COD World War II review: He ain’t a fan no more

 

This review comes courtesy of my longtime collaborator over the years – and my son – Mitchell. He’s done a few reviews for this site before so here he is with his take on Activision’s COD: WW2. Hold onto your hats, it’s going to get a little bumpy …

 

I have been a fan of the Call of Duty series for a number of years.

2010 brought us the release of Treyarch’s first installment into the franchise, Call of Duty Black Ops. Black Ops was received incredibly well by the gaming community and to this day, remains at the sixth best selling Xbox 360 game of all time.

Black Ops was the first Call of Duty game that caught my attention from the get go and was what ultimately turned me into a COD fan. I had played the earlier games such as MW2 and WAW, but they never really got me into the series as a fan.

A few years later, Treyarch studios released Black Ops 2. The sequel to the game that kickstarted my obsession with the FPS genre and is still my favourite game in the series. There isn’t a single game that I have played that comes close to touching the amount of hours I clocked up playing Black Ops 2. I couldn’t even tell you how many hours I spent on that game. I was addicted: Spending hours on end, hurling abuse at the TV when someone got a “lucky shot” on me or spammed grenades across the map.

Call of Duty has changed a lot throughout the years, though. What was once considered to be a realistic war sim, in which a serious fan base was a part of, has turned into a “twelvie shit show” with jetpacks and laser guns. But hey! That seems to be all Call of Duty is nowadays right? Pre pubescent teens screaming down their mic’s, playing obnoxious music and telling you that they’ve slept with your mum. Welcome to the modern Call of Duty fan base.

The past few iterations of the Call of Duty series have been a severe disappointment, to put it bluntly. The developers stemmed too far from the original premise. Once a realistic war simulator that was somewhat representative of past and present warfare, became an entirely different style of game that was almost Halo-esk, with jetpacks, space warfare and laser guns. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive Halo fan and always have been, but when these additions come to a game which was once a realistic war FPS, my mindset changes.

Since 2014, the COD fanbase has been rapidly declining, with old fans of the franchise like myself even jumping ship and finding new games to explore, either still in the FPS area like Battlefield and Overwatch, or in my case, switching to an entirely new genre all together. I have moved on from FPS, outgrown it. I just cannot be bothered with the online community and constantly being disappointed by a series that I once loved. I would much rather play a game with a well-developed story and a character that I can bet behind. Games like Dishonored and Horizon Zero Dawn seem to be where all of my attention goes these days. These games excite and immerse me in ways that Call of Duty never could. Sure Black Ops 2 is my most played game in terms of hours clocked, but that was years ago. Even the power of nostalgia cannot reignite my passion for a Call of Duty game.

That being said, new year, new Call of Duty game. This year brought COD back to its roots, with a game set the middle of World War 2. This did initially get me a little bit interested, just as it did years ago. I experienced something that I hadn’t felt since 2012… excitement for a Call of Duty game. Paired with this excitement came a lot, and I mean A LOT of skepticism, which is only natural for someone who has been let down every year since Black Ops 2.

When WWII was released, this skepticism turned into hope. Hope that I wish I never had, because on boot up, I experienced an array of server issues, terrible spawn timing, ridiculously over-powered guns, supply drops (money grabbing pricks) and of course, screaming 13 year olds. I stuck it through, however, just for a while for the sake of this review. I played the multiplayer for around 10 hours, tried a majority of the weapons and classes, played about half of the campaign and the verdict is that WW2 is not surprisingly, a Call of Duty game. There’s nothing quite like getting shot in the back from a player who spawned directly behind you who then proceeds to teabag your corpse.

The main issue I feel like, besides Activision themselves, is the fact that they returned to their world war 2 roots after abandoning it for so long. This past warfare homecoming, wasn’t the greatest idea. The premise of war has been so over developed in video games and other forms of pop culture. If you have good taste in movies, or are a fan of the depiction of war in visual settings, you will most likely have seen Saving Private Ryan and or the series Band of Brothers, which in my opinion are both absolutely fantastic in depicting the catastrophic and devastating nature that war has not just on countries and nations, but an individual’s psyche as well.

One of the newest portrayals of war, Dunkirk, released this year shows and entirely different side of war. It shows war as being less about mindless goons fighting, and more about survival and the genuine terror of the individuals involved. What I’m getting at is that these depictions have set the bar so high in terms of the accurate portrayals of war, that when Activision decided to return to WW2, it was without a doubt a hit or miss situation. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, again, Call of Duty missed the mark.

WW2’s campaign fails to meet the challenge of creating a well received war story that is new. As well as returning to a past setting, it also feels like Sledgehammer Games returned to outdated game mechanics, with a game that feels like it’s on rails and is riddled with quick time events. It brings nothing new to the table and ultimately negates the “heroic” attitude that they were going for. I honestly don’t know how many more times we can see the American perspective of D-Day. Quite frankly, I am sick of seeing it over and over again. That is my biggest gripe with the game:  We weren’t given anything new at all. We were force-fed the same Allies vs Nazi’s scenario, which is something that we have seen countless times, simply because it is an easy story to tell, with definitive good and evil. Despite its lackluster campaign gameplay, Sledgehammer did get one thing right. I did genuinely appreciate the visual effects within the campaign. The gore and emotions shown by the soldiers was a really nice touch that ultimately helped to make it feel more authentic although it followed the same generic cliche.

Call of Duty WW2, as stated earlier, is unmistakably a Call of Duty game through and through. For some people, that is enough. But for me, I was looking for a lot more. If it was any other game in the COD series, I would not have cared for the campaign or let it influence my review because it’s Call of Duty, and Call of Duty’s main focus is multiplayer, which is quite good, don’t get me wrong, but considering that it is based on the biggest war of our time, I was expecting a lot more in terms of the campaign.

Ultimately, I just cannot be bothered dealing with the fan base or spending a ridiculous amount of time playing a FPS anymore. I’ve gotten older, I have other priorities, COD no longer captures my attention as it did a few years ago.

If cliché war stories don’t bother you and all you care about is playing multiplayer, then you’ll be happy with WW2 and I’d recommend picking it up because in my opinion, in terms of multiplayer gameplay, it is probably the best Call of Duty game we’ve gotten from Activision since Black ops. But unless you don’t mind hearing squeaky screaming and inappropriate calls about your mother, I’d recommend muting that headset.

Thanks to Activision for the review copy

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