplayer has been in years.
Call of Duty: WW2‘s multiplayer plays like classic Call of Duty multiplayer, except everything looks better and runs smoother, minus the occasional server issue. The maps are all tightly designed and keep the focus on the action. The wide-open maps that supported the faster movement of past Call of Duty games are mostly gone, replaced by arenas with a heavy emphasis on close quarters and medium-range gunfights.
Call of Duty: WW2‘s multiplayer feels streamlined for the most part, though that means some fan-favorite modes like Gun Game are nowhere to be seen at launch. However, Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, and the new War mode are all fun enough to keep players engaged in the game until more match types are inevitably added in future updates.
Of course, the big addition to Call of Duty: WW2‘s multiplayer this year is the Headquarters social space. Taking inspiration from Activision’s other big shooter franchise, Destiny, the Headquarters social space allows players to interact with one another in-between matches. Players can also collect daily and weekly quests that give them bonus objectives to complete in the online battlefields, and make the already addicting Call of Duty multiplayer experience that much more difficult to put down.
Headquarters isn’t without its flaws, though. Its ridiculous loot box system, where loot boxes fall out of the sky and are opened in front of other players, feels predatory. Once microtransactions are introduced to the game, it’s easy to see how the system could be used to make players jealous and convince them to purchase more loot boxes to try to get specific items they want. Having said that, Headquarters is still a mostly positive addition to the series, as it’s fun to wind down with some classic Activision Atari games in the recreation area or wipe out dozens of bots in the scorestreak practice tower. There’s even a 1v1 pit that lets players settle their differences the old-fashioned way.
As stated previously, Call of Duty: WW2‘s multiplayer is the best Call of Duty multiplayer experience in years. However, fans of the franchise know that besides multiplayer and the campaign, there’s always a third piece to the Call of Duty puzzle, and that’s co-op. This year’s co-op mode comes in the form of Nazi Zombies, and it’s as great as it’s always been.
Nazi Zombies consists of two maps this time around, The Final Reich and Groesten Haus. Unfortunately, Groesten Haus is only accessible for local play (by the way, Call of Duty: WW2 supports split-screen online multiplayer for both multiplayer and Nazi Zombies, so local players should be happy about that) until players complete the Easter Egg in The Final Reich. This is a little silly, as it’s likely that a large portion of Call of Duty players won’t bother completing The Final Reich Easter Egg due to its complexity.
Granted, The Final Reich Easter Egg is one of the easier ones the series has seen, and that’s thanks to the inclusion of in-game objectives that make the proceedings far less frustrating. Some of the objectives are still very vague, but overall it feels like a more organized Nazi Zombies experience and should let even casual players feel like they are accomplishing something besides reaching higher rounds.
Nazi Zombies has also improved thanks to a more rewarding progression system that allows players to unlock a slew of new characters to keep things interesting. Special abilities, similar to the specialist abilities seen in the multiplayer components for Black Ops 3 and Infinite Warfare, add a new layer of strategy to how Nazi Zombies is played, and are a very welcome addition to the experience.
With an improved Nazi Zombies mode, the best Call of Duty multiplayer in years, and a passable campaign Call of Duty: WW2 feels like a return to form for the franchise after some lackluster entries. Here’s hoping Call of Duty: WW2‘s upcoming The Resistance DLC and next year’s entry in the series are able to keep Sledgehammer’s momentum going.