Call of Duty: WWII

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Release Date: Nov. 3, 2017

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PS4 Review - 'Call of Duty: WWII'

by Michael Keener on Nov. 15, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Call of Duty returns to the greatest military conflict in history and where the franchise first began, World War II, letting players enlist in an unforgettable journey of brotherhood across the European theatre in a mission vital to the success of the Allied powers.

Buy Call of Duty: WWII

After four games that featured progressively futuristic abilities, maps, and weapons, Call of Duty: WWII marks a return to a historical setting. It continues the trend of providing three ways for players to get their gaming fix: campaign, multiplayer, and the zombies mode. Is WWII an entry that's worth your time and money?

As soon as I jumped into the single-player campaign, it was clear that WWII would be emotionally gripping, with near-cinematic perfection. Players take control of Private Ronald Daniel, a country guy who finds himself in the boats approaching Normandy on D-Day. The tension in the air is almost palpable, and when we see the barrage of bullets and bombs dismembering fellow soldiers, it feels like we're there. It's a powerful introduction that can only be compared to Medal of Honor: Rising Sun's Pearl Harbor mission. Plenty of authentic war moments occur in the game, such as when you're sprinting through the forest and trees are being blown up around you.

You'll be consistently tested as you progress through the campaign. Moments of quick reaction, like the choice to allow enemies to surrender, sometimes make it feel like you can control the outcome of historical events. Squad members assist you a great deal. Due to the lack of health regeneration, you'll need to find med kits scattered around or request them from a squad member every few minutes. The other members offer support of their own by providing ammo or spotting enemies.

My major complaint about the campaign has to do with the respawn mechanic. I can forgive the lack of AI intelligence, such as when enemies are slow to react or when my squad members don't shoot anyone, but nothing is worse than getting caught in a death trap. There was a mounted gunner on a hill behind me and two enemy soldiers in the trench in front of me. I could only sprint to my right and crouch when I respawned, and in that short time frame, I would lose all of my health. It took me at least a dozen tries, but then again, I play the campaigns on the hardest difficulty, so don't expect this to be a problem unless you do the same.

With the multiplayer, it's evident that developer Sledgehammer is trying to emulate the older games in the franchise. It's full of run-and-gun action, and there's an emphasis on hit markers and rapid killing. The whole system requires a pretty big adjustment if you're coming from other shooters on the market. There is almost no time-to-kill even in casual matches, and maps funnel the action into few lanes. If you've been on a Destiny 2 Crucible binge, it's dramatically different. I'll also comment about the new HQ, which is in the same style as Destiny's Tower, where players run around in third-person view, talk to different people to collect supply drop items, and learn about special contracts.  The Gunsmith will prestige your weapons and allow you to customize them, and Major Howard doles out daily and weekly challenges for rewards. Armory Points act as currency, and you get paid every few hours, which can help you collect the lucrative supply drop item you've been hoping for. They get pricey, but it's affordable with some patience and time.

You can join one of five different divisions: Airborne, Armored, Expeditionary, Infantry and Mountain. Airborne is the run-and-gun division, with SMGs and extra speed perks. Armored is the LMG-bearing class, with two different RPGs for the secondary weapon. Expeditionary brings the most chaos to the field, with shotguns that can shoot incendiary rounds. Infantry focuses on rifle gunplay but comes with an attached bayonet. The upside is that the bayonet is the only one-tap melee ability in the game, and it can be used during a running charge. Finally, players who favor snipers and wish to move around the map silently will enjoy the Mountain division. The initial sniper is weak, but they get better afterward. The divisions may be simple, but they're diverse. You aren't limited to specific weapons, so any class can use any main weapon type. You eventually unlock the other divisions, so you're not stuck with your initial selection.

The multiplayer modes include the usual suspects: capture the flag; casual and ranked team death match, where you battle 6v6 to a score or time limit; gridiron; hard point; and search and destroy, where one team defends two bomb sites while the other attempts to defuse one of them. If you've kept up with the franchise over the years, there's nothing new in these modes. Everything is essentially the same, only with different guns and maps.

There's an additional game mode called War that's incredibly fun. It sees two teams battling through objectives until one crumbles under the pressure. It's like payload for Overwatch, and the gameplay is addicting, even if your team gets demolished. It tries to be cinematic, but it's basically about escorting the tank or controlling the strategic bridge.

Zombies mode is still a strong experience that tasks you and up to three people with surviving as many waves of undead soldiers as possible. Upon loading up the mode, you watch a short cinematic clip that introduces the four main characters before they're attacked by a massive monster. Eventually you make your way to a cabin in the woods, where you must fend off the zombies. This acts as a tutorial for the mode. Players gain points from killing and repairing windows, and they can buy guns and ammo as well as progressively upgrade their perks.

Players can choose between four classes: Control, Medic, Offense and Support. This makes a bigger difference between death and survival than expected. The Medic throws on camouflage that is useful when running to revive a downed teammate, and Offense specializes in mowing down zombies with the Freefire special. The other two classes are more supportive in nature.  Control's Shellshock attack knocks back zombies within close proximity while dealing small damage, and Support's Frontline special attack causes nearby zombies to charge on the user while you deal double damage. There's no limit to how many of each class can play, but communication and balance within the squad helps everyone survive when things get chaotic.

For now, the Zombies map is called The Final Reich, a sleepy mining town in Mittelburg. It has similarities to the European style we saw in Black Ops III's first zombies map and the snowy environments found in Der Eisendrache. The map also features numerous objectives along the way to assist in the progression. The Mystery Box and the pack-a-punch can be reached within several waves. The latter is easy to unlock once you see it done. It involves reaching the bottom room and finding the three slides around the map that will take you to the three buttons that need to be pressed.

If you buy Call of Duty games every year, there's no reason to pass on WWII, which is a quality installment in the long-running franchise. The single-player portion was surprisingly good, but with the exception of the new War mode, the multiplayer was not to my liking. The developers wanted the multiplayer to be more rapidly paced, but it lacks balance because the Airborne division is incredibly overpowered.  The Nazi Zombies mode is fun, as always. WWII is a good break from the science-fiction mechanics of the past few releases in the series, and it's a worthwhile purchase since you're bound to sink dozens of hours into it.

Score: 8.5/10

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