Call of Duty: WWII Review – Boots Meet Ground

Note that with MP1st being a multiplayer-focused site, the major focus of the review is the multiplayer, though we do touch on the other modes and consider them in the overall score. 

Call of Duty: WWII is the franchise’s venerable return to its boots-on-the-ground formula that has made it the biggest video game property since Modern Warfare. Now, the question is, is it a triumphant return or does it fail to trudge through all the mud and grime? The answer is, it’s a mixture of both.

In Call of Duty: WWII’s single-player, you star as “Red Daniels,” a grunt helping the US army take out Nazis. Sure, it’s a bit more nuanced than that, but for the most part, it’s a familiar trek with copious amounts of setpieces, banter, and of course, violence.

Prepare to see limbs severed, heads blown off in gruesome fashion. Thankfully, Sledgehammer didn’t put in gore and dismemberment for the sake of it, which would have cheapened the overall effect.

New and Old Mixed In

If you play every Call of Duty campaign that comes out every year, then there’s a lot in COD: WWII that will feel quite familiar  — for better or for worse. I applaud Sledgehammer for trying something new with your  character’s health not regenerating and instead relying on med packs (remember those in FPS’?), and that’s just one of the few changes it made.

Unique to COD: WWII is how your squad actually helps you out by giving med packs, ammo, spotting enemies and more. Once you see your squad’s meter fill up, you can go up to them (even in the heat of combat) and get some help. It’s a nice gameplay mechanic that makes you more invested in your squad, rather than going solo and finding ammo and other stuff in the levels themselves.

Another “new” feature is how challenging the campaign is. Aside from the omission of self-regenerating health, enemies are sharper shots in COD: WWII than in previous COD campaigns. I was playing through the normal difficulty and was surprised to see my character bite the dust a few times. It’s definitely a step in the right direction since it doesn’t border on cheap, or annoying, and helps keep you on your toes.

As I’ve mentioned previously, there’s a lot of setpieces that happen within the 12 chapters available, and it’s what players expect in your standard COD campaign. These are sometimes marked with QTE (quick-time events) that should be a breeze to accomplish, though it does break up the monotony from time to time.

Another “old is new” feature is the Zombies mode, or rather, Nazi Zombies mode. While it’s a bit more horror oriented now than what Treyarch does, it’s still more of what people love. If you’re not a fan of Zombies mode in past COD games, I doubt this will convert you, but if you are, then this third pillar mode will more than scratch that itch.

Back to Basics

We’ve covered a ton of stuff regarding COD: WWII’s multiplayer in our beta impressions, but now that we’ve played a lot of it, we’ve noticed a few good things, and some not-so-good things which we’re sort of conflicted up to now.

First off, prepare for a lot of changes to some of the core mechanics…even if some of them didn’t need it. Gone is Treyarch’s much-loved Pick 10 system for perks. Heck, the whole perks system itself has been replaced by the often-limiting Basic Training system Sledgehammer implemented.

If you want to experiment, you’ll have to do so in a more limited way. You can’t really mix and match Basic Trainings other than with what each Division’s abilities are, which are tailored to specific play styles and weapons.

Want to rock a silenced assault rifle? Nope, not possible. What about trying trying go all noob tubes and grenades? Sure, but lots of compromises are in the way to make it work, which might frustrate some fans. I’m not sure, but one of the possible reasons for the massive change in perks and how it works could be Sledgehammer’s way of”forcing” players to try out different weapons and play styles, and not have everyone using the same stuff. One can argue that every COD games has that issue, but it’s still prevalent in COD: WWII, and that’s not going away any time soon, I think.

Related Call of Duty: WWII Reading:

War Changes

While Sledgehammer might have reined in the perks system, it did add a new match mode to the franchise in “War,” and it’s fantastic. For those who aren’t familiar with the mode, it’s all about objective play where kill/death ratios don’t matter, and there’s no scorestreaks.  Think of it as like Battlefield 1’s Operations, but in a smaller scale and it’s purely infantry-based.

War is balanced enough that not one side has an advantage, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Matches don’t last too long, and the action is fast, but not to the point like it’s a round of team deathmatch. War is such a fun mode that I often found myself playing it over franchise mainstays like TDM and Domination. Don’t be surprised if the mode creeps in to other Call of Duty titles moving forward.

