After months of anticipation, Call of Duty: WWII is finally here. After its official reveal back in April, gamers around the globe have been anticipating the latest Call of Duty, more so than ever before. The series has stuck to present day conflicts and modern wars in its last few releases, a trend that many have grown tired of. Call of Duty has strayed far from its roots, originally debuting as a realistic, character-driven look at the Second World War.
Luckily the series has finally gone back to those roots, a tagline publisher Activision and developer Sledgehammer Games loves throwing around. For the most part, the game seems to have gotten fairly decent reviews, praising the return to the classic setting and it’s more grounded story. But there are just as many negative reviews, pointing the same old Call of Duty tropes and its terrible loot box system.
Whether or not Call of Duty: WWII is successful or not will come down to gamers, though some of us already aren't fans. Still, there’s plenty of good and bad to discuss with the latest first person shooter, so here’s our list of the 8 Best and 7 Worst Things About Call of Duty: WWII.
15 Best: This Guy
While Call of Duty: WWII lacks a playable Russian and British campaign like its forefathers, that’s not to say the entire game has gone entirely “Murica, F-Yeah” either. Aside from main protagonist Red Daniels, there are two other playable characters, one of which is Arthur Crowley, a British special forces commando.
Crowley, a stealth and destruction expert as you expect, is tasked with destroying German V2 rockets before the Nazis can fire them at the invading Allied forces, or, more importantly, hitting civilian targets in Britain. While his level is standard Call of Duty stuff, it is great to see the developers at least try to represent other nations in the war. Sure, full British and Russian campaigns would have been preferable, but this is better than some Call of Duty games that tossed aside America’s allies in the past.
14 Worst: Look At All These Clichés!
I hope you love war and World War II clichés, because Call of Duty: WWII collects them like Pokémon cards. The gameplay has the typical armful of CoD clichés, but we’ll come back to those later, don’t you worry. Instead, let’s first talk about some of the more general stuff.
The main plot of Call of Duty: WWII involves a soldier who doesn’t want to be in the war, fighting alongside other people who don’t want to be in the war. You’ve got your tough as nails squad leader who looks like he hates everyone but actually has a heart of gold, and a commanding officer who’s a nice guy. Not to mention the usual surroundings of D-Day its aftermath, which if you’ve only ever played World War II games without doing any research, you probably think is the entirety of the war.
Yes, all of that is totally realistic, don’t get me wrong. But we’ve seen all of this in every single war story ever told. You can move away from these clichés and still tell a mostly historically accurate story, just look at Inglorious Basterds or Kelly’s Heroes for proof of that.
13 Best: A Strong Female Character
Speaking of breaking clichés, this game features the series second playable female soldier in the World War II setting. You may not remember the first, Tanya Pavelovna from the maligned Call of Duty: Finest Hour, but her inclusion is a welcome relief nonetheless.
Her name is Rousseau, a 19 year old leader of a local cell of the French resistance. Her husband and young son were taken by the Germans, and ever since then she’s been on a mission to find them, and take her revenge. And before you say anything, there is nothing historically inaccurate about her inclusion. The French resistance had many female fighters, notably Simone Segouin, who blew up bridges and rail lines, and at one point captured 20 German prisoners.
Rousseau’s inclusion in the game feels like Activision is finally taking a larger look at World War II, and not just the parts they can turn into a fun video game.
12 Worst: Are We Just Playing Battlefield?
Call of Duty 4 revolutionized the way first person shooter multiplayer games were played, featuring a comprehensive class-based system, unlockable weapons and equipment, kill streak perks, and several different modes.
And that’s pretty much been the formula Call of Duty has stuck with ever since, until now. They tried to mix things up a bit with WWII, however, rather than feeling like a revelation or at least a breath of fresh air, it now feels more like you’re playing Battlefield 1.
Rather than starting out in a menu, you’re sent to something called “headquarters,” which is a sort of free roam area that acts as a hub. Rather than creating your own class, you instead “enlist” in certain “divisions” which each have their own skillsets and equipment. Most modes in Call of Duty are no longer about working alone and getting a bunch of kills, it’s now all about the War mode. This mode features team-based objectives that you have to complete in order to win, and require teamwork in order to achieve. There have even been several server issues at launch, and if that doesn’t scream “Battlefield,” I don’t know what does.
11 Best: It's A Haven For Stealth Players
Yes, you read that right. A first person shooter where you drive tanks, blow planes out of the sky seconds after shooting someone in the face and setting off explosions has a great stealth level. It’s a forced stealth section at that.
