It’s that time again: another installment in the much-beloved and often-maligned Call of Duty franchise is on its way and this time it’s abandoning spacesuits and energy weapons and going back to its roots: the gritty, jaw-clenching chaos of the Second World War.
It’s been a while since Call of Duty has visited the beaches at Normandy or trudged through the blood-soaked forests of Ardennes and the upcoming release has everyone buzzing. Will the game be able to live up to its hype? Is it really time to revisit World War II in shooters or has that parachute already deployed?
This is a critical moment not only for shooters, but also for the Call of Duty brand. The most recent installment, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, had lackluster sales and, according to Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg, “didn’t appeal to all of our fans.” This is worrying news for Call of Duty fans, and many are worried that the settings and tones of recent games mark an overall decrease in quality in the series. What better way to confront this pessimism than to go back to the locales and conflicts that started the CoD craze back in the early 2000s?
Just like everyone else, we’re nervous, excited, and curious about what Sledgehammer Games has in store for us on the B-52 and Stuka filled horizon. To prepare, we’re digging our trenches, shoring up the barricades, checking our magazines, and rounding up our 20 boldest predictions about what could make or break Call of Duty: WWII.
20 Captain Price Will Make A Comeback
If you thought this wasn’t where we’d start, you’re dead wrong. For the uninitiated, Captain Price was the badass, take-no-prisoners C.O. of the player’s unit during the North African campaign in CoD:2. He was cool, collected, and had the best moustache in gaming (Sorry, Mario.) He also died. Oops. A similar character (Captain John Price) had a major role in the Modern Warfare series, but we think it’s time the O.G. Captain made a comeback.
If like us you have fond memories of Captain Price shouting “MacGregor!” while careening along in a stolen armored car, then the best thing Call of Duty: WWII could offer (except for maybe that sweet, sweet, M1 reload ‘ping,’) would be at least a cameo of the captain back in action. And it’s not impossible: CoD:WWII takes place between 1944-1945, but the original Price died in October of 1944-- late in the year. Here’s to hoping we see that mighty ‘stache again.
19 There’s Going To Be A Traitor
Sledgehammer execs have been explicit in their desire to create a Call of Duty experience more reminiscent of the hit show Band of Brothers than they are to do Star Wars: No Cool Swords Edition, again. What does that mean for us? Likely a plot focused on the bonds of brotherhood forged during the inhumane horror of war. If that’s something Sledgehammer really wants to sell, they need a rat.
See, if the writers want us to feel like we’re really developing these bonds, we’ll need to be shown someone who disrespects that connection and what better way to do that than with a traitor from within? Plus, the CoD franchise has history of ‘top-brass-betrayal’ (looking at you, General ‘Jackass’ Shepherd,) but how cool would it be for that to play out on a smaller scale with more personal stakes? The possibilities are endless. And awesome.
18 HQ Mode Will Include Emotes
Okay, so this is kind of a freebie, but if Sledgehammer doesn’t give players the opportunity to make their G.I. avatars dance, laugh, shrug, sit, and cry in the social ‘Headquarters’ mode they’ve been teasing, we should riot. What could be more entertaining than laughing at your friends while they miss shot after shot with the Springfield ‘05, or a platoon reenacting that scene in every war movie where the American squad finds a cache of French wine and spends the night dancing away their troubles?
Seriously though, adding avenues for players to socialize with each other outside of the chaos of Team Deathmatch or the unending profanity of microphones would be a welcome addition to the franchise. If for no other reason than it’s hard to take being called names by a 12-year-old in Wisconsin seriously when you can just dance it off, man, groovy.
17 War Mode Is Going To Be Bomb (Sorry)
More than any other change coming with CoD:WWII, the new multiplayer mode, ‘War’ looks like it might single-handedly save the franchise. Substituting the run-and-gun mayhem of a standard symmetrical game mode, War Mode takes more than a few notes from Battlefield, Team Fortress 2, and Overwatch by devising a series of objectives to be tackled (or defended) by each team. These include capturing an enemy strong point, escorting armored vehicles, and other similar war-tastic activities.
