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

Video Friday: Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered launch trailer

Happy Friday, dear readers.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare is, in my humble opinion, the best COD game of the series, and the mission titled All Ghillied Up is, again in my humble opinion, the best mission of the series to date. It is, seriously.

Today, Activision have released the launch trailer of COD MW Remastered, which you’ll get if you buy the Legacy and Deluxe editions of the next COD iteration coming out soon, Infinite Warfare. Sadly, there is no standalone version of the remastered Modern Warfare, which is a real shame as I’m pretty confident it would sell thousands of copies (perhaps more than  Infinite Warfare itself will?) How about it, Activision?

Here’s hoping that Activision see sense and bring out a standalone version of MW Remastered at some point in the not too distant future. It wouldn’t be that hard to sort out and I’m pretty sure it’s something that they have an inkling that fans would like to see.

Anyway, the Remastered version is looking pretty good, if the trailer is anything to go by, which you can watch at the top of this post.

So, who’s buying Infinite Warfare?

 

COD: Advanced Warfare review: A return to form

This review marks something of a departure from the usual reviews you find on this site. Normally, it’s just me spouting my opinion but this time, because this game is so multiplayer-focused, I’ve enlisted some help: Master Game Junkie, my teenage game-playing son who know more about COD MP gameplay than I do. So, this review is two parts: I’ll do the campaign, and Master Game Junkie the MP. I’ll post the MP review when he’s finished. It should be later today or tomorrow.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare

There’s a mission in Advanced Warfare that took me back to one of perhaps the finest missions in a COD game of all time: Modern Warfare’s All Ghillied Up.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare_Review_Exo CloakDecked out in a fancy exo-skeleton from Atlas, the private arms corporation owned by your now deceased best friend’s father, Advanced Warfare’s hero has to use the suits cloaking ability to skulk past patrolling enemy guards, aerial drones and scanners to reach the next objective.

It’s clear that AW’s stealth sequence owes a great debt to All Ghillied Up, and frankly, while it isn’t as  good as Modern Warfare’s radiation-ravaged Chernobyl mission, it sets the tone that hints that this year’s COD is a return to form for the series’ campaign which has been on shaky ground since Modern Warfare. It’s almost as if developer Sledgehammer Games, given sole control of this one, decided to go back to the series’ finest moments and get the series back on track.

Advanced Warfare is the best COD campaign I’ve played since Modern Warfare. Is it as good as Modern Warfare? No – but it’s close. Also, could this be one of the first games to actually have a character say the title of the game in it? Watch the trailer below …

For some reason COD games always seem to get a bit of stick from certain gamers. Part of me feels that people just hate on the series because it’s something to do or they want to jump on the band wagon.  t’s true that the series hasn’t changed much over the years, and the campaign especially has been in decline since the outstanding Modern Warfare, but fans of the series know exactly what they’re getting: scripted action and constant instructions telling you what to do, what to use and when to do it. COD games are not open-world, explore-anywhere-you-want games. Never have been, never will.

COD games are tightly controlled, blockbuster action, Michael Bay movies in video game form (Disclaimer: I’d rather play a COD game that watch a Michael Bay movie) where the player is funnelled in a particular direction to keep the action moving along  – and I don’t have a problem with that. I know exactly what type of game a COD one is as soon as I hit the menu screen.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare_Review_Will IronsCOD games have never been known for their storytelling, either, and AW’s is no different: You play former US Army soldier Captain Jack Mitchell who looses an arm (and his best friend) after fighting in Korea but is given a second chance – and a robotic left arm – by Jonathon Irons (played by a mocapped Kevin Spacey), the father of his best friend and founder of Atlas, the world’s largest private army. He starts working for Atlas but things don’t appear as they seem and it’s up to Mitchell and a secret military outfit called Sentinel to stop Irons.

The action travels to Seattle, Detroit and New Baghdad, each new set piece almost out doing the other, and the body count will stack up as you fight your way to the finale. In each mission, Mitchell is equipped with a different exo-skeleton that has different abilities: cloaking, grapple, shield, magnetic gloves, but sadly,  you can only use each ability when the game wants you to. I think I only climbed about three walls using the mag gloves throughout the entire game.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare_Review_Kyle CormackTaking a nod from the Advanced Warfare in the title, Mitchell is equipped with a variety of hi-tech armaments, too,  including grenades that can highlight enemies through walls and smart grenades – grenades that target enemies then explode. They worked well most of the time.