There are actually quite a few stealth sections in WWII, bizarrely, and every one of them are a lot of fun to play. Most of the time it’s just about setting yourself up to either ambush some Germans, or you’re taking out a few here and there to thin out the herd for the action to come later. But it’s really satisfying being able to go into stealth in a game series that’s been traditionally all about the action.
While none of these stealth levels live up to the sniper level in Call of Duty 4, they’re all fun to play in their own right, and add a nice ripple to the standard Call of Duty gameplay formula.
10 Worst: Where's The Campaign?
Coming as a surprise to absolutely no one, Call of Duty: WWII’s single player campaign mode is too shorting. Clocking it at around 5-6 hours, there isn’t much meat on the bone if you aren’t interested in the multiplayer or zombie mode. In fact, you’re better off waiting until next year’s Call of Duty when this one sinks in price if that’s the case.
As we already talked about, Activision clearly cares more about the multiplayer and zombie modes more than they do the single player. The multiplayer mode is what most people play, it more easily accommodates loot boxes and DLC which Activision loves, and it’s cheaper and quicker to make than an extensive, massive single player campaign.
If you’re more the glass half-full kind of person, you could see this as a good thing. “The single player is only the icing on the cake,” you could say, “and nobody wants all icing and no cake.” Still, when the cake itself is a boring vanilla one you’ve already eaten several times, you want something to make it feel special, and Call of Duty: WWII is very short on icing.
9 Best: The Spying Level
We already talked about the multiple stealth missions in the game, but there’s one level that takes things a step further, with a super sneaky undercover, espionage mission.
The fifth level, Liberation, is the best in the game. Without wishing to spoil too much, you’re tasked with going undercover as a member of the SS and rendezvousing with an undercover spy in a Nazi base of operations. This is also the level where you play as Rousseau.
What makes this level so great is that it’s not a typical stealth level. You’re not hiding behind walls or in shadows. Instead, it plays more like Hitman, where you have to hide in plain sight. You have to act natural, and quickly memorize the file you’re given before the mission, containing your name and other info. If you forget anything, it’ll arouse suspicion, and you could blow your cover.
8 Worst: The Tropes That Won't Die
While the stealth missions do add some nice seasoning to the classic Call of Duty formula, that’s all it is: seasoning. The main course is still the same old first person shooter combat you’ve come to expect from the series. Even the move away from the modern standard of regenerating health is a step back to when the series used medkits.
The fact of the matter is, there just isn’t much original here with the gameplay. You get shot at, take cover, wait for the enemy to pop their heads out, shoot them, and press forward. Sometimes you’re driving a tank. Other times you’re in an anti-aircraft gun. And of course you’ll also manning a mounted machine gun in a jeep, or even driving that jeep yourself down an extremely linear path.
For all the big changes Call of Duty: WWII made, the little things have remained exactly as they always were. There are elements in this game that remind you of the very first Call of Duty, and for a series this old and with this many games, that’s not really a good thing.
7 Best: Just Look At These Graphics!
If you’re a fan of graphical fidelity, than this game is the one for you, especially if you’re a console gamer. While it still looks great on PC, the master race is used to games looking this good. But in terms of consoles, it’s one of the best looking games on the market.
It’s let down slightly by the fact that the art style is the typical brown and gray, drab designs you expect in a modern FPS. And it’s not quite as great looking as some PS4 and Xbox One exclusives that get the most out of their systems without having to worry about other consoles. But for a multiplatform game, Call of Duty: WWII is stunning.
All of the big details like environments and characters are great, but it’s the little details that really sell it. Your weapon will get muddy if you dive to the ground, characters will emote realistically thanks to the advanced motion capture, and the weather effects have never looked this good. If nothing else, Call of Duty: WWII is a great looking game.
6 Worst: The DLC Problem
Like we said earlier, Activision loves them some DLC. Before the game was even released, they announced what will surely be the first of many DLC packs for the multiplayer portion. Not only that, but the DLC, The Resistance, will be a timed exclusive for the PlayStation 4.
Releasing January 30 next year, the map pack will focus on French cities during the French resistance. Not much is known about the DLC, other than the release date and it’s time exclusivity. We don’t know what’s going to be in the DLC other than some multiplayer maps at the least. Knowing Activision and Call of Duty, it’ll probably be overpriced and nothing but stuff for the multiplayer.
It’s incredible that, before the game is even released, that DLC was announced, and temporarily exclusive to one system. This is exactly why people hate both of them so much these days, not only the over-the-top futuristic settings or the derivative gameplay, but how the publisher continues to nickel and dime players, with DLC that’s clearly been in development since before the game was finished. Really makes you wonder why this DLC isn’t in the base game to begin with.
