Call of Duty WWII review – Crazy ain’t the half of it!

Activision /

A noted step back towards its World War II roots, Call of Duty WWII improves its campaign, maintains its zombie excellence and stagnates its multiplayer.

Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: PC (version reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: November 3, 2017

There was once a time when Call of Duty occupied almost the entirety of my gaming experience. Having enjoyed the classic Medal of Honor games, and Battlefield 1942 on the PC, the idea of emergent multiplayer combat within a disheveled European armed conflict was fun. I was a teenager who hadn’t quite grasped the historically-ingrained stakes involved in the content I had enjoyed.

Seeing Activision abandon its futuristic digs and embrace its roots once more with Call of Duty WWII gave me renewed optimism that somebody, somewhere within the Call of Duty machine that cranks out these titles out year after year gets the horrors of war, leaving a less jingoistic, more humane experience for a new generation of gaming fans to enjoy.

Just like almost every World War II game tailored to the American conflicts, Call of Duty WWII begins close to the end of the war at large; on the eve of D-Day. Players control private Red Daniels through this campaign but are often accompanied by fellow members of the 1st Infantry Division. Robert Zussman, Drew Stiles, Frank Aiello, Sgt. Pierson and Lt. Turner are more than just names to you; they’re distinct personalities that you depend on to push German forces back through Europe.

Call of Duty WWII campaign Zussman
Activision /

While the tinnitus-filled explosion fest and frantic QTE combat cutscenes feel familiar, a renewed sense of character-building storytelling permeates the Call of Duty WWII campaign. Even your commanders barking objectives carry their own sense of doubt and struggle, immersing you in the squad mentality that plays true to the fear of death around every corner.

[War Mode] manages to strike a balance between fair and fresh while giving players both perspectives of each map.

Even with a new game mechanic that allows you to request supplies from your teammates after a certain number of kills (health packs, ammo, grenades, etc.), the hardships that your team endures as a group and how each character carries themselves reflects a realistic group dynamic where young men are forced to kill each other at the command of higher-ups. The hardships of war are real and devastating, and it’s not just the player that goes through highs and lows.

The different styles of gameplay experiences enjoyed during the campaign are a refreshing change of pace. Between chasing after trains with jeeps and infiltrating a Nazi-occupied building as a woman from the French Resistance, Call of Duty WWII keeps you off-kilter in a great way. Plus, it wasn’t afraid to reflect a more diverse side of the Allied conflict, doing so in a way that wasn’t overt in virtue-signaling. It was subtle, historical and well-written. Josh Duhamel leads an excellent cast capable of carrying their own in a televised miniseries if need be.

Still, the Activision formula for building tension in a Call of Duty campaign remains predictable in its tropes. While the game is a visually stunning masterpiece on an inherent level (it embodies both vibrant and somber colorization to reflect each setting), it still uses the same close-quarters combat moments, explosions that knock you to the ground and “no soldier left behind” slo-mo pistol segments that have been in every campaign iteration. It’s an unfortunate blemish to an otherwise sterling campaign.

Call of Duty WWII
Activision /

For some, though, story modes are a last resort if online servers are down. From a multiplayer perspective, there are a few new additions to gameplay modes in Call of Duty WWII, most of which I found pleasant.

War Mode provides are more narrative-driven, objective-based PvP experience, one that segments levels into three stages. With players switching between Allies and Axis in-between, War gives players on the offensive specific tasks to complete in order to unlock the next stage of the map. Push a tank’s position down a map, build a bridge, occupy a series of bunkers; the successful defense of any objective ends the attempt and puts the defenders now on offense.

There are three “Operations” as of launch, and each provides a unique approach to Call of Duty multiplayer conflict. Of course, there have been maps and modes that focus more on team-oriented gameplay in the past, but the layout of these larger online maps provide strategic choke points, hallways and strategies that players must prepare for on both sides.

More importantly, this game mode forces players to follow said objectives. Unlike Domination where players can choose to glory-hunt and up their K/D while their team loses, War Mode pushes players into positions where it’s strategy first, glory second. I am absolutely fascinated by this new addition to Call of Duty WWII, as it manages to strike a balance between fair and fresh while giving players both perspectives of each map.

