It’s time to get yelled at by Josh Duhamel every few seconds as I try to find some supplies. Man, he is so impatient.
Type: Single-player, Multiplayer
Genre: Action, Shooter
Developer: Sledgehammer Games,
Release date: Nov 2, 2017
Let me be upfront, I don’t really play Call of Duty games. I rarely play anything involving multi-player because I simply prefer the single player experience when gaming. That said, last year I rented Call of Duty Infinite Warfare and thought the single player campaign was half decent, not great, but half decent and worth a rental for a weekend. So, I figured I’d give Call of Duty WW2 a shot on a rental as well. To my surprise, it was damned entertaining and better than Infinite Warfare‘s campaign by a long shot.
Bang, You are Dead
Before I get to the nitty-gritty, I want to remind folks that there is no health regen in Call of Duty WW2. You will certainly notice that right off the bat because you begin the game at Normandy Beach on D-day and it’s like walking into a raging hellhole of gunfire and blood-soaked mutilated bodies with body parts exploding almost every fraction of a second. Officers command their men up the shores with the majority of them gunned down the instant they run forward. The action is surreal and you get an unsettling feeling that this is a very possible reality for a regular soldier on the frontlines in WW2. It’s madness and chaos with little for you to do other than somehow make it to the checkpoint marked ahead. Run as fast as you can without being killed, and you can hope for some health to heal yourself. My biggest complaint was that this sense of tension from that type of intense combat never occurs again in the game. There are a few good harrowing areas, but nothing that shows some of the horrors of war like that first area. It was eye opening and uneasy to a point, and I wish there was more like that throughout the campaign.
Now there is no character progression, no story choices, and there are no upgrades to speak of. It’s just a pick up and play type of game, and it has been that way for years. How then is the single player campaign supposed to maintain someone’s interest? That is primarily done via movie magic action sequences, good voice acting, a half decent use of environment, and a well directed approach to a variety of scenarios that somewhat reflects the gameplay of the multi-player action. Most COD games of late have a bad rep for shoddy campaigns, and hell COD Black Ops 4 doesn’t even have one. It’s never been the real reason to buy the game, but for single players like myself I was just curious how the campaign would be as I don’t like multiplayer shooters.
The last iteration of Call of Duty had decent voice acting, but I think it was mostly limited by the script. It was along the lines of a SyFy TV movie experience and while visually sweet and honestly fun to play with the spaceship fights, the gruff camaraderie and characters involved just felt cold and repetitive. I never got to know anyone. The best I could hope for were a few one liners from a robot. That’s just not so with COD WW2. If anything, this single player campaign is nearly a 100% about-face from the previous campaign. You react with your guys and the drama that unfolds . Those reactions come off as fairly heartfelt, or at least acted out to be heartfelt. You begin to care, or hate, the guys you are with and co-miserate with your on-screen character, Red Daniels. There is even a Heart of Darkness sort of thing going on with the Commanding Officer, Pierson, that honestly made me hate the guy in a very real way. Your character goes through a variety of emotions and reactions through some intense fighting scenes, and I certainly wasn’t expecting that. You go from killing your way through a forest with a never-ending onslaught of Nazi’s, to sneaking civilians out of danger, to trying to rescue your best buddy Zussman in a sort of hazy AWOL insanity.
It’s a full gauntlet of scenes, and yet this alone does not make the campaign fun, it is the lack of health regen that makes it fun and you will likely have at least one situation where you borked up a mission, hit a save point by accident, and have absolutely no health left, meaning you have to fight your way to some med supplies in order to move on..like now. It was awesome. Why don’t they do this in other games like Uncharted? Instead of ducking behind some cover to heal up, I have to plan out how long I can last, who to shoot to get by, where to hide to next, and possibly sneak around to get some more health packs scattered around. Now, keep in mind this is still Call of Duty, there will be several areas where you simply wipe out all the enemies and then you can just backtrack to search out more health. You have a limit, health can’t be stockpiled, so there is that to prevent an all out loot quest for health packs. Some guys, like your bud Zussman, carry health packs. The problem is, it’s really hard to get to him in the middle of combat without having someone shoot you or have a dog eat your face. I think I used that option maybe half a dozen times total. It was easier to plan things out, but then you’ll end up in some sort of Lord of the Rings style massive horde of Nazis where plans are not exactly in the equation as you just do your best to get to the next save point and screw looking for health. I got pinned down under a bridge that way for a good while before I discovered how to get myself out of what appeared to the end of my game as I hit a save checkpoint with no health at all and empty guns.