One of my favourite missions was one where Mitchell had to control a UAV hight above a Greek village, having to locate where a terrorist target was. It’s good to see that Sledgehammer mixed things up a little, and I also like that I was only in control of one character, not the multiple characters in previous COD games.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare_Review_UtopiaThe game is still QTE heavy and – I’ll say it again – tightly controlled, telling you when you can set a mine that silences noise or where you can use your exo-skeleton’s cloak but by Homer, I enjoyed the seven hours or so it took me to beat the campaign. I wanted to finish it. I didn’t feel I had to finish it. Sledgehammer has done something right.

Kevin Spacey’s performance is a little wooden at times (and his eyes are almost dead looking at first, given how realistic his in-game character looks) but I felt that his performance got better as the game progressed: It was if he had channelled is Frank Underwood here. And that’s a good thing. The in-game cinematics are so life-like that for a second I had to double-check that it wasn’t human actors. They look that real.

The bottom line is that if you don’t like COD games then stay away from this one. Heck, you probably weren’t going to play it anyway. I have to say, though, this one really surprised me – and in a good way. Yes, it’s scripted. Yes, it doesn’t break the formula. Yes, it’s annoying that you can’t use the cool gadgets and tech when you want, but if you want a fun-filled romp filled with action and mayhem, then grab the popcorn and buckle in: You’re in for a hellava ride.

Thanks to Activision which provided a PS4 retail copy of the game for review. 

Shit, COD Advanced Warfare, you’re impressing the pants off me

Activision have released a new trailer for COD Advanced Warfare and, man, it’s blowing my socks off (and impressing my pants). I haven’t really been interested in a COD game since Modern Warfare 2, which I consider the best of all time.

Anyway, here’s the trailer, called Power Changes Everything, which shows what looks like it’s a little of the campaign but focusses on the game’s exo-skeleton co-op mode, which looks like it’s like Gears of Wars’s Horde mode where you face off against rounds of increasingly tougher enemies.

I note that some online users are moaning about the game mode not having zombies. Even I know that zombies are something that Treyarch bring to the COD table. I’m pleased that Sledgehammer have bought something new.

COD: Advanced Warfare is out in November. If it keeps up the way it is, I might not have any pants left by then: They’ll have been blown to bits!

How two trailers have changed my mind (slightly) about MP games

I played the Destiny beta and enjoyed it but I didn’t enjoy it that much that I’m going to rush out on launch day and buy it (I like online gaming but if push came to shove, I’m more of a narrative-driven kind of guy – and Destiny’s story campaign doesn’t seem that good) but damn, this live action trailer Activision sent through is something else.

Watch it and tell me you’re not impressed? 

But is it so good that it’s convinced me to perhaps buy it at some point? Probably not but my interest is more for the game than it was a few weeks ago.

And sticking with Activision: I wasn’t that interested in COD: Advanced Warfare but after being hounded into watching game play by my COD-playing teenage son, I’m actually considering buying it (considering it: Not definitely buying it) but the latest trailer has me thinking that the multiplayer actually looks pretty good this time around.

Here, take a looksie:  

So much exoskeletons. So much jumping. So much explosions. So much future war stuff.

But then, I don’t really go for online games first and foremost, do I, so the chances of me picking Advanced Warfare up solely for MP is  unlikely but, still, who knows what will happen?

Thoughts?

The war of the war first-person shooters

“Different strokes for different folks”.

It’s one of the English language’s most bizarre sayings – one that would confuse the hell out of non-English speakers, I’m sure – but it essentially means that different people like different things. That one thing won’t suit us all.

I like to apply the phrase to EA’s Battlefield 4 and Activision’s Call of Duty. Both are first-person viewpoint war games, both have single player campaigns, both have online components, yet they seem to be the two games that are the most divisive when it comes to which one is best.

It seems fans of one like to slag off the other but here’s my take on things:  If you don’t like Call of Duty, don’t play it. Same for Battlefield. No-one is forcing you to spend time on a game you don’t want or like. Both have millions of fans, each happy with the game they’ve picked, so why the bitching?

BF4Personally, I don’t have an allegiance to one or other. I’ve played both BF4 and COD Ghosts, and if I’m being honest, my favourite Battlefield game is Bad Company and my favourite COD game is Modern Warfare. Neither of them the latest in the long running franchises.

