2017, a year that was already looking fairly exciting for the gaming world (they're all exciting, fine), just got put into high gear with the reveal of Call of Duty: WW2. Activision has officially announced the new Call of Duty game for 2017 (a tradition at this point). Legions of fans the world over are rejoicing, and tons more are cautiously gearing up to drop another handful of money in a few months.
We're feeling the exact same way, on the one hand, so amped up we're having some difficulty containing ourselves, but at the same time, cautious, because this game is going to be something different, but something oddly familiar. To quote an old man from the world of science fiction "I sense something, a presence I've not felt since...". Well, Darth Vader was talking about Obi-Wan Kenobi, but we're talking about a World War II-themed Call of Duty, and this is a presence we've not felt since 2008's World at War. That campaign is one of the underrated among this incredible franchise, featuring stories in the Pacific Theater and the Eastern Front.
After WaW, the franchise took an interesting turn, finishing up the Modern Warfare trilogy and launching the Black Ops games (one of which saw a gruesome end for one of the heroes of World at War; Private Dimitri Petrenko). Along with these games, several of which went into the future, recent CoD releases such as Advanced Warfare, and Infinite Warfare have headed in a polarizing direction. While tons of fans have enjoyed all the franchise's games, many have griped about new technology and argued that between space battles and exo-suits, Call of Duty has lost its way.
The result, far as we can tell, will be something to please the "old school" and "real" CoD fans, and hopefully introduce some of the later-game enthusiasts to the previous style of game. We're excited, but we've been hurt by franchises like this before: here are eight things we've learned (and love) about the upcoming game, and seven things we hate.
15 We Learned: Back To Its Roots - Boots on the Ground
Okay, we have to get this one out of the way early because by now, if you're a fan of the franchise and have been following the news, you're likely fed up with both of these phrases, "boots on the ground" and "back to roots." Well, the reveal really hit it home, the franchise is heading back to where the first several games started it all: World War II. There will be no exo-suits, no drone strikes, no outer space battles, and most definitely no rogue AIs. This game will be a gritty, violent, "visceral" (another word you're probably fed up hearing) and epic romp through the largest conflict in recorded history.
14 We Hate: Very Narrow Shooter On Rails
Like every other installment of the series, it is looking more and more like Call of Duty: WWII will be a very straightforward no nonsense, shooter on rails. We can't argue about the simplicity of the games and the fact that somewhere on your screen you'll see an objective and how you have to get there. We get it, the games have stories and are linear, and the franchise didn't build itself on a sandbox-type feel. However, earlier rumors did hint at a possibility that there would be some creative leeway on the part of the player in terms of completing missions. This seems to not be the case.
13 We Learned: The Campaign Is Only Western Europe
Before the reveal, some screenshots were leaked that seemed to show a man in what looked like a European setting, with a red "1" on his uniform. This essentially told us that we would be in Europe with the Big Red One, who fought in Europe in the last two years of the war. Focusing on one unit will help in terms of character —and story development— as we won't be switched back and forth between different fronts, and will have an uninterrupted experience getting to know the soldiers. This is one way to experience a World War II-themed FPS, but not one this franchise has opted for much when they have made WWII games. We look forward to landing at Normandy once again, fighting through to Paris and of course, iconic scenes like the Battle of the Bulge.
12 We Hate: The Campaign Is Only in Western Europe
We should clarify that, like a few other things we "hate" about the game so far, we have a love/hate feeling about the singular focus of the game's campaign. On the one hand, as we said, the character development and storytelling will benefit from this aspect of the game's format, but what will be missing is the entire rest of the conflict. There are stories to be told on the Eastern Front in Europe, in North Africa, and of course in the Pacific, just to mention the major areas of conflict throughout the war.
Of course, if this game is a success, which is highly likely, we could see World War II games become a regular occurrence in Call of Duty once again. New games could feature different locales thrown in every couple of years, along with the futuristic titles we will probably continue to see going forward with the series.
