I’m not sure when I stopped caring about Call of Duty. Sometime in the last five or so years the annual shooty series just dropped off my radar. This was never a deliberate or conscious uncoupling, and I remember enjoying some CoDs back in the day, but there were simply more interesting shooters out there. Call of Duty: WWII, however, managed to grab my attention. The WWII setting, the Nazi zombies mode and the overall change of pace seemed appealing. So does the result live up to the hype? Eh… mostly.
COD: WWII is an attempt by the series to get back to its roots. That means WWII and that means you’ll be storming the beaches of Normandy. Again. See the thing about WWII’s campaign is that it’s beautiful, bombastic, exciting… and yet utterly predictable. If you’ve played earlier WWII iterations of CoD, watched Saving Private Ryan or the excellent TV series, Band of Brothers you’ll know what you’re in for. Almost exactly what you’re in for.
You play the part of Ronald “Red” Daniels who is a generic farm boy stereotype who needs to finish fighting this gol’ dang war and get back to his pregnant missus. It’s a tofu bland character and fairly uninteresting, as are most of the supporting cast, save Zussman (Jonathan Tucker) who manages to breathe life into a stodgy script, playing Red’s smart arse Jewish mate. The tale follows the usual beats you’d expect, with occasional diversions like playing as a resistance member (which is fantastic) and air support (which is okay). The whole campaign lasts about six hours – which is long for CoD – and manages to occasionally eke out some pathos from the cliches. It’s not terrible, it’s not great – it’s fine.
Backing up the campaign is the multiplayer which, for many players, is where the game shines. The usual modes like variations on CTF and deathmatch play like business as usual, but the War mode is a highlight – striking a more narrative-based balance, similarly to last year’s Battlefield 1. Having more objective based modes is definitely a step forward for CoD, although playing with dead-eyed teenagers who only care about their KD ratio can be… grueling.
Finally the Nazi Zombies mode is four-player fun, where you and three chums battle waves of