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/XOne/PC Preview - 'Call of Duty: WWII'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 26, 2017 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

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.

Pre-order Call of Duty: WWII

World War II existed in the horrible realm between the violent trench warfare of World War I and the modern "long-distance" warfare, so it's easy to see why it's the source of so many video games. For a long time, the Call of Duty franchise thrived in World War II simulations. In recent years, it's gotten more modern, and the latest game involved futuristic space warfare. Perhaps that is why Call of Duty: WWII is aiming for a back-to-basics style of gameplay.

At first blush, Call of Duty: WWII is a drastic difference from last year. Gone are the high-mobility antics, drones, futuristic space weapons and pretty much everything that had almost become synonymous with Call of Duty. Instead, it's going back to the day of normal grenades; iron-sight, single-shot rifles; and close-range combat against human opponents. Our demo gave us a glimpse of a battle in Marigny, France. Players are put in the shoes of "Red" Daniels, a young recruit just looking to survive the war.

As mentioned, the combat has a significantly different pace from the previous games, so there's more focus on slow and cautious movement. You can't afford to run out into the open without thought, or you'll be cut down by the suppressing fire of heavy machine guns. Likewise, weapons are more limited. Your rifles might have range, but they're not modern machine guns with laser accuracy, and each shot needs to count. As such, the combat is about moving from cover to cover, poking your head out and looking to shoot down enough enemies to advance. This is emphasized by the brutal violence, with countless allies being shot down around you without warning.

One thing that drastically changes the feel of the gameplay is the removal of regenerating health. In a true "back to basics" approach, you now have a traditional health bar rather than just ducking behind a wall for a while. You replenish health through the use of consumable health packs. In the demo, these were collectible items that were found throughout the stage or given to you by allies. It's tough to get a feel for how stingy this will be, but the addition of any limit makes it a lot harsher. You can't depend on tanking enemy fire long enough to reach safety anymore.

Another major addition is in the form of squad actions. Allies who are on the battlefield with Red can use special skills to help him out. The two we saw during the demo were a medic who could provide additional healing packs to the player and a scout who marked all enemies briefly with a glowing white aura, so it's much easier to see them among the chaos. Both skills have a cooldown, so you can't use them willy-nilly and, more critically, they're only available if that character is with you. When Zussman, the squad medic, stepped away to charge an enemy encampment, we lost access to his precious medical kits.

The multiplayer is going to include some new features as well. For example, in war mode, you're tasked with completing certain objectives to win the match, reminiscent of push-the-payload and similar mechanics. In the demo, there was an armored column that needed to be guided to a group of enemy anti-aircraft encampments. You do this by taking enemy encampments, repairing bridges, destroying enemy caches and defending a tank as it approached the AA guns.

Despite the trip back to the older days, Call of Duty hasn't cut down on the cinematic spectacle. The visuals are jaw-dropping, and the environments are terrifying. The constant barrage of bullets, collapsing buildings, explosions and countless dangers make it clear that you won't be breathing any easier in this campaign. The major set piece of the trailer was a battle inside a church. It started with the Americans busting in, followed by a running gunfight inside the church. Once it was secured, they used its bell tower as a sniping post until enemy fire blew the church to pieces, forcing Red to scramble and escape while the bell threatened to fall and crush him. It's a stunning segment that is sure to leave fans breathless.

There's also going to be a new shared multiplayer hub, the Headquarters, which is an immersive lobby that gives players a chance to interact before they get into the battle. People can see and find other players in the Headquarters, which also has its own gameplay modes. This includes a competitive shooting range and a "1v1 Pit," which allows two players to compete in a simple combat test to see who wins without any outside factors.

All in all, Call of Duty: WWII is an interesting evolution for the franchise. It's an intentional step backward in both time and design, with a greater focus on simpler weapons and more visceral combat compared to the robots and jetpacks of recent Call of Duty titles. It will be interesting to see if the gamble pays off and fans welcome back the classic days. Call of Duty: WWII will be out for Xbox One, PS4 and PC this November.

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