However, there is a a dark cloud in all of this though, and that’s the maps. Due to War mode’s sprawling, and expanding maps (of which there are three), there are only nine maps available for the rest of the other modes. Unless my memory is failing me, that’s the lowest number of maps available at launch for any COD game ever. Sure, one can argue that there’s really 12 maps in the game, but given we can’t play the War maps in other modes, that argument will surely fall on deaf ears.

Compounding the issues with maps are the map design.  While not every COD game has top-tier maps, some of the design choices in COD: WWII’s are, well, baffling. There’s USS Texas which feels like a re-skinned and inferior version of Treyarch’s Hijacked, Gibraltar which gives one side a big vantage point advantage in Domination, and possibly the worst one of all, Gustav Cannon — a big map, with one big centerpiece that’s perfect for sniping…and not much else. It feels like Sledgehammer Games tried its best to deviate from Treyarch’s three-lane formula, that if forsake balance, and sound map design just to be different.

For now, we don’t know whether Sledgehammer will roll out more multiplayer maps aside from the ones that’ll be available in the Season Pass. If this is it though, base game owners will be in for a long 12 months.

Tools of the Trade

While I’ve managed to gripe about the perks system and the maps in COD: WWII, I did enjoy my time playing the multiplayer. Sledgehammer nailed the gunplay the series is known for (lag notwithstanding), and the gun balance out of the gate is fine so far. While some might argue that the BAR is the end-all, be-all ultimate weapon, the same can be said the for the PPSH SMG, STG assault rifle, etc. I don’t know about you., but if people are saying all guns are overpowered, then that means it is balanced, right?

Another plus (for me, at least) is how scorestreaks aren’t the main focus of each match. In past CODs, it usually boiled down to which team managed to push out their scorestreaks first that decided the match. Not so in COD: WWII, Sledgehammer has drastically reduced the effectiveness of most ‘streaks, which means the focus now is on gunplay. Now, some might balk at that, but for me personally, giving the winning team/side more ways to win with a push of a button isn’t really on the fair side.

cod ww2 prestige

By Design

While we were playing COD: WWII extensively for review, there is one thing that has yet to be fully resolved until now and it’s Headquarters mode. This social space (think: Destiny 2’s Farm) has you interacting with players, watching Supply Drops being opened and more. It’s great in theory, but when it was working, I didn’t really felt the need to socialize other than jumping on to the next match.

For now though, HQ is still hit or miss, and I’ve yet to see anyone other than NPCs in mine, which is fine since I’d rather be in matches anyway. Speaking of Supply Drops, there is the constant loom of weapons only attainable in these RNG boxes, which always upsets the community — understandably so. With the recent Supply Drop leak, it seems it’ll run the gamut of sidearms to full blown weapons that might affect the gun and game balance.

Possibly the biggest gripe I have with COD: WWII’s multiplayer is how it’s different for the sake of being different. SHGames looks to have made a concerned effort to not follow Treyarch’s (or Infinity Ward’s) footsteps that it stumbles in some areas because of it.

Ultimately though, fans know what to expect from every year’s COD title, and COD: WWII is no different. It doesn’t do anything to offend, and does enough new things to keep things fresh, and the touch of new innovations such as Headquarters, the willingness to go back to boots on the ground are much appreciated.

Make no mistake: COD: WWII is a Call of Duty game. It looks like one, it feels like one, and it plays like one, too. Regardless if that’s a good or bad thing for you, it does do a lot of things right. From a value proposition, a full-fledged campaign, a deep multiplayer Zombies mode experience, and of course, multiplayer, makes it well worth the price of admission.

Score 8/10

Pros:

  • Boots to the ground is back! No walljumps!
  • Fresh ideas aplenty with Basic Training, Divisions, etc.
  • Gunplay focus is refreshing, gun balancing is spot-on so far

Cons:

  • Just nine multiplayer maps out of the box for main modes
  • Basic Training and Divisions system feels limiting compared to past titles
  • Predictable campaign

Call of Duty: WWII review code provided by publisher. Played on PS4 Pro, and reached Prestige 1 (level 20+) for review. You can read MP1st’s review and scoring policy right here.

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