In the midst of a chaotic battlefield, where my fellow soldiers are being blown apart in a way that seems meant for shock value, a single soldier manages to overcome obstacle after obstacle. A metal table happens to be nearby as an enemy belts the area around me with machine guns, a giant bell waits just long enough until the soldier is out of the way before concluding its tower fall, and ruins filled with enemy Germans just happens to explode by coincidental air support as I’m lighting it up with a machine gun.
The Call of Duty franchise has always been overly cinematic, but this seems like they’ve crossed a line into fantasy.
Before I got my hands on Sledgehammers new title, Call of Duty: World War II, I was shown an extended single player campaign demo where a squad of wise cracking Americans were raiding a German occupied French countryside. It didn’t feel or look particularly new, but I was excited since I’ve always been a fan of the run-and-gun wartime series. But once we were a couple of minutes into the video I was taken aback by how ridiculous it was.
It felt like nearly every moment shown was a scripted event taken from the typical World War II film script, combining the action scenes of Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and Fury all into one fluid, grotesquely violent campaign mission.
And that would be fine if the video wasn’t introduced by two developers who wanted to “honor those that fought and died” during World War 2. The combination of over the top gore, scripted scenes where you barely make it out alive, and the snide comedy shown by your fellow NPC soldiers shows a blatant disregard for the actual events of the war.
Sure, the game looked action packed and fun, almost to a point of using the backdrop of the war to show bodies split in two and buildings crumbling around you. I expected more after seeing the more restrained approach DICE took towards World War I.
It might be time for Activision and the handful of developers that work on the franchise to either rethink their approach to single player, or completely ditch it altogether. Releasing an incredibly balanced and more fleshed version of the multiplayer mode would be welcome, especially since it's the main element of the franchise that still feels great.
Once the screen faded black after the video presentation I made my way down to the demo stations to play a match of the game's new objective based mode, where two teams have a chance to both attack and defend several checkpoints throughout the map.
And I felt sublime jumping into the action with an M1 Garand, even after my squad got demolished by the other team. Everything but that map and mode was familiar. Gunfire, grenades, movement, and melee moves all felt tight and responsive, it only took a few deaths for my FPS instincts to kick in.
While the mode is spiced up with some era appropriate flair, it's a very basic ‘defend the base’ type mode. We started out holding a small house from enemy troops, and once they captured it we fell back to prevent them from rebuilding a broken bridge. We fell back once more after the bridge was captured, and then were promptly defeated a few minutes later when the allies destroyed our ammo dump.
After losing round one we switched sides to attack the same base we had been defending and failed to capture it after four minutes of exchanging gunfire and dying constantly. It was quick and exciting, everything I remember Call of Duty multiplayer being. It just enforces my earlier point; from what I've seen Activision and Sledgehammer have really dropped the ball with Call of Duty: World War II’s campaign. It feels like a Hollywood movie overstayed its welcome when it was really never welcome at all.
Call of Duty: World War 2 hits PS4, Xbox One, and PC on November 3, 2017.