After years of ‘shoot the idiot, idiot,’ multiplayer, it’s refreshing to see the franchise branching out. Don’t get me wrong, I logged hundreds of hours with the UMP-45 and the throwing knife in CoD:MoW2, but War Mode looks like it could bring serious objective play into the CoD universe and I’m hype.
16 Co-Op Zombies Will Be More Hellboy Than Dead Snow
I’m a sucker for a good horror game, and in the past the co-operative ‘zombies’ game mode that has made a splash across the CoD franchise has often featured fairly campy or absurd plots for their missions. While turning in the insanity-laced drama of the Black Ops campaign for the arcade levity of shooting zombies is all well and good, CoD:WWII offers Sledgehammer a chance to take fans a little further away from the classic “Zombie Nazis are the most justifiable thing to shoot since an actual sign that says ‘shoot me’” and back into an exploration of the occult underbelly of the Nazi war machine.
As a series, Wolfenstein has nailed this idea before, but how much more fun would it be to do it with friends? Even better, there’s the opportunity to go full Hellboy and open a portal to a more DOOM-esque experience. What more could we ask for?
15 Women Should Be Front And Center
Yes. I know the game takes place in World War 2. Yes, I have read history books that included information about the gender makeup of the U.S. armed forces at the time. But hold on to your keyboards, because here come the knowledge bombs: Women fought in the war. A bunch did, actually. And they weren’t just nurses.
Many served in the French resistance, and the Soviet army in particular utilized female soldiers, some of whom gained recognition as snipers during the brutal battle of Stalingrad. If Sledgehammer wants to make a move towards inclusion (which they’ve hinted at with their multiplayer avatars) why not put some of the women of the war front and center in the game’s main campaign? As it turns out, this one is basically confirmed.
14 The Garand ‘Ping’ Will Be The Best Ever
Please Sledgehammer. Forget what I said about Price. Forget every other prediction on this list. Just... Please get this right. The M1 Garand clip-ejection ping is one of the most recognizable sounds in the world, and certainly in gaming. It’s like a rifle-based Wilhelm scream. For many gamers, war buffs, and gun collectors, there’s no sound more satisfying than that sweet, sweet, ‘ping’ as the empty 8-round clip flies off into space.
The M1 Garand is not a gun, it’s an institution integral to the WWII shooter genre. And it’s 2017. Technology is amazing. Sledgehammer, you have all the means at your fingertips to make that ‘ping’ sound the best it ever has and I will not forgive you if you mess this up.
13 Historical Inaccuracies In Multiplayer Won’t Matter
Sledgehammer has publicly said that avatar customization in multiplayer will allow for any amalgamation of races and genders that would normally have been unlikely (if not outright verboten) in the armies of their time. This means that the German army may very well feature combatants who are women of color.
You know what though? This might be the boldest prediction of all, but I don’t think anyone will really care. Sure, some number of cranky gamers will always cling to the need for historical accuracy-- but this is a game. The goal is fun. Inclusion is fun. Plus, in real life you don’t get to respawn after watching a kill cam when some camper in a clocktower puts a Kar98k round into your skull from 200m. Also, let’s try not to get too caught up in what the Nazis would or wouldn’t have allowed. They were, after all, literal Nazis.
12 The Kar98k V.S. Mosin-Nagant War Will Continue
Maybe this isn’t so bold, but if you played CoD:2 or read anything about World War 2 gun fanatics you know that one of the hotly contested issues is whether or not the standard-issue rifle for the Germans or the Soviets was more impressive. With Call of Duty’s mega-blockbuster status, it would be a shock if players didn’t pick up their keyboards and wade into the forums again to argue over which of these bolt-action behemoths is the superior firearm.
So, Mauser or Mosin? Pick your poison, but rest assured that someone on the internet is (as is so often the case) going to have something to say about it. Me? I’ll be using my trusty M1 and my even trustier Colt Model 1911 .45 caliber sidearm because nobody is about to tell me to use one of them funny foreign sounding guns. Even if I am playing as a Russian.
