Call of Duty WWII: Review (PS4)
Much to the delight of Call of Duty fans worldwide, the series decided to go back to its roots with Call of Duty WWII. After many installments dealing with firefights in space, the return to World War II was exactly the shot of life the franchise needed. Not only was the setting a welcome change but for the first time that I can remember the storyline made me genuinely care about the characters. It is obvious that the folks at Sledgehammer took character depth and development very seriously even though the campaign is the typical length for the series, about six hours. You play as 19 year old Pvt. Ronald “Red” Daniels for the majority of the campaign. Through cutscenes you are introduced to your squad who will prove vital to your success during your missions. Sledgehammer does a great job at making this a story about these squad members using battle-worn Europe during WWII as the setting.
Along with Daniels you meet squad leader Sgt. William Pierson, brilliantly voiced by Josh Duhamel, resident medic, and Daniels’ closest friend in the squad, Robert Zussman, Pvt. Drew Stiles, and lastly Joseph Turner who is second in command to Sgt. Pierson. As the story builds the tension between Pierson and Turner unfolds. Pierson is of the mentality that you must do whatever it takes to complete the mission regardless of who may pay the price while Turner’s main focus is protecting his men. The back and forth between the two gives the player a real sense of how stressful war truly is. Every little decision made by these characters carry grave consequences as the Allied forces attempt to take out the Nazi army. Many times throughout the game I questioned whether it was Pierson or Turner who really had the best intentions. This very well may be the first time in this series that I felt this interested by the actions of the characters. What impressed me the most, aside from the terrific cinematic animations, was how each cutscene truly led to a new discovery about one or multiple characters. When Zussman unveils he knows German while speaking to civilians, Pierson quips “I keep learning more about you Zussman.” I couldn’t help but say that same phrase after the majority of the cutscenes regarding the different characters.
As I mentioned earlier you play as Red Daniels for the majority of the campaign. There are a couple instances where missions come up that are beyond the expertise of the 19-year old private. In one of the most talked about missions of the game you take control of Rousseau, a member of the French army. During this mission you abandon everything the Call of Duty series has taught you. Gone are the massive explosions and intense firefights and in its place is a stealth mission that requires you to impersonate a Nazi soldier. Not only do you have to avoid killing anyone but you have to talk to a series of Nazi soldiers as they ask you questions about who you are. Sure you are given the chance to look over your dossier multiple times to remember your story, but the tension that you feel throughout is heightened when you are approached unexpectedly by a Nazi soldier giving you no time to review your dossier. This isn’t the only stealth mission that you experience in WWII, which is a welcome change of pace from the typical fast paced action.
The third character that you are able to use is Staff Sergeant Perez as you roll through Nazis using his handy tank! One of my favorite missions was started with Red Daniels as you march your squad through a valley. During the march, things naturally start going to hell when you are sent to take control of Perez. Moving the tank through the incredible landscape was one of the most fun moments I experienced. It was refreshing to see that Red wasn’t treated as some type of superhero considering he was only 19. The limitations to his abilities felt realistic which added to the overall experience. Occasionally Red would be asked to grab a sniper rifle and pick off the enemy. Sniping is smooth and produces some satisfying head shots. Coming from someone who never enjoyed sniping in FPS games, I’ve found this to be enjoyable in both the campaign and in multiplayer.
There were definitely some moments throughout where it felt like they tried to add too much depth to Red. Taking control of a 19-year old who enlisted in WWII is really all the story you needed when it came to understanding the thought process of Red. Too many times you are thrust into flashback scenes that, in the end, don’t really add anything of value to the story. It’s a small gripe because as I mentioned earlier these characters did truly interest me for the first time in the series.
Playing on PS4 Pro in 4K was a beautiful experience. As always the action scenes that involve explosions, car chases, and firefights are exhilarating. During your moments of sneaking around you get a chance to take in the detailed scenery. Overall the campaign was one of the best story experiences in the series.
To start off, I’m furious that Gun Game did not make an appearance in this game. One of the most exciting game modes and they just take it out?! Come on! I will give them credit as they have added two modes that I’ve enjoyed so far. The first is “War” where one team attacks a set of objectives while the other defends. There are three separate maps for this game mode, with three separate sets of objectives. During one of these as an attacker you have to override a headquarters, build a bridge in an open region, and then plant a bomb and defend it until it explodes. The rush and tension you feel is Call of Duty multiplayer at its finest. The second game is “Gridiron” which is basically like rugby with guns. A ball is placed in the middle and your goal is to grab it and score on the opposing team’s goal. You can pass the ball to your own teammates, the enemy, which is a solid strategy if you want them to stop shooting at you, or you can even just toss the ball into the goal. It’s one of those modes that doesn’t take itself too seriously which can serve as a nice change of pace.
No individual perks or pick-10 system in this installment. In their place are five different divisions: infantry, armored, airborne, mountain, and expeditionary. Each division has their own set of perks that you can unlock as you earn more XP. For example if you like sprinting without tiring quickly you’d go airborne and if you enjoy being quiet and hidden from radar you’d want mountain. You can use any weapon you want for each class but you’d get specific perks if you use the requested weapon style (i.e. use a submachine gun in airborne to enjoy a suppressor without using an attachment slot). The typical need for grinding early on to unlock better weapons is there but at only rank 17 I haven’t felt ridiculously overmatched in the majority of rounds I’ve played.
Nazi Zombies comes through strong with a creepy and intricate map. I found it necessary to open up a few doors very early on but thankfully the jolt currency that you earn to purchase items is given to players generously. I was able to purchase better weapons, items, and open up the map within the first five to seven waves with no issue. Similar to Killing Floor 2, Nazi Zombies uses different classes that will serve different purposes. Each class has their own special ability and can unlock more perks as you rank up. The only problem is you can’t see what perks you’d unlock as you go until you actually unlock them. This makes it difficult to see which class would be the best option for your particular play style. Good job by Sledgehammer to give people a reason to want to use each class, but it can be a little frustrating to players who don’t have the time to commit. If you can lock down a crew of four friends to play with it’ll be easy to lose a couple hours at a time in the maze of a map.
All in all this is one of the strongest entries in the Call of Duty series. The campaign will make you care about the characters while delivering the impressive action sequences fans of the series are accustomed to. The addition of multiple stealth missions provides a nice change of pace that adds to the overall tension of the story. Multiplayer and Nazi Zombies provide countless moments of fun or frustration depending on how your round goes. Whether you are a fan of the series or if you’ve never played a minute, I would recommend picking up Call of Duty WWII.