11 We Learned: Celebrity Voices
Call of Duty, having the budget that each game eventually does, can hire some pretty big names to play characters in their games. No matter who is developing, there always seem to be some solid names in the credits. The tradition goes back to the first game, in which Jason Statham played a role, along with Giovanni Ribisi, who played the medic in Saving Private Ryan.
More recent titles have seen the likes of Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman playing Sgt Roebuck and Viktor Reznov respectively in World at War. The Modern Warfare trilogy brought names like William Fichtner, Idris Elba, Keith David, and Will Arnett, while the Black Ops games featured Ice Cube, Ed Harris and Michael Keaton, just to name a select few (there are more).
This time around, Jeffrey Pierce, who has used his voice for a few CoD games, will return, this time as Lieutenant Turner, joining Josh Duhamel as Sergeant Pierson and painfully underrated actor Jonathan Tucker, who will play the main character Red Daniels' best friend, Private Robert Zussman.
10 We Hate: No Date For Beta, And PS4 Gets It First
We'll lump two complaints into one here, and while neither of these are particularly important to the final product and experience, we're disappointed about some of the information about the game's beta. First of all, there is no date yet. This is a minor problem and only a problem because we have a phobia of waiting. We want our first glimpse of the game as soon as possible, or at least a tentative date for the damn thing. But enough about that. In order to get access to that Beta, one will have to pre-order the game.
Several publications, however, are saying that the Beta will be available for PS4 before it is available on Xbox One. Nobody who owns a PS4 should care, but Xbox One owners can be a tad upset about this one. Even though it is a Beta, the Xbox faithful who love CoD have some reason to be annoyed.
9 We Learned: The Graphics Look Sharp
This one should go without saying, but the brief snippets we have seen from the in-game footage so far have looked phenomenal. The Call of Duty franchise has always had graphics that look slightly above the average, but never anything that will blow your mind. This game looks fantastic, and we dare say, certain animations such as the clouds in the sky, the water, and the smoke coming off burning buildings looks like it may surpass what we saw in Battlefield 1. Of course, how YouTube clips and gameplay at the reveal will look compared to the final product is something we cannot predict. But for now, suffice it to say: we are looking at a visually outstanding game.
8 We Hate: How Long This Took
It has been nearly a decade since a World War II story was featured in Call of Duty. That was 2008's World at War. Since then, we've had one game set in the past, Black Ops, and seven set in the future, whether a few years, a few decades or centuries. It isn't so much the World War II theme that we missed, but the historical aspect. Yes, we got to see the Bay of Pigs Invasion and caught a glimpse of Vietnam in Black Ops, and a few historical scenes in Black Ops II, but the feeling of catching some insight into the realities of war that previous generations have faced has been missing for many of these futuristic titles. We are happy that it will be here soon, but it is a shame that it has been so long since we have been treated to a game set in the past by this franchise.
7 We Learned: Standalone Co-Op With Its Own Story
The concept of cooperative play has become a necessity for first-person shooters, and few games have created what this franchise has when it comes to co-op. The upcoming game looks like it may well be the best yet in this realm. While previous games have had Zombies modes or Special Ops, WWII boasts what creators are calling a complete co-op experience with its own story, separate from the main game. As we saw with the reveal, that game mode will feature zombies, and —to paraphrase the developers— it will deal with the Nazis attempt at the end of the war to come up with increased numbers of troops in an act of desperation.
6 We Hate: No Co-Op Main Campaign?
In case you haven't noticed, we're trying to come up with reasons to criticize this game, and for the most part, it looks like it will be fantastic, but there are some minor issues we feel need addressing. Not every Call of Duty title features an option to play the main campaign locally on split-screen. This is a really fun way to play games, and so far it is unclear whether or not this game will feature such an option. Of course, it won't be a huge loss, but still an issue nonetheless.
