Call of Duty: WWII is financially a smash hit. Going back to World War II was probably the smartest choice for Activision after fans made it very clear their dislike for the previous title Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Sledgehammer Games did a ton of research and hired some great folks to try to be as historically accurate as possible and create a story that would resonate with players around the world. This review is going to only cover the campaign for Call of Duty: WWII. Our previous coverage was for multiplayer and we will have an upcoming review of the zombie section. Yes, we here at ElectricBento.com feel Call of Duty: WWII warrants three different reviews as each of these modes can hold their own and attract different players.
Call of Duty: WWII opens with a powerful message. “On September 1, 1939 WWII begins. Over 50 countries take part and 65 million are killed.” This number, 65 million, should make you stop and think. This isn’t a fictional setting. Those numbers are not made up. Many of these souls were lost, not because they wanted to fight, to defend democracy, or take over the world and remake it, but just because of where they lived, and what religion or ethnicity they were.
Call of Duty: WWII is the story of soldiers, not just American, and their fight to defend what they believe in and their country. It’s an action packed and heartfelt story on par with anything Hollywood has made. That said, we should also take a moment to remember the lives of the millions who did not even have a chance to fight, the exterminated, the experimented on, and the populations of peaceful people who died in this very real conflict.
I must be honest, I am not a fan of first person shooters or even violent games. I have not played a Call of Duty game in many years. When I heard that the latest iteration would be about World War II though, I was intrigued, as I am a history buff, and some of my favorite series and movies focus on this time period and war. When I got to play one level at E3 in June, I was sold. The passion that Sledgehammer Games showed for respecting history and the men and women who fought impressed me. I could not wait to play Call of Duty: WWII.
In Call of Duty: WWII you take the role of Private First Class Ronald “Red” Daniels, a soldier in the 1st Infantry Division of the Army. Private Daniels is on a boat headed to Normandy, and has no idea what is in store for him. After a brief introduction to some of his closest comrades in arms, including his best friend, Zussman, players are thrown into the fray as the Higgins boats race toward the beach. The narrative of Daniels letter to his girl back home is then swallowed by the sounds of battle. Once landed, all hell breaks loose and you must swim for shore, pushing bodies of fallen soldiers away to retrieve your gear and storm the beach in the chaos that ensues. This was one of the most intense scenes I have ever played in a game. I was literally shaking by the time I made it through the mission.
Call of Duty: WWII plays differently than some previous Call of Duty titles, as there is no regeneration of health. When hurt, and you will be, players must find cover and use a medpack. These can be found throughout the levels and Daniels can carry up to four. Your buddy Zussman, when accompanying you on missions, will be able to provide one when requested. He will have an indicator near his portrait and above his head that, when full, will restock your much needed medpacks.
Certain members of your squad will have other useful items or abilities. I played on recruit, and still found myself needing this assistance. This adds a wonderful level of realism without overdoing it. After all, this is a game. It also creates a squad-based feel for the campaign; the feeling of brothers in arms, that you have their back and they yours. Throughout the story, as these men and women fought together, and I became more invested, the line between digital characters and real people began to blur, and I found myself emotionally attached to many of them. Call of Duty: WWII feels like you are playing an Oscar worthy World War II movie. It’s that good.
The gameplay in Call of Duty: WWII itself is superb. Every weapon handles like it should, every vehicle drives like it should. When a situation calls for a smoke grenade, someone in your squad will usually say something, so listen and pay attention. Some action cut scenes perfectly require your interaction and create a great sense of urgency. In fact most of the campaign feels like you are there, looking through the eyes of this soldier. There are some hidden mementos you can search for, if trophy hunting.
One of my favorite additions is the “heroic acts” feature. These are completed throughout levels by doing something, well, heroic. If you see the icon and say, a Nazi soldier is about to kill an ally, if you are fast enough to save them, you are awarded for this. Don’t play like you are the only one fighting this war, because the point it seems the creators of Call of Duty: WWII are pushing for, is that we fought together for a reason. I applaud this.
Graphically, Call of Duty: WWII is beautiful. The cut scenes are so crisp and the motion capture so perfect that the level of realism blew my mind. I had no issues with pathing for NPCs or bugs of any kind even. It really felt like I was playing a movie. All of the actors involved, like Josh Duhamel and Jonathan Tucker, were amazing. These folks are professional movie actors and it shows. With my headphones on, the experience was even more intense, adding to the feeling of really being there. The audio and music in Call of Duty: WWII, again, rivals a big budget film.
I played through Call of Duty: WWII’s campaign in about six hours. In that time, I laughed, I panicked, and at the end, I cried. The story told may be fiction but the places and events are not. The intensity of war is felt, along with the emotions. There has been some talk recently about the eventual “death of the single player game” and while I strongly disagree and believe if developers keep making games of this caliber, they will eventually replace cinema as we know it. Multiplayer online games do not generally interest me, I enjoy the solitude of gaming and would rather take part in an actual story and experience than shooting at avatars. Call of Duty: WWII is the trifecta of perfect storytelling, amazing realism, and enjoyable video game. If you have any interest in World War II, pick it up just for the campaign, maybe you will find the addition of zombies and multiplayer will keep you playing, but the campaign for Call of Duty: WWII is what will always be burned in my memory.
Call of Duty: WWII is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided by the publisher for that reason.