Call of Duty WW2‘s multiplayer component is what veteran fans of the series have wanted for years. Gone are the double jumps, the wall-running and the disarmingly bright aesthetics, now replaced with muddy trenches, different shades of brown and soldiers’ boots firmly planted on the ground. For those who have been waiting for a return to the original Modern Warfare, this is the most Call of Duty that a Call of Duty game has been in years. But is it enough to propel the franchise out of the doldrums it’s been languishing in?
GameRevolution’s Jason Faulkner is working on our review of Call of Duty WW2 right now, which will offer both his final thoughts on the game’s multiplayer component and its story campaign, but after spending more than a few hours with it over the past couple of days I can safely confirm that this is definitely a return to the series’ roots. With the past few Call of Duty games strapping a jetpack to your ass before launching you into the air like a bootleg Titan pilot, Call of Duty WW2 isn’t another case of a CoD developer scraping at the walls of relevancy and attempting to piggy-back on the success of another, better FPS; it’s a throwback to the frenetic, lone-gunner gameplay that once saw the franchise revitalize its genre in the first place.
The overwhelming feedback from the Call of Duty WW2 beta was that the game’s weapons were greatly imbalanced. The SMG-wielding Airborne class ruled the roost, which Activision partially addressed with an update that lowered their damage output, and every other weapon class save for the Mountaineers and their sniper rifles was greatly under-utilized as a result. My experience with its multiplayer modes thus far have indicated that this is no longer the case, with the varied maps actually encouraging a greater degree of experimentation with weapons and attachments than I’ve seen in a CoD game for a long time.
The presence of wall-running in the more recent CoD games ensured that developers have were forced to introducer tighter, narrower maps that lent themselves better to the increased verticality that the boost jumps provided. In contrast with Titanfall 2, which achieved highly dynamic movement that transformed each map into a playground of experimentation, games such as Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare instead felt like your standard shooters with a bit of extra spring in their step. The areas in which each map intended you to wall run were sign-posted, and most multiplayer matches devolved into an average Call of Duty match but with more jumping around on the tops of buildings.
Call of Duty WW2 does away with these unnecessary accoutrements in favor of a stripped-back approach, with Sledgehammer Games acknowledging that the series’ multiplayer is at its best when its firefights remain bolted to the floor. Its developers not having to concern themselves about catering to boost jumps and half-hearted parkour gameplay means that a spotlight has been placed on its basics, and with modern FPS games mostly catering to those who favor their shooters to be squad-based and tactical, it’s surprising how refreshing it feels. Without feeling forced to bounce around in its environments, the actual gunplay of Call of Duty remains as frenetic and satisfying as ever, appealing to those who want to gun it solo rather than concern themselves with coordinated attacks and playing objectives.
My chief complaint with the beta was its map design, with Pointe Du Hoc and Ardennes Forest both revolving around overly chaotic, close-quarters combat. While this remains the case in the full game (albeit less so thanks to the SMG nerfing), these two maps are now complemented by larger scale environments that encourage you to change up your weapon class, favoring mid- to long-range combat while also allowing room for those who want to get up close and personal with their opponents. No Call of Duty game would be complete without certain weapons being favored over others, and this is certainly the case here (I’m lookin’ at you, BAR) but overall there’s more room variety here than I’ve seen in a new CoD release in a long time.
Lastly, we need to talk about War mode. Though not exactly comparable with Battlefield 1‘s epic Operations mode, War offers a smaller scale rush through larger maps, retaining the fast-paced Call of Duty action but spreading it out across asymmetrical maps that grant both teams inherent advantages and disadvantages. One such map, set on Omaha beach on D-Day, sees the defending team manning turrets from the safety of bunkers while the attacking team must charge forward and push them back. Starting by wading through the ocean, attackers initially face a thankless task, being mowed down with ease while a barrage of AI teammates fall to their knees around them. Once the seemingly insurmountable task of storming the beaches is achieved, the defending team then find themselves on the back foot, retreating deeper into their base and tasked with building defenses a la Call of Duty‘s Zombie mode. Attackers can then knock down these defenses with explosives, routinely concluding in a nail-biting finale before the sides are switched. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s likely the mode in which seasoned CoD veterans will be spending the majority of their time.
It remains to be seen whether Call of Duty WW2 does enough to justify alluring those who have suffered from “CoD fatigue” back to the franchise. Its multiplayer component is certainly a return to the pre-Ghosts gunplay, but with many having moved on from the series and Infinite Warfare being the first post-Modern Warfare game to achieve lower-than-expected sales, Sledgehammer Games is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to renewing players’ faith in a series that has been stagnating for quite some time. Though I haven’t spent enough time with the game to offer a final verdict (we’ll save that for our review this weekend), Call of Duty WW2 has a much better foundation that the vast majority of the series’ more recent entries — Sledgehammer have done the hard work, now all they have to do is hope that they rediscover their audience.