Where 2016’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare looked to the likes of Destiny and Mass Effect for inspiration, Call of Duty: World War 2 is influenced by the series’ early games, which focussed on the second world war. On the surface it seems like the right move, what with the mixed response to Infinite Warfare. But in a year filled to the brim with great games, is Call of Duty: World War 2 worth checking out? Keep reading our COD WW2 review to find out.
Like 2015’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Infinite Warfare, Call of Duty: World War 2 has three modes - a single-player campaign, Zombies, and multiplayer. Together, these ensure that there’s something for everyone.
Unlike those games though, you’ll need to download a 9.49GB patch before you can even access the campaign. Simply put, if you don’t have a good enough Internet connection you may as well not bother. Connectivity aside, you’re treated to a surprisingly fun campaign that has some interesting deviations from your standard Call of Duty fare.
COD WW2 has you donning the role of Ronald Daniels, a member of the US infantry deployed in Europe tasked with taking the fight to the Nazis. Joining you are a host of squad mates each with their own unique abilities. Be it your tough-to-please immediate superior William Pierson, who can mark out enemy troops on the battlefield, or your best friend Robert Zussman, who doles out health packs galore, developer Sledgehammer Games has given your entire supporting cast a reason for to stick around. Other team members will let you call in mortar strikes or grant you grenades. Each of them has their own meter, which allows you to use their skills once filled. Killing enemies and completing objectives makes the meters replenish faster.
Call of Duty: World War 2 may not have the flair of Infinite Warfare’s many gadgets, but it does a fantastic job in lending a sense of strategy to the proceedings depending on whom you’re paired up with in the game’s eight hour campaign spread across ten missions. Storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, taking down a German armoured train, liberating Paris from Nazi occupation, and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge are just some of the things you’ll do in Call of Duty: World War 2. For the most part, Sledgehammer’s sense of pacing is fantastic. Every level is well-paced with an adequate number of set pieces and shooting galleries for you to get a feel of Call of Duty: World War 2’s many weapons. From the flame thrower to sniper rifles, you’ll find many a way to kill the seemingly endless number of enemy troops thrown in your general direction.
Without spoiling much, the plot of Call of Duty: World War 2 isn’t as subversive as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, but it does more than enough to keep you invested in the characters thanks to witty dialogue and great voice acting. One exception is a mission that has you infiltrating a German base disguised as a Nazi officer. While it’s extremely well executed in forcing you to say and do the right things (such as correctly explaining who your commanding officer is), it ends up feeling overtly dramatic midway, especially as it concerns a character introduced just a mission ago.
Pistols, rifles, and all sort of armaments have a weight, feel, and recoil as you’d expect from a Call of Duty game, though the flame thrower seems way too easy to pick up and use, and steadying the sniper rifle for more than a single shot is an exercise in patience. Traversal is speedy, so much so that you can zip by enemies in an area and onto the next objective, which comes in handy for some of the game’s stealth sections that nonetheless devolve into out and out firefights with barely any warning. While we appreciate the effort to add variety to the proceedings with stealth, it’s not really the game’s strong suit. It’s vintage Call of Duty, encapsulating a set of gameplay tropes we’ve become accustomed to over the years - with the introduction of minor, random slowdown at certain points. You could be driving a jeep through forests in France or slinking across an enemy base, but Call of Duty: World War 2 will drop in frame rate. It’s perceptible, annoying, and immersion breaking. This is present on the PS4 and PS4 Pro versions of the game. Thankfully it’s restricted to the campaign alone, and not other modes, but we hope this is something that can be addressed with a patch soon.
Speaking of other modes, multiplayer is back and it’s as familiar as ever. While publisher Activision would like to call to our attention its shiny new additions like War - a narrative multiplayer mode akin to Battlefield 1’s Operations or Overwatch’s Payload, with play stretched across a map with a host of ever-changing objectives, such as escorting a tank or defending an outpost - the core gameplay remains the same as past multiplayer Call of Duty titles.
Movement is pared down compared to single-player, regenerating health is present (unlike the campaign’s health bar that needs you to use health packs), and being on the receiving end of a well-placed bullet means death. The learning curve is steep and a slew of unlockables and a character customisation system exist to keep you coming back. It has the right intention, but in the current climate where loot boxes and micro-transactions are frowned upon despite being a staple for the franchise for a while now, it’s a little lazy that Call of Duty: World War 2’s supply drops - its version of loot crates - simply fall out of the sky and cards spit out of them to show you and everyone else what you got.
Finally, there’s Call of Duty: World War 2’s cooperative Zombies mode. Like past editions, you really need to play this with others. Taking on Nazi zombies is enjoyable thanks to great voice acting and elaborate presentation but there's only so much variety in fighting through zombie hordes. Playing it solo is dull and dreary. Throw in three friends though, and it's possibly the real reason to keep coming back when you’re done with Call of Duty: World War 2’s campaign, and bested by others in multiplayer.
All in all, Call of Duty: World War 2 plays like the series’ early hits. By no means is this a bad thing, though the overall formula and package is wearing thin. There are some bright moments in single-player campaign marred by arbitrary stutter and Zombies is always a blast (provided you have friends along for the ride). But the Rs. 4,499 price tag and a mandatory ~10GB patch before you can even play it are deal-breakers for a game as mainstream as this. If you’re looking as a longtime fan, you’re probably going to buy it anyway. Everyone else is better off waiting for a price drop.
Rating (out of 10): 7
Gadgets 360 played an early retail copy of Call of Duty: World War 2 on the PS4 and PS4 Pro. The game is out on November 3 at Rs. 4,499 on PS4 and Xbox One and Rs. 3,799 on PC ($60 in the US)
We spoke at length about Call of Duty: World War 2 and its nasty single-player mode surprise on Transition, our weekly gaming and pop culture podcast. You can listen to it via Apple Podcasts or RSS or just listen to this episode by hitting the play button below.