Now, most people won’t buy either of these games for their single-player component, and rightly so as both are highly MP-focused, but I’m not most people and still like to play solo campaigns, often more so than online offerings. 

Here’s my take on campaigns from BF4 and COD Ghosts: They do a solid, if somewhat unremarkable job. I didn’t hate them but I didn’t fall in love with them either. I wouldn’t take either out for a second date .

Both have a silent protagonist, which sort of bugs me about a lot of shooter games. It bugged me back in the day that Gordon Freeman from the Half Life games was mute. It bugs me now. With today’s games wanting to immerse the player in the experience, having a silent lead character just disconnects the player from the action. I might as well be playing as an ice cream cone. 

Ghosts tries to mix things up a little – one of the opening missions takes place in space but it’s too brief, and the remote sniper is great fun – and Riley, the trained dog, is a nice touch, but it seemed to me that just as you were settling in to controlling him and thinking “This is pretty cool”, the control was ripped from you and it was back to the tried-and-tried “move forward and shoot everything in your path” gameplay.

BF4’s campaign was more enjoyable than I expected but it’s still a cliche riddled affair, with stereotypical characters that I didn’t care for (I couldn’t even tell you their names). I played it on PC and it looks wonderful when things are cranked up to “OMG” fidelity.

Both suffer from instances where one moment you have to lead the way and open a door then the next there’s no way you can progress any further until your team catches up – and open a door for you. Ghosts’ campaign also dishes out trophies (I played it on PlayStation 3) like they’re going out of fashion: It seemed like most missions had two or three trophies each.

call_of_duty_ghosts-wallpaper-big

Right, now to the MP. I’m not a massively successful online gamer – sadly, my twitch reflex isn’t what it used to be –  but if I had to pick a game that had MP that I enjoyed the most, I’d take Battlefield’s MP over Call of Duty. That’s not to say that Ghosts’ isn’t enjoyable – I really enjoyed its infected mode – it’s just that BF4 online game gelled more with me.

BF4’s MP  is an assault on the senses, though, with explosions everywhere, voices echoing in your head  and bullets zipping all over the place (generally into my avatar’s body from an unseen sniper).

It probably doesn’t help that I’m not very good at MP, though: I always tend to get killed more than kill. My Kill/Death ratio would generate much laughter and mirth around hardened MP players, but I stick with it, slowly but surely earning points so that I can rank up.

How bad am I? Well, I’m ecstatic when I manage to hit an advancing enemy with one bullet from the almost entire clip I’ve emptied into him. Some people might call that luck but I call it … Nope, who am I trying to kid: It’s pure luck that I actually manage to kill enemies in this game. And I’m OK with that.

I’m not going to dwell on specific maps and all their intricacies – there are plenty of other reviews around if you want those details – but some of the best moments in BF4 were when I spawned into a vessels and manned one of its side guns. I once spawned into a tank and made so many kills it made me giddy … then the game crashed, causing me to loose all my points.  Another time I spawned onto a boat. I shot down a helicopter that time, just continuously firing at it using the boat’s mounted gun as it flew past. It took a few hits  but he just seemed to hover conveniently near where we were. It was strangely satisfying seeing it erupt into a cloud of smoke and fire. Moments after that, I got killed by a sniper.

One MP mode in Ghosts that I like is Infected, where one player starts out as an infected human while the other are soldiers. Slowly but surely as each soldier becomes infected, it becomes an exciting game of cat and mouse as the surviving humans ward off the advancing infected.  It’s a pretty neat mode and a nice change of pace from the usual capture the flag or deathmatch-type affair.

It may be naive of me, but I believe there is ample room in the gaming landscape for both Battlefield 4 and COD: Ghosts, but, I guess, if someone held a gun to my head and told me to pick one or else, I’d have to say I liked BF4’s overall experience more than COD: Ghosts, both in MP and single player.

Not that I’m an expert, mind you. I can’t tell you the intricacies of how each weapon’s rate of fire differs from the last game, impacting on game play,  or how the scoring system has changed for the better/worse. I can’t tell you whether vehicles are now overpowered (although on some BF4 maps I noted that if you didn’t manage to get a vehicle you were pretty much screwed): I just play the damn things and tell you if I like them or not. That’s how I do it.

“Different strokes for different folks”. It’s rather appropriate here, I think.