Ok so we are currently two weeks from the release of Call of Duty: WWII which takes the series full circle and back to its original roots by taking the action to the setting of World War II. I will be honest and I am someone who put the series down a few years ago just after they moved the series ‘Modern Warfare’ into the future which for me just turned it into a gimmicky mess that only served to show that Call of Duty had truly run out of ideas and was just a mess, so I stopped playing. But after the success Battlefield 1 had by returning to the First World War era, it was no surprise to see CoD follow suit. But it certainly has not been a smooth launch for the multiplayer at the very least and a recent big update has actually broken that side even more just a head of this putting this review to paper. So for now, I will be focusing on reviewing the story part of the game whilst giving my initial reactions to the multiplayer but the score itself will be ‘In Progress’ until the issues are resolved to give a more fair review.
So the D-Day landings have indeed featured in Call of Duty before in their early games, but it was Medal of Honour that did it first for me back in the days when I was a PC gamer mainly. I do remember the impact of experiencing this sequence in a game and how Call of Duty actually did it better. Now in 2017 with visuals and audio at their best quality yet, this whole sequence should be absolutely incredible. The opening ten minutes to the story campaign really sets the tone for what is about to happen, with the cut-scenes especially showing how brutal the Normandy landings would have been for the soldiers trying to get to the beach whilst Nazi coastal defenses rained down bullets and shells on their landing craft. The noise and action was visceral to say the least and if you are wearing a good quality headset you can actually hear shots whizzing past your head and seeing other soldiers being torn down and literally torn apart by enemy fire is immediately impactful on you.
But honestly, it was done better in the earlier games as the biggest issue I have with the campaign design appears for the first time and only gets worse going through the campaign. The story missions are far too linear and scripted and by that I mean all you really need to do is to get far enough forward in the mission in order to trigger the next sequence in the level. This is something I have issue with the CoD Campaign design for many games now with the pushing forward being more important then actually anything you shoot or feel like you are actually making things happen. Then you have the “CoD” moments which pretty much add crazy unbelievable moments pop into the levels that instantly take you out of the moment and wonder why the developers still think doing the Michael Bay thing is something that enhances the experience instead of just focusing on the gameplay being the driving force of the story telling. Too many times the story being told and the tone set by the cut-scenes is lost the second a ‘CoD’ moment is triggered. It is the same generic formula they have used in the story campaigns and I honestly expected and hoped for something different here, but sadly nothing.
The checkpoint system is also out of date for me, with the game at times literally putting a checkpoint a couple of seconds before you died which means should you have been at low health and surrounded by enemies at the moment you died, you will simply restart right before the moment giving you no opportunity to heal or to move out the way so it becomes a death loop forcing you to restart the whole level again, something which if you play on the higher difficulties like Veteran will test your patience to the limit. So much of this campaign is made up of so much that have made previous story campaigns so average in this series and the frustration that even now, with this game trying to reclaim what made the series such a powerhouse in the FPS genre that they still fall back to the same gimmicks and mechanics that are recognizable right away and ends up being just more of the same. The tone of the story, albeit very US focused rather than the Allied forces I come to think off with the World Wars, is solid and some very powerful moments are there but it fall into old habits way too much and some of the new elements such as chances to save a fellow soldier by stopping the attack on them or by dragging them to safety fall flat when they fail to work. This is a series that needs all three development teams to get together, put the old play book to bed and focus on taking this series forward in a new way and start showing some true innovation in terms of the story campaigns and beyond.
Which brings me right to the Multiplayer which is the true driving force of this series so much so there are no doubt many players who have not bothered to check out the story campaign at all, something else that the devs need to take on board. So now we have the new Head Quarters social hub which serves as the Call of Duty version of the Destiny Tower social hub except…it has not worked since release. Now the whole idea is that Normandy beach now serves as your Head Quarters with an army base set up on the beach and be populated with other players on that server when you join. You can collect daily orders which set challenges to complete in the various modes to earn rewards, check out the leaderboard of 1V1 scores with other players in the Head Quarters…if it worked…..but it is also the place for perhaps the most inane aspect to the multiplayer, the social loot boxes.
Loot boxes right now are the bane of gamers no matter what platform or game they are playing. It can either be a sign of micro-transactions or a progression inhibitor leading to a pay to win element to the game. Here loot boxes are a reward for reaching a new level or completing a task or order and they can contain anything from XP boosts to cosmetic uniforms for the various divisions or classes in the game. The whole idea, which just makes me roll my eyes, is that you call in a loot box which is then air dropped right in front of you then releasing 3 player cards with the rewards. Now if other players are around you they are unable to interact with your loot box but they will be able to see what your rewards are with the hope they will be inspired to work towards their own boxes. At this moment of writing the only way to bring players into your HQ area is by inviting friends to join you and a fix is actively being worked on as well as a solution to the current server issues causing the game to revert back to the P2P connection instead of dedicated servers. This alone is why right now this is more of first impressions than a full review of the MP.
