Much like the release of Modern Warfare Remastered and Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, Call of Duty WWII looks like it’s pressing all the right nostalgic buttons for gaming fans. However, the team at Sledgehammer are striving for much more than simply revisiting the Second World War and the battles seen in those first Call of Duty games, with new modes and a number of firsts for the long running franchise.
Picking up the pad and playing at Gamescom ahead of the multiplayer beta that starts today – details of which are here – a return to the more straightforward boots on the ground gunplay, if you will, feels like the right move for the series. It’s fast and fluid still and death can greet you at every turn, but what really helps the game is that you’re not having to worry about the extended movement options. It feels like a step back in terms mobility and pace, but that makes it easier to pick up and play for shooter fans.
One of the new additions that WWII brings to the table is the Divisions, a loose kind of class system. It’s not as heavily focused on playing a particular role as in Battlefield, for example, but provides an interesting twist to the series’ long standing create-a-class system by giving you these archetypes.
The Basic Infantry build in this demo had an M1 Garand, the Airborne brought sub machine guns and a detachable suppressor and the Expeditionary Division has the wonderful incendiary rounds for their shotguns, which look simply fantastic and are automatically equipped when you spawn. It’s not a seismic shift, but allows you to specialise in a style of play even more, as each has Division specific abilities and perks known as Division Training. It will be interesting to see how this translates to the full game and customising your class more fully.
Team Deathmatch is pretty much as you’d expect, and is bound to be the bread and butter of the game’s online multiplayer, but then there’s War Mode, and Call of Duty’s first attempt at an assault game type, with one team defending and the other attacking a series of objectives as you battle through the map.
This was set in St. Lo, a small village the Allies are trying to push through to break out from the beachhead in Normandy. What’s great is how the objectives change, first fighting to control a manor that acts as the German command post, then pushing forward to construct a bridge, destroying an ammo cache with the support of a tank, and then escorting that tank through to the final objective. One of you gets to sit in on the tank’s machine gun, obviously making you a major target, but giving you a lot of firepower.
It really focusses the battle around certain chokepoints, as a consequence, and it’s interesting to see just how strict it can be in keeping players tied to the objective area. As an Allied attacker, I couldn’t push beyond the initial command post, for example, and when I felt the bridge building objective was being overlooked by enemies, I encountered the warning that I was leaving the play area when I tried to venture up the stairs to clear them out. It felt a little too restrictive compared to my expectations from other games.
On the other hand, that helps with balance to a certain extent, hopefully ensuring that both sides have a fair chance of fighting for the objective and not being caught by spawn campers. It also encourages teamwork, so you make a concerted push up one side to flank the enemy, or use the Recon Division’s smoke grenades to cover your advance. There’s also other environmental twists, so you can barricade doorways as though it were Call of Duty Zombies. It will be interesting to see how further maps mix up the objectives and how this potentially precarious balance of map design and player nature is managed.
What’s equally fascinating about this game is how Sledgehammer have quickly taken on a leading role in the Call of Duty series, first with the defining Advanced Warfare, which saw the introduction of exoskeletons and jet pack boosting, and now with a return to a more traditional shooter experience, new game modes, the Headquarters social area and so on. Will this come to define the next three, four, five years of the series? I’m sure there’s quite a few of you out there hoping that it will.
Mine was just a brief glimpse of Call of Duty WWII, but as the beta opens up today for its first weekend, we’ll be diving in to get a deeper look at how this new (old) era of Call of Duty is shaping up.