Call of Duty WWII deadliest conflict human history
Activision /

Create-a-Class customization now goes through Divisions, with players progressing through ranks of certain loadout styles with repetition and success while playing. You start with basic loadouts per style (balanced mid-range combat with Infantry, stealth and sniper loadouts with Mountaineer, etc.), and unlock more options for accessories and weapons as you progress.

Since this is a WWII-era gaming experience, Call of Duty WWII struck a fair balance between personal flair and a sense of realism with Divisions. As I leveled up through repeated matches, it was evident that it was quick to find yourself unlocking scopes and attachments that could hold strong up against live multiplayer scrutiny.

While I still find the twitch-style shooting mechanics of Call of Duty multiplayer rudimentarily straightforward and familiar in WWII, I must say the maps look phenomenal. There is a simple brilliance to their layout, and I can appreciate their balance in execution. That said, I still couldn’t help but feel like I was playing any old Call of Duty multiplayer experience (sans the brilliant War Mode maps).

Call of Duty WWII headquarters
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Call of Duty WWII has an ambitious, sprawling new online home in Headquarters, where players gather to collect payroll (sign-in bonuses of online currency), open supply crates in front of others and try fun little challenges against other players.

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Even in one of the most popular gaming franchises of all time, Activision continues to proliferate the awful practice of microtransactions in games designed to be full price plus $50 US in post-launch content that will take you through next September. While not active as of this review, the implementation of COD Points that will enhance your online experience by including premium aesthetics and weapon skins is deplorable.

Even worse, there are ways to earn supply drops that include quartermaster tasks for Headquarters such as watching someone else enjoy a supply drop. It’s a disappointing, subtle glorification of paid content that pushes acceptance of extra-pay users, especially with ways to give them commendations through the mode’s social functions.

Call of Duty WWII Zombies mode
Activision /

One of the easiest ways to draw me into at least trying out each Call of Duty game is through its Nazi Zombies mode, and Call of Duty WWII does not disappoint. Starring a heavyweight (for gaming) cast of characters, led by the magnificently Scottish performance of David Tennant as Drostan Hynd, “The Final Reich” is a masterclass of tension and hidden depth with its ongoing horde mode.

Call of Duty WWII is a self-aware historical war game that knows the importance of its source material.

Available in solo or co-op modes, it tells an alternate, sci-fi-based story of a Nazi experiment come to life in Mittelburg, Germany. With “Jolts” as the game’s currency, players enjoy the traditional “kill zombies wave-by-wave” experience with an objective-based side task that is complicated at best and dense at worst.

Even though the Hardcore objective is bugged at the moment, something about the increasingly calculated and coordinated tasks involved in Nazi Zombies mode (all done while simultaneously killing every Nazi zombie around) continues to be my personal delight. “The Final Reich” delivers on its promise to drive a tense, enjoyable experience that has me wondering what comes next in this fictional off-shoot story.

Call of Duty WWII campaign screenshot
Activision /

If I have anything to complain about in this mode, it’s how repetitive some of the lines can be. Players that may have had to shake off the rust on their first run (such as myself) can expect the same line over and over again when revived. Plus, the game’s perk system (while balanced) is quite familiar from the last time I put dozens upon dozens of hours into a similar game mode a console generation ago.

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As a sum of its best and worst parts, Call of Duty WWII is a self-aware historical war game that knows the importance of its source material. Not once did I feel like I was fooled by a cheap trick, nor was I pushed an experience that glorified war in an overly simplified way. For the first time in a while, I found myself looking back fondly with my experience in a Call of Duty game. Take note, Activision; let go of exosuits and wall-hopping for a while.

8. Sometimes, a major step back turns out to be two steps forward. <em>Call of Duty WWII </em>embraces the series’ beginnings and tells its story through a gripping, thoughtful campaign, continued excellence with Nazi Zombies mode and an expanded (but still formulaic) online multiplayer experience. Anybody who remembers the good old times they had with the franchise’s earlier titles should eventually take a look, as <em>Call of Duty WWII</em> is a return to form.. Sledgehammer Games. . Call of Duty WWII

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.