11 Ammunition Will Be Realistic
In real life, if you eject a half-empty magazine, you either lose the ammunition or are now carrying a half-full magazine that requires substantial time to refill. This is something that the Call of Duty developers have generally chosen to avoid in preference of quality of life for players. Ammo sits in a shared pool and magically places itself in your limitless supply of fresh magazines. By and large, I think this is a good thing for the series as it makes combat--especially multiplayer-- more fluid than it would be otherwise.
But come on: wouldn’t it be cool to have a difficulty level or a multiplayer mode where reloading after one shot was a mistake instead of objectively correct? The tension of not just conserving but managing magazines could inject some strategy into a franchise that’s in need of fresh perspective.
10 There Will Be Belfries. And Clock Towers.
If I had a nickel for every time a Call of Duty game put me in the top of a precarious tower and told me to protect my squad while I waited for a mortar shell to blow me to itty-bitty pieces, I’d have about $2.50. That’s 50 nickels. There are only thirteen games so far.
I’m not complaining, though. If CoD:WWII doesn’t deliver on putting me in the tensest situations possible, I’m going to be one cranky camper. Or, I guess, non-camper. Some of the most high-octane moments of CoD games have involved obligatory sniper missions, and most World War 2 games hit upon the trope at least once. It might be World War 2, but I would kill (haha) to have another Pripyat-style sniper mission but set in Stalingrad or the Ardennes.
9 Tom Hanks Should Cameo
If Sledgehammer is going all-in on the Band of Brothers/Saving Private Ryan aesthetic, I’m holding out hope that they’ll get the American everyman himself in on the action. Tom Hanks is the quintessential G.I. and despite his age his voice could still breathe life into one of CoD:WII squadmates or lieutenants.
There’s a precedent for this type of appearance too, after celebrities like Kit Harington (of Game of Thrones fame) lent his face to the primary antagonist of Infinite Warfare. If Jon Snow can play an evil space man, why can’t Tom Hanks play a character he’s already played? Sure, maybe it would cost a fortune but last time I checked Call of Duty isn’t stumbling in the money department despite Infinite Warfare’s meager sales. Sledgehammer, chuck a couple bucks his way, and win back your fans the way they deserve.
8 Parachuting Will Be Key (In Multiplayer)
A trailer for the multiplayer gameplay showed a few soldiers parachuting into action in what looked like a classic French hamlet. Given Call of Duty’s habitual reliance on killstreak rewards (which are returning, by the way) for aerial support, the idea of deploying into games via the air sounds just freakin’ awesome. Imagine being able to take some of the fun of base-jumping into action in games like Battlefield or Titanfall and tying it into the fluid combat and addictive fun that made the Call of Duty brand into what it is today.
Bonus: Let players shoot on the way down, but also let the parachutes be punctured by incoming fire. How cool would it be for both the attackers and defenders to be able to enjoy the proper pandemonium of an aerial raid with all the danger intact?
7 Celebrities Of The War Are Going To Show Up In-Game
Whether it’s Winston Churchill, General Patton, FDR, Stalin, or soldiers of renown like the snipers Vasily Zaytsev or Simo ‘The White Death’ Häyä, letting the players come face-to-face with some of the biggest names in military history would be an incredible opportunity for Sledgehammer to make their upcoming story campaign as memorable as Modern Warfare’s or the original Black Ops.
World War 2 was exactly that: a global war, and history books are replete with colorful characters who fought, fled, spied, and sometimes died for their countries, their people, and their ideals. As Sledgehammer tells the story of a few American brothers-in-arms struggling through the war, what could serve as better punctuation than some household names to keep us grounded in the CoD world?
6 Poignant On-Death Quotes Are Coming Back
One of my favorite features of the original Call of Duty games were the quotes that would play on death or sometimes at the beginnings of missions. They were often brief and harrowing moments of poetry that would remind players of the human aspects of the war: the terror, the bravery, the cost of freedom. Since CoD:WII promises a return-to-form with its setting, why not borrow this element of immersion as well?
