Call Of Duty has been blamed for many things. Creating a toxic atmosphere online when it was probably Halo that originated this, Being the casual fans shooter of choice when this was originally Medal Of Honor and being a cash cow that churns out sequels every year with little or no innovation. The last one is probably fair enough when you consider some of the more horrible games like Ghosts. The bad press comes from Call Of Duty doing these things better and bigger than the rest. This is why COD WW2 is so refreshing. It has kept the good innovations while stripping back on the craziness. At 35 years old it may be enough to get even a lapsed COD player thinking they can compete online again.
Obviously the first place most people go to is the multiplayer suite and COD WW2 does not disappoint here, you have all the standard deathmatch variations, the soon to follow ranked matches, Nazi Zombies and a new social space where you can see other players, open loot boxes and tick off objectives in a faux Destiny style for more XP and credits that allow you to customise your soldier and weapons. All very good and to be honest unobtrusive to a grizzled COD veteran like myself. I was have expecting to be bombarded with in-app purchases, jetpacks and a forced training module on sideways firing guns. Things like these had greeted me any other time I tried to get back into COD. Here, in keeping with the WW2 theme you are very much ‘boots on the ground’. No wall running, no jetpacks, no perks that make you question whether or not you were killed by skill or AI, just honest COD team deathmatch, love it or hate it, it’s back and bears a striking resemblance to the multiplayer from the classic World at War game.
But despite this feeling very old and comfortable to play you can still feel the new DNA underneath the system, killstreaks are harder to come by and depending on which ones you have selected can be less effective, the hitboxes around online players are tighter than before and you find yourself being able to blame yourself more than the failings of the game or your internet connection. All things honed over the years to try to remove some of the frustration that playing COD can lead to.
When you compare it to the direct competition of Battlefield 1, COD WW2 plays a completely different game. If Battlefield is a 500m walk before getting sniped from miles away then COD is a peak around a corner before losing your head. As a general rule of thumb if you haven’t seen an enemy player for a few seconds they are probably behind you. It is cut throat and reflex based as always but the weapons can be a great equalizer. Until you level a gun up and install a few attachments they handle like dogs. Unless you are a very proficient sniper and have the patience to play like that you need a gun that is automatic. Stay away from the open and bottleneck areas of the map and you will survive long enough to get at least a few rounds off at another player. If you get this far then after a few games and a few kills you can refine your style to try and get at least a 1.0 kill to death ration in matches. That is the goal in COD as it has always been. Time will tell if this game can keep up the good impression it has made when balancing fixes come in.
The campaign is where older players go. The enjoyment of completing the story on regular and then testing yourself on veteran was one of the highlights of COD and was something I managed last year with Modern Warfare Remastered. This campaign is less story driven than the Modern Warfare games yet has a narrative running through it that plays out like Saving Private Ryan on Amphetamines. The checklist is all there, storming the beach at Normandy, taking out anti-aircraft nests and fighting your way through occupied France against an increasingly desperate and vicious Nazi war machine. It may be clichéd, but there’s something undeniably easy about being on this side of a conflict in a video game. With the current state of the world, feeling like you are on the correct side is a novel thing in video games and recreating some of the most heroic moments in history while acknowledging that the killing is senseless, is a lot easier than say removing a dictator in a country you know nothing about and who doesn’t seem to have carried out any atrocities. But enough of a political aside, the campaign plays well and despite feeling short has the required variation and challenge on the higher difficulty levels to keep you coming back to play again every once in a while. A smattering of collectibles are there for the trophy hunters among us and the bombastic set pieces offer a degree of freedom in how you challenge them. Not Farcry levels but simply going in guns blazing or sniping from afar. The big change is how your squad helps you. Killing enemies raise your teammate’s ability meter allowing them to supply you with health kits, ammo drops, and enemy position reveals. This year your health doesn’t recharge, you need the med packs. Add in a few well placed quick time events and you have an enjoyable throwback campaign, certainly on a par with recent efforts and in my opinion better than Battlefield 1’s.
So there you have it, Call Of Duty this year is made exactly for people like me. People who once played this game religiously but after all the iterations and changes away from simplicity fell out of love with it. Now it’s back and the choice will be made by many people about whether or not to dust off their headsets and give COD one last try online. So far it’s worth it.