5 We Learned: A Load Of Research Went Into the Game
Based on comments from Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey of Sledgehammer, this game took an absurd amount of time to put together, and they don't even mean writing the story or anything like that. The entire team has gone above and beyond in terms of putting together a new and profound World War II experience. They shot the weapons, they drove the vehicles, they went to the locations, and of course, they dove into the actual history of these events to really capture what was going on. For these creative minds, it is about paying homage to the people who fought as much as it is about providing an entertaining product.
4 We Hate: Doesn't Look As Ambitious As BF1
While we're excited to get back to World War II, we feel like it is a safe choice for the Call of Duty franchise to make. We've been there before, there is plenty of historical information available to create a decent and accurate (as accurate as pop culture can be) story, and there is a wide array of weapons and equipment.
Unfortunately, we're skeptical as to whether this game is going to be quite as ambitious as 2016's Battlefield 1, in terms of offering new content and creating a new experience. World War I was a brave choice for the BF series, and while they got really creative with the whole historical accuracy thing (especially regarding the weapons available), it offered something new for many players which created a very rewarding experience. Based on what we've seen so far from Call of Duty: WWII, it looks like Sledgehammer and Activision are playing it safe compared to EA. Of course, the information we have received is fairly minimal, and we may be surprised in several months when it comes out.
3 We Learned: New Gameplay Mechanics And Multiplayer Modes
We need to at least address what this game brings to the table that previous Call of Duty titles did not. While we didn't get a ton of details, they have added something to the multiplayer experience. Obviously, the basics will still be there, but with some interesting new elements. "Divisions" will be a new "create a class" type format, and will play a part in your character for multiplayer. Another new game mode simply called "War" will offer players a chance to play a more immersive multiplayer match featuring real objectives, somewhat like a real conflict rather than just, "okay guys, you're all here, go kill each other." Finally, "Headquarters" will be a new kind of game lobby in which players can socialize and virtually hang out in between matches.
In terms of what is new in main campaign gameplay, Sledgehammer wanted to nail home the fact that it wasn't superheroes fighting the war; it was young men in their late teens and twenties. As such, health regeneration is no longer an option. Hiding behind a chest-high wall and wiping blood from your eyes is a thing of the past, now you'll have to look for a medic. In former war games, being out of ammo was a headache, but there would seemingly always be a crate conveniently lying around somewhere, in the upcoming game, that too will be done away with. Time to see who your best buddies are in the squad and request a few spare magazines.
2 We Hate: The Setting
Okay, we don't want this to sound like we hate the fact that this is another World War II war game. This conflict is the largest in human history and given the scope of it, offers a lot to be explored through historical fiction like video games. Unfortunately, it has been done before, and some may say overdone. There are other wars that have barely been touched by first-person shooters when compared to World War II, including the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, and of course, the numerous smaller that don't involve the United States.
On the other hand, this will be the first high budget World War II game on the current generation consoles (we don't include Sniper Elite games), and we're hopeful that the updated tech will offer a better experience. Of course, this is a love-hate feeling, because while we're happy to have boots on the ground, and there is no grander scale for warfare than WWII, we've been there before.
1 We Learned: This Campaign Will Make Us Feel
Condrey and Schofield both made it clear that they wanted WWII to be a new experience even for those of us who have played numerous World War II video games in the past. They wanted a realistic, gritty, nasty, dark, honest game that showed off the true nature of war. Seeing what we've seen so far, we can already tell that this campaign is going to make us feel. While there was some decent character development in World at War, we have a feeling WWII will be a whole new ball game.
Based on some rumors that have been floating around, interacting with civilians may be a part of this game, and racial tensions from the time may even occur within the game. As we already said, the main characters will be ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and as such, there will be conflict within the unit, and they have hinted at the possibility of player choice. It looks like Lieutenant Turner, and Sergeant Pierson may have some tension over how to go about business in the field, and of course, in classic Call of Duty fashion, where there are likable characters, there may well be likable characters dying horrible, tear-jerking deaths (remember Paul Jackson and Gaz in Modern Warfare).