by David Stonecipher
When a game series has annual releases for 18 years running, it might be hard to come up with new ideas to keep each new entry fresh. Moving away from the futuristic setting of recent Call of Duty titles, like last year’s Infinite War, Sledgehammer Games is hoping that fans will simply forgotten that CoD actually began as a World War II franchise. Granted, it has been nearly a decade since a Call of Duty game was set in the classic war, but the developer is now pretending that the series’ return to this historical era with Call of Duty: WWII is somehow innovative.
By taking the franchise full circle, Call of Duty: WWII is the first time the series has revisited the titular war since 2008’s World at War. By moving away from fictitious conflicts and back to historical events, the latest CoD tries to be more realistic than the franchise’s more recent installments. However, by recreating actual battles already presented in previous CoD titles, much of Call of Duty: WWII feels overly familiar. Even the game itself treats the stages as old news.
I guess Sledgehammer Games felt that players have played through the Normandy Invasion so many times in older titles that there wasn’t much more that they could add to the conflict. Instead of depicting the retaking of the famous beachhead during a serious mission, Call of Duty: WWII uses Normandy as a simple tutorial stage where players are busy learning how to crouch and move during one of history’s bloodiest battles. You’d think these are things that would have been covered in basic training before soldiers were thrust into the massive amphibious invasion.
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Call of Duty: WWII doesn’t feel familiar just because of its similarity to older titles, though. The story campaign also seemingly pulls inspiration from nearly every war movie ever made. However, while short, the story mode is a well-executed improvement for the series. If you’ve seen a WWII film before then the game’s cast will be instantly recognizable including the wise-cracking recruits to the stern sergeant. The locker room banter from your unit sometimes feels a little bit more like a road trip through Europe than Saving Private Ryan. In the end, the title’s straightforward, scripted events make it feel so much like you’re watching a movie rather than playing a game that Activision itself is even treating it more like a film.
Following the launch of the game, it was revealed that Call of Duty: WWII earned over $500 million in the first three days after release. It’s not often that publishers of video games announce opening weekend numbers since that type of promotions is generally reserved for movies, but I suppose you can market your product however you want if you own a multi-billion dollar franchise.
In the end, however, people probably aren’t buying Call of Duty: WWII for its brief story campaign. Multiplayer has always been the series’ biggest draw. Once again the game’s setting also defines its multiplayer. As can be expected from the historical background, the jetpacks and wall-running are gone in this entry. Call of Duty: WWII focuses entirely on period weaponry mechanics without the additional gimmicks. Sledgehammer leans more towards player choice and inclusion over historical accuracy when it comes to creating your multiplayer character. This allows users to pick their ethnicity and gender. Unfortunately, this is a game about the European Front in World War II so somebody is going to have to pick the short straw during matchmaking and play as a Nazi. Prepare to hear lots of bad German accents in voice chat from overly enthusiastic fans.
Surprising absolutely no one, Call of Duty: WWII delivers an enjoyable outlet to battle friends or progress through another short campaign. There’s even something to look forward to for those who aren’t excited about the World War II setting this time around. Call of Duty will certainly return again with an all-new game next year.
Ultimately, 8 out of every 10 privates will enjoy and enlist in this Nazi-stomping romp.
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