In returning to a World War II setting, the Call of Duty series has gone full circle from space-age weaponry. The first game in the Call of Duty series was set in World War 2, but it was also part of a gaming generation where the community was growing weary of all the first person shooters set during World War 2, with competition from Medal of Honor, Battlefield 1942, Red Orchestra, Brothers in Arms, and even a popular Half-Life mod, Day of Defeat.
Now the community is tired of shooters with over-the-top infantry abilities such as wall-running. Also, since there have been no World War II first-person shooters made this decade using modern game engines, it makes sense to return to a World War II setting for an interpretation using modern game engines.
Graphics and Hardware Performance
As a port from the console games, the PC version of the game is the smoothest-running Call of Duty game I’ve played on PC since Black Ops 2. At maximum settings, I am able to consistently get 120 frames per second at 1080p. However, read into this with a grain of salt, as I’m using GTX 1080s in SLI, so I haven’t personally tested the game on other hardware configurations, but from what I’ve read in different forums, most people are able to reliably run the game at reasonable settings relative to their hardware capabilities. What’s even more impressive about the game’s performance is that this is a beta, and there were no drivers that optimized specifically for Call of Duty World War 2. After optimization from both Sledgehammer and Nvidia or AMD for the final release version, the game will most likely run with even better performance across a wide range of hardware.
Although this is the best-looking Call of Duty game to-date, Call of Duty has never been known for pushing the boundaries of graphical fidelity, especially on PC, and the new World War 2 game isn’t going to change that fact. The game does have a lot of polish where it needs it, like environmental texture, character models, and overall object detail, but on its best day, Call of Duty World War 2’s graphics on PC are just hyper-polished renditions of their console counterparts with some added effects, like HBAO. Call of Duty World War 2 won’t have the jaw-dropping realism of Battlefield or Battlefront. The creepy burning death animations are quite gruesome, though.
Even with a return to a setting without much in the way of advanced weaponry and equipment, Call of Duty World War 2 doesn’t change much about how Call of Duty plays. The game doesn’t stray from its arcade twitch shooter formula. All guns have low recoil with a fast time to kill compared to most other shooters. The major draw to playing Call of Duty over any other first person shooter video game is the sheer volume of what you can accomplish in a relatively short period of time. The weapon unlock, character progression, and challenge system does the best job out of any shooter game in administering short bursts of dopamine so that you constantly feel rewarded.
The Create-A-Class system is more streamlined than most recent Call of Duty games. Certain player perks are tied to the Class Division. The Airborne Division, for example, has perks that aid using the submachine gun weapons. After the Division perks, you can only have 1 selectable perk-per-class.
Besides the remodeling to World War 2 period-specific weapons, the classes of guns have no handling or damage characteristics to the different rifles, submachine guns, and shotguns of other Call of Duty games. Obviously, there were many design decisions to eschew period-authentic attachments and weapon modifications for gameplay variety.
Most game modes still have the option for killstreaks, and these are pretty standard fare for what you would expect in a Call of Duty game, such as planes that reveal enemy positions, bombing runs, and artillery strikes. The existence of killstreak rewards lead to more camping strategies in Deathmatch game modes, as you are incentivized to play conservatively when you have multiple kills in one life.
We didn’t have access to all the game modes of the full game available in the beta, but we were able to play Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Hardpoint, which are pretty standard fare for most first person shooters. Call of Duty: World War II introduces its take on the new-to-the-series progressive objective offensive game mode in its War Mode. It plays similarly to Battlefield 1’s Operations or Halo: Reach’s Invasion mode. Teams take turns on offense and defense, with attackers needing to complete objectives like capturing control points and building bridges to unlock new sections of the map. Although the mode is fresh to the series and ultimately enjoyable to play, the smaller maps and absence of player-controlled vehicles prevent the mode from having the strategic breadth and intensity of Battlefield and Halo progressive objective modes.
We only had a handful of maps available for the beta, but they are all reasonably balanced for objective game modes, with fewer spots for abusing head-glitching and accessible flank routes for teams to avoid getting spawn-trapped around objectives. The major difference in the map design compared to more recent Call of Duty games is the loss of verticality, as the series has not quite taken creative liberties for a Wolfenstein-esque re-imagining of World War 2.
Same (New?) Old, Same Old...
After a written consolidation of details of game features, you can take out the World War 2 visual overhaul and this game is fundamentally a regression from Call of Duty games.
With all that being said, should you consider buying Call of Duty World War 2?
If you really enjoy the Call of Duty series multiplayer gameplay formula, and you already buy every Call of Duty release, then there’s no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy Call of Duty World War 2, as it doesn’t stray from the mainstays of its core gameplay mechanics: low recoil guns with fast times to kill on small maps.
If you dislike the Call of Duty formula, then the World War 2 installment doesn’t change enough about the core gameplay to give you reason to enjoy the game.
If you generally enjoy Call of Duty’s gameplay, but don’t mind skipping some Call of Duty releases, you aren’t missing anything by skipping Call of Duty World War 2. The multiplayer experience is one of the more forgettable in a modern first person shooter. With fewer class and weapon customization options, the combat has the least variety of modern Call of Duty games, and less longevity because of the limited customization.
Players who prefer games that emphasize teamwork should also look for another franchise. Although more organized and communicative teams should win more on average than teams of random players, the inherent variance in Call of Duty gameplay and the “snowballing” advantage of chaining killstreaks means that one person running hot on the opposing team could wreck the cadence of a more organized team. Even in objective game modes, there is potential apathy among team members to play to the objective for a team victory, as you earn rewards for individual accomplishments regardless of team performance. Overall, the teamplay experience of Call of Duty is lackluster compared to games like Rainbow Six or Counter-Strike.
On the other hand, if you prefer playing shooters alone, then Call of Duty is one of the more accessible first-person shooters, for the teamwork relevant gameplay characteristics mentioned above, and also because there will be many free-for-all game modes available at launch.
For competitive multiplayer enthusiasts that play on PC, I warn against buying the game at all. Call of Duty games on PC always have low populations, and the playerbase drop-off after the New Year is so severe that I oftentimes have difficulty finding more than 1 lobby per game mode. If you buy the game for its multiplayer, you are relegating yourself to fewer than 2 months of enjoyment.
If you’re a shooter campaign enthusiast, and could care less about the competitive multiplayer, then you should wait for a price drop. The most recent Call of Duty games have had a high production value campaign, and many development videos headline high production value going into the World War 2 campaign as well. I doubt it’s going to revolutionize storytelling in videogames, but the campaign’s story is advertised to feature perspectives on fighting seldom seen in mainstream media.
There is an argument that it isn’t fair to assess purchase value when the full game isn’t released yet, but let’s be realistic. The beta is released very close to launch, so there aren’t going to be many more features that can be feasibly added before the game ships, and the beta files have been data-mined to reveal only a handful more weapons releasing in the full game.
The Only Thing We Learn from History Is That We Do Not Learn
Call of Duty games never have a shortage of content, but it is seldom different from recycled content with a visual overhaul. Call of Duty’s return to World War 2 continues to disappoint in this regard, but should sell enough copies that Activision won’t push for any drastic changes to the gameplay formula in future releases. The title’s gameplay familiarity and fresh setting will be enough placate most Call of Duty enthusiasts, but will be ultimately passable for other gamers.