Reviewed on: Playstation 4 Pro | Developer: Sledgehammer Games | Publisher: Activision | Retail Price: $59.99 | Final Score: 8.5
Review Note: Call of Duty WWII was reviewed using a retail PS4 copy provided by Activision, and it was played on the Playstation 4 Pro model.
I think it’s fair to say that Call of Duty is one of the most divisive franchises among gaming communities today. While the series is responsible for shaping major FPS mechanics we see in contemporary shooters, the lack of innovation during the last generation split the fanbase right down the middle. One part of the gaming community started swarming Metacritic’s user review section with scorn, meanwhile the other half continued embracing every annual release.
It’s been fourteen years and fourteen main Call of Duty entries across more than ten different platforms, including mobile. Ensuring a franchise feels fresh for such a long time is no easy task, and Activision deserves credit for keeping the series alive and pertinent through so many generations.
Developers Treyarch, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer have all been tasked with the impossible over the years, namely keeping old fans happy while branching out toward new players. I too have felt disappointment with COD’s stagnancy, but I am happy to report that the fourteenth installment takes a major turn away from jetpacks and robots toward more grounded infantry combat reminiscent of the early COD titles. Call of Duty WWII is undoubtedly the best COD in a long time, and while it’s far from perfect and introduces a host of new issues (loot boxes and a crappy social hub), it also brings back some of the long lost spark.
"Call of Duty WWII is undoubtedly the best COD in a long time, and while it’s far from perfect and introduces a host of new issues (loot boxes and a crappy social hub), it also brings back some of the long lost spark."
Call of Duty WWII once again boasts three major modes: Campaign, Multiplayer and Zombies. When it comes to value, COD remains jam packed with content that’s presented with pristine polish. Like last year’s entry, the single player portion is stronger than anything COD has delivered in recent memory. Brett Robbins of Dead Space and Dennis Adams have done an admirable job in creating a B-Movie style campaign that injects personality into the characters and script.
There’s an honest attempt at focused storytelling and character dynamics. The war itself isn’t the center point here, rather the friendships and personal conflicts between American soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division. Solid voice acting and impressive visuals help gravitate the narrative toward an enjoyable journey that’s worth a handful of trips. Brett Zimmerman, Jonathan Tucker and Josh Duhamel offer some of the best performances the series has seen so far.
The plot is more focused and boasts much better pacing, but the general campaign is still a giant on-rails shooting carnival. Gameplay remains heavily directed with little opportunity for venturing beyond the mission borders. Thankfully, the level designs are fantastic, and the addition of solid stealth segments helps break up the constant barrage of explosions and gunfire.
"Rank progression and rewards are handed out liberally, and I’ve never felt like I’ve hit a grind when leveling up."
The Call of Duty WWII Zombies is possibly the best iteration of this bonus mode to date. The setting is a vastly expanding city that hosts layers upon layers of hidden pathways and other unexpected surprises. I have personally never enjoyed the Zombies mode that much, but I was completely hooked this time around. The general mechanics haven’t changed, but everything has been refined and broadened resulting in an immensely satisfying distraction between main multiplayer matches.
This year’s Multiplayer mode is a throwback to the series’ classic entries. Verticality has been reduced to only a handful of carefully positioned areas around the map, and you’ll find yourself gunning on the ground most of the time. This franchise semi-refresh tosses the lazer-tag style shooting of COD’s futuristic entries and takes several steps back towards slower, more strategic PVP combat.
The Multiplayer is loaded with diversely designed maps that keep the pace exciting. The create-a-class system has been replaced with Infantry, Airborne, Armored, Mountain and Expeditionary divisions that boast unique characteristics and weapon types. Rank progression and rewards are handed out liberally, and I’ve never felt like I’ve hit a grind when leveling up.
"Call of Duty WWII is a visual powerhouse thanks to a new engine that rarely breaks a sweat under pressure. I played the game on our PS4 Pro with exceptional performance results."
The amount of modes is equally generous. There’s a combination of classic capture-the-flag and team deathmatch offerings to a more "narrative-driven" mode titled War. While the mode itself isn’t unique (it’s basically a series of different objectives), it’s the way the mode is structured and presented that makes it an absolute standout. Each match begins with a cinematic to get you pumped for the action, and depending on the map, you engage in a series of offensive and defensive tasks that include blowing up tanks, storming the Beach of Normandy, planting explosives on enemy weaponry, and so on. The best part is, the K/D ratio doesn’t really matter here. It’s all about teamwork and sticking to the objectives. Think of it as a small scale version of what Battlefield has to offer. It’s excellent!
But there are a few minor annoyances with the multiplayer. Between matches, you can walk around in a Destiny-style social hub that’s located right on the Beach of Normandy. This place is so bizarre as it feels like a giant DLC kiosk. Everywhere you turn, loot boxes drop from the sky while you're surrounded by barb wire and trenches. I’m not sure whether the developers have stepped back and analyzed the scenario from an ethical perspective, but the whole lootbox beach hub combo should be nixed for all future entries.
Call of Duty WWII is a visual powerhouse thanks to a new engine that rarely breaks a sweat under pressure. I played the game on our PS4 Pro with exceptional performance results. The dynamic resolution goes up to 2880×1660 with HDR and remains a relatively locked 60fps. Drops are rare and only happen during the most intense moments. In my 20+ hours of gaming, I only encountered two small 20fps drops, but that was it. It’s a great looking title that boasts immensely detailed environments and superb special effects.
Conclusion: Call of Duty WWII is a welcome return to classic COD. The game feels both fresh and familiar in the best way possible. I despise the new lootbox system, but to be fair, it has never interfered with my overall enjoyment of the game. The shooting mechanics are exhilarating, the visuals are top notch and there’s enough continent here to keep players busy for a long time. COD, it’s good to have you back!
Final Score: 8.5