So the modes themselves are pretty familiar for the series with only the new mode War taking any real centre stage. War is essentially ‘CoD does Battlefield’s Rush Mode’ and is an objective based mode which sees one side defend and the other team attacking in a multi stage battle. Whilst this is really nothing we have not seen before it is a sign that the developers are looking at the competition to see what is popular and adding it to the CoD arsenal. This is the more enjoyable mode for me and is a great addition even if it is nothing really original. Currently with the server problems the MP is very frustrating as at the conclusion of the match you will often be disconnected and put back in the HQ. The lag within matches can be just as terrible as it has been in recent years when relying on the P2P method which just makes it no fun at all at certain times of the day with other EU connections.
So first impressions of the MP gameplay itself are quite average right now. Whilst I relish the fact all the futuristic nonsense has been dumped in favour of returning to a more traditional FPS setting, the speed at which the gameplay is still feels overly arcadey and loose for me. There are literally times when after being killed, and having put half a clip of ammo into that player, the kill cam will not show any of my shots hitting at all whilst my game gave me the sound of each hit. Also being put into matches with other players of higher levels and therefore with access to stronger weapons can make it a deeply unsatisfying experience when you are taking out so cheaply. I did find that the re-spawning can be really annoying as well with those I take out somehow spawning right nearby giving them the revenge advantage.
Prestige plays a part more than ever with each division, weapon and player being able to Prestige now with new benefits added each time you do. Weapon attachments are earned the more you use a weapon including new camouflage skins for completing certain challenges with that weapon and it does give you more to do progression wise and when you prestige a weapon, which removes all attachments earned, getting them back takes very little time so there is no real penalty for taking it to a new prestige level. Calling cards and emblems are back with some nice animated calling cards which I like although already seen some example of the more darker side to the CoD Community in how they use the emblem editor to create offensive emblems though you can use the reporting system to flag such emblems and players but perhaps it is time to take away the editor.
With the current problems as a result of the recent attempt to address the issues with the game, the MP is definitely a mess right now to really give it a fair score. But I will say that it still feels like CoD in its pacing and annoyances and the fact that just like the story campaign no real innovation or attempts to take the series forward can be seen within the MP. I can play it and enjoy it but honestly nothing so far makes it a must play MP experience as a shooter. I will revisit this review once the current issues have been resolved enough to score it but right now my first impressions are just that its average and ok but certainly not great. CoD fans will no doubt enjoy it but for me I was hoping for more from it.
So right now Call of Duty WW2 is a very mixed bag and where I feel that it has done the right thing going back to an era without sci-fi shenanigans and doing a series reset but it certainly does not make the leap forward that say the same move by Battlefield 1 managed to accomplish. The story campaign is fine but nothing special and serves to highlight that by playing it safe and sticking to their now routine gameplay style, this series is still stuck in the mud and whilst the story itself has an interesting tone it also undoes some of its good work by doing the CoD thing.
MP wise where the real bread and butter of this game lies is currently rather messy with issues from launch day still having an effect on the game. The devs have only just noticed and announced that all players have mistakenly had double XP since release which has now been turned off making progression feel slower but more natural. The server issues and empty HQ just remind me that all is not right and then once in the modes themselves I am then reminded of the very annoyances that made me put this series to bed three games ago. I do hope that with the online element fixed and more time getting to grips with the speed of the gameplay I can start to enjoy it more but much like the story mode, it is more a case of being just fine and average but lacks anything to really make it stand out from its rivals other than Zombie Nazis which is still a really fun horde mode and great with friends but is not enough to make this a must have title.
I was not expecting much when heading back into the Call of Duty series but I was hoping for a better experience and delivery of the game then I have experienced. I will be revisiting this once the current problems have been address with the next update as I feel that two big updates post release should be more than enough to get the game stable for a review score but as it stands, I am left feeling just whelmed by it all and all the problems it is suffering right now has certainly not helped.
*Update: Final Review Thoughts*
In finalizing this review score I returned to the campaign to see if it would resonate with me any further as well as checking out the fixes to the Multiplayer to see if felt any better or improved enough since I wrote my first ‘in progress’ view. Whilst I kind of enjoyed the campaign a little more it still felt like standard on the rails call of Duty story telling and experience. The Multiplayer with dedicated servers activated again feels a lot more stable but I am still not enjoying it for the reasons I started above and now CoD Points, micro-transactions that allow the use of real world money to be used to buy in game currency that can then be used to buy loot-crates has finally launched after having been delayed due to launch issues.
But issues still remain even this far from launch, the Head Quarters is still a solitary area unless you invite people o you HQ which defeats the point of a social hub, gameplay is still loose and annoying. This all leaves the game feeling less like a step forwards for the series by going back to its roots and instead more of the same things that made me put the series down and still suffering from bugs and errors even after a conscious effort to fix the problems since launch. So sadly I am still looking for that CoD title that rekindles why I loved the series for so many years but right now, it just is not my cup of tea.