Some of the quotes from the first games could even be recycled for new audiences: things like Patton’s famous epithet, “The goal of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his,” or the deeply affecting, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
5 A Mission With Skis
It’s a little-known fact that specialized alpine units existed throughout the war, but if Sledgehammer has done their research (and all signs point to ‘yes’ in that department) then there’s a chance for them to create a hybrid vehicle/infantry mission featuring the lowest-tech, highest-octane vehicle around: Skis. Two sticks, two skis, a high-powered rifle, and lots of Nazis to shoot. Who could ask for more?
Bonus: Add a multiplayer mode where players race down a mountain in skis, shooting at each other the whole way down. Call it Biathlon Prime or something, who cares? The point is that skis are awesome and deserve a place at the Call of Duty table.
4 Historical Easter Egg Weapons
No, I don’t mean easter egg grenades (Sidenote: Sledgehammer, please do an Easter event where you reskin the grenades, thanks in advance). I mean hiding weapons around campaign missions (and maybe even multiplayer maps, if they really want to take a risk) that recall singular people, events, and weapons in the war. For instance, a British Army officer called "Mad Jack" Churchill waded into battle with a longbow and broadsword. And bagpipes. In World War 2. At the same time, the Germans developed a curved barrel for their experimental STG-44 rifle that saw limited use in the Battle of the Bulge.
There would be nothing more satisfying than sneaking up on a group of enemy campers in multiplayer and taking them out not with a knife, or rifle, or grenade, but with a chivalrous mix of bow and blade. And bagpipes.
3 Real Expansion Packs
A place where Call of Duty games have consistently missed the mark is in releasing substantive expansions outside of multiplayer content. The series may now be a species adapted to massive online play, but they’ve shown in the past that they can handle a story and even win awards for it. One angle Sledgehammer could play in the continuing ‘get-back-to-the-roots’ approach they’re taking is to release a few expansion packs that included bonus campaign missions that center on other factions, armies, and individuals in the war.
One of Call of Duty 2’s best features was a campaign focusing on the global scale of the struggle through the eyes of several different soldiers, which is something the original Modern Warfare borrowed and knocked out of the park. Recently, with its ‘war stories’ campaign style, Battlefield 1 has shown that this principle is alive and well, and Sledgehammer could take note.
2 The Soundtrack's Gonna Be Killer
World War 2 is a war of sound. The bombardments, the gunfire, the shouting. The roar of panzers rolling across the desert, the scream of Japanese bombers descending on their prey. More than that, though, there are choruses that are indelibly scrawled in the minds of the younger generations who grew up watching things about the war. Who among us hasn’t felt that swell of patriotism when we hear the military horns? Whether you like or agree with that feeling, World War 2 has been tied to the music of patriotism through books, movies, HBO specials, and games, and CoD:WWII cannot be the exception.
To make sure that we as players are enraptured in the story being woven around us, Sledgehammer’s sound team must ensure that everything is crystal clear, beautifully mastered, and impeccably curated. Every sound has to tug the heart, from the blasts to the shells to the main menu theme if they want to succeed.
1 Call of Duty: WWII Will Make (Or Break) The Franchise
CoD is at a turning point. It’s been thirteen games, some of which have been trend-setting miracles of gameplay and storytelling, some of which have been total garbage. (How you doin’, Call of Duty 3? Yeah. That’s what I thought.) Right now, the series is in one of its toughest spots ever after the shaky commercial results of the most recent installment, but there is hope.
While everyone who has ever thrown a knife, called in a predator, or stormed Normandy in a CoD game holds their breath to see what happens next, Sledgehammer has the opportunity to save (or wreck) one of gaming's most successful and polarizing franchises. Whether you love to play it, or live to trash-talk it, pay attention: CoD:WWII hits the shelves November 3rd, 2017.