I do have to say that the central characters like Zussman, my asshole Commanding Officer Pierson, and my father figure Commanding Officer Turner were the only characters I cared about. The rest were acted out fine, but their interaction was so limited I honestly didn’t really care or even remember their names halfway through the campaign. That said, COD WW2 got me to remember some of the character names! Seriously, when is the last time that has happened? I can’t even remember the name of the main character from Infinite Warfare, but I know I was Red Daniels in WW2. So, the campaign is memorable within the confines of the COD tropes and the sort of predictable bits you’d expect from a COD title. I do think there were less jaw dropping sequences about, but it was replaced with psuedo-realism and that was actually fun to play. The scenes go by rather generically, though, with only a few standout areas like a Paris rescue, saving civilians, and some surprising plot twists I won’t reveal.
Guns, Planes, and Tanks
For WW2, the gun selection is okay, and I’m guessing it is mildly realistic, but nothing amazing. That said, it is certainly more gritty with the old style action of the gun parts moving and some excruciatingly slow guns along with fast shooting ones that are harder to aim. It’s more of a challenge and I liked it. Truthfully, getting to the hidden bazookas was a little tough and half the time when I ran out of ammo, I’d pick up a gun that was slow as hell. Yet, I was fine with it. I could aim pretty well, and while there are real world conditions from weather and such in the game, it is on the easy side if you just want to snipe from a well hidden spot. Don’t expect this to be Arma or anything. It’s harder than previous COD iterations from the past few years, but focuses on being a thrill-ride romp through Europe taking down Nazis and shooting everything in sight. The gun selection is limited, though, so don’t think you’ll have a huge variety. Most of the guns all feel the same and kind of slow.
The tank battles were a good deal of fun and emphasized how under-powered the US tanks were compared the the German ones, but realistically I very much doubt a US tank could take down a Tiger German tank with three or four hits. At least the front of the tank was impervious, it was impossible to make a dent in either a Tiger or Panzer tank at all from anywhere but the back area. This made the tank battles really tense with the cat and mouse gameplay and I loved it, there should have been more, but instead after that section was done it was replaced with the tank shooting people down instead. That was disappointing. More tank battles would have been so much better.
When I got to the plane battles, I was actually pretty hyped up since I really enjoyed the spaceship battles in Infinite Warfare. This was not the case with COD WW2. I couldn’t really see much of anything, which is realistic-ish, but really tough to shoot. Unlike the cool radars and lock-ons of Infinite Warfare, you mostly go with whatever you can pan around and see. I totally get the point of that being a lot like the real thing, but from a gameplay point of view, the plane battles, in my opinion, just lacked the fun of the previous game.
WW2 cranks out the usual intro to mechanics you can use such as stealth, which is significantly harder to pull off than I expected and I guess better than Infinite Warfare. Wait, did I even use stealth in Infinite Warfare? I have no idea. At least here I remember using it. At certain points I just went in guns blazing as I got tired of trying to stealth my way through from one end of an area to the next, pretty much burning bridges with my checkpoints as I marched straight on. The dogs were the toughest part as they always found me no matter what I did. There is a part of the game that is entirely stealth where you rescue some civilians and I think that came off okay using the mechanics and did a great job with the drama, substantially more drama in that one scene then all of Infinite Warfare.
I feel sort of silly even typing up anything about the graphics, as COD is generally a giant visual cinematic experience every year it’s been released. WW2 is no exception. The eye candy is top notch on a PS4 Pro and it makes the word visceral seem tame as a descriptor. I didn’t encounter any major slowdowns in the frame-rate from my experience and it all went about at a smooth 60FPS. I’ve seen some vids that show it dipping here and there, but I never had a noticeable drop from what I saw. It was constant enough so that it felt like it’s locked at 60.