5 Best: The Return To World War II...
As limp as it kind of feels compared to the World War I setting in Battlefield 1, it is great to see the series return to the Second World War. The biggest problem with Call of Duty over the last few years is that it lost sight of what the series was originally about: they archetypal “everyday hero.”
While the more modern and futuristic settings don’t inherently take that away, they did allow developers to craft their own stories, rather than follow events that actually happened. That is what ultimately led to Russia somehow invading all of Europe and the United States at once, having shoot-outs in space (yes, really), and all the crazy wall-running abilities.
Moving the series back to World War II grounds the game as well. In the single player, you feel connected to the characters because it feels real. Sure, you’re still driving tanks and shooting down aircraft, but the usual gameplay in the trenches is more effective. The multiplayer is exhilarating as well, because you’re stuck with the weaponry and technology of the time, making it more difficult yet rewarding.
4 Worst: ...But An Entirely New Setting Would Have Been Better
Could you imagine if Activision tried to one-up Battlefield 1’s setting by taking the series to a new conflict? Imagine if the game were set in the Korean War, the American Civil War, or even the American Revolution. Now that would have been risky, but they would have scored a lot of good will simply for trying it.
Activision seems to have been determined to focus on America, what with cutting the British and Russian campaigns. But if they took that thought a step further and chose the Yom Kippur War, the Boer War, or the Iran-Iraq War, then they really would have turned some heads.
It’s good to see Call of Duty back in World War II, but it does make the game feel a little on the stale side. It’s like Activision made a World War II game more to appease the fans than actually revolutionize the series.
3 Best: What Great Acting
Yes, another positive point about the single player. As mentioned previously, Activision usually treats its single player campaigns as marketing tools, slapping famous actors on them who are just there for a paycheck, and calling it a day. But that hasn’t been the case here. Sure, Josh Duhamel is allegedly famous, by the cast is otherwise filled out with talented, unknown actors.
Having unheard of actors doesn’t necessarily mean the acting is good, but it does mean the people involved are more invested. This is Call of Duty, and it could make their careers. You really feel that investment when watching everyone’s performance. No one’s phoning it in here, including the Transformers actor. You feel Rousseau’s pain when she talks about her family being taken, you feel the pain and anger from Sergeant Pierson as he berates you for not taking things serious enough, and you feel the kindness from Lieutenant Turner.
All of that is aided by the motion capture work. The facial capture in particular is perhaps some of the best we’ve seen in gaming since LA Noire. It all makes the game feel even more grounded and powerful, even as you’re doing the typically ridiculous Call of Duty gameplay shenanigans.
2 Worst: Watch Other People Spend Money
Loot boxes are a scourge to gaming. Their sudden explosion in popularity in 2017 turned what was once the greatest year in gaming this decade into a grim, dour, and scary time. With Activsion patenting ways of sneakily encouraging microtransactions by matching non-paying players in the multiplayer with the overpowered players who do pay, it’s hard not to be worried about the future of gaming all of a sudden.
But Call of Duty: WWII’s loot box system takes the cake. Not only are there loot boxes, not only do these loot boxes cost real money, and not only do they give you an edge over other players. But in this game, they’ve added a level of spectacle. The multiplayer headquarters area is built specifically so you can watch other players open their loot boxes. That’s right, you watch other people gamble their money, and then sift through their “prizes.” Not only that, but there are even achievements for watching people opening loot boxes.
For a game that purports to be all about authenticity and paying respect to the soldiers and veterans who fought and died in World War II, it’s pretty galling to witness loot boxes literally drop from the sky onto Normandy beach, and pop open with a little flourish when somebody’s suckered in to buying one.
1 Best: The First Time We've Ever Seen This In A Game
So this might be a bit of a bit of spoiler, so we’re warning you now.
At the end of the game, your squad walks through a liberated Nazi concentration camp. You walk through the camp with a photographer and look at the remains of the camp. Its occupants, for lack of a better word, are long gone, as are the guards. It is just walking around and witnessing the aftermath.
A lot has been said about the game’s depiction of the camp. It’s not perfect, in fact, it’s not even all that great. You don’t actually see the horrors of what happened in these camps, since all the prisoners are already gone, except for a few dead bodies. But, as video games have long demonstrated, they’re pretty slow to try new things. This is the first time a video game, or at least a mainstream game like this, has ever depicted a Nazi concentration camp. While it’s true this level has nothing on the one in Band of Brothers for example, it’s a first step. Maybe this will give other developers working on World War II games to go further.