Sonically, you get a notion of depth from the guns and tanks with the roar of gunfire and soliders taking center stage as much as the graphics. Perhaps even better than the graphics. I’m not one to criticize if the tanks sounded accurate or the gunshots perfectly imitate the actual sound of the real guns, but it was the usual meaty tone of audio magic you’d expect. Voice acting feels authentic with the exception of the Texas accent that Red Daniels has. It was a little over-exaggerated in my opinion, being born and raised in Texas. Otherwise, the acting is fantastic with a well chosen cast all around, including Josh Duhumel, who made the perfect bad guy. The soundtrack, done by a full orchestra from what I can tell, is superb with majestic or tense reactions to the action at hand. Regarding the utility, there was so much going on in the audio that at times I got a bit lost about what was happening. Maybe that was intentional, but sometimes I was listening for an audio cue about the gameplay action and I missed it because I just didn’t hear it so well ( until I put on headphones ) due to everything else overlapping the sound.. Overall, though, very well done.
I bet you are thinking I’m going to advise buying Call of Duty WW2 right now? Oh, absolutely not.. It’s worth a rental for a weekend, though, and that should be enough to finish it up. If you don’t have rentals in your area, then maybe borrow it from a friend or or wait until it’s dirt cheap and then trade it for something else right after. If you are on PC and play solely for the single player, it is absolutely not worth the rather inflated Steam prices for COD games. It’s fun, it’s much better than other recent COD iterations, and the game direction of the campaign surprised me with how decent it was for a Call of Duty campaign, but it’s not Metro or Bioshock. If you regularly play shooters I don’t even think you will like this. So, for those not-playing-shooters-all-the-time gamers who don’t really enjoy multi-player and were curious about the single player campaign, I hope this review helps you decide whether to play it not. It’s casual, doable in just two long sittings, and it’s got buddy war movie scripting that isn’t half bad. The action scenes are the usual cinematic shtick in scope, but frankly I like that. Dammit, sometimes I just want something visually immersive I can complete in 6-8 hours instead of a 30+hour long game and it scratched that itch really well with what I call my summer-movie games. It’s just something to simply vege on for awhile, you know? I’m usually playing stuff like fighters, brawlers, action adventures, ARPGs, and JRPGs and this was easy enough for me, as a gamer who rarely plays anything with a gun.
The ending didn’t really thrill me, though, and I won’t go into it, but suffice it to say it felt very tamed down regarding the concentrations camps. While I don’t know how well the horrifics would have played out in a game, I honestly think there was not enough to make a true statement. Maybe the studio purposely averted a statement to begin with, I don’t know. What I do know is they spent a lot of time trying to make a setup and scene about the Holocaust, but they stopped short of really portraying much of anything about it.
On that note, I won’t comment one bit on the authenticity of the game, because it’s COD and it’s not going to be very authentic despite them trying to say they were aiming for that. Activision is going for entertainment here, it’s their biggest franchise. So, take that as you may. Historical accuracy and relevant topics are brushed ever so slightly here, don’t expect anything else. The game tries to be a mid-level drama with a bit more story than usual and you should stop right here if you are speed-reading to the end. However, it *is* fun and so much better without health regen. For an action/movie/shooter campaign at a time where the new COD Black Ops 4 doesn’t even have a campaign, this was cool. Yeah, I know the mission sets feel too much like older COD games, but I had fun from beginning to end, to my surprise. The maps don’t always give you a ton of variety to work with, yet the story has grit even if it’s a bit bland here and there and WW2 came off more engrossing than any other Call of Duty campaign I’ve played in recent years. The old addage, ‘Who plays COD for campaigns?’ is still very true, though. Now, I haven’t played the older WW2 Call of Duty games, so keep that in mind. I’m only comparing it to the last handful or so versions of the franchise. Anyway, rent it sometime and don’t pay full price. Knock it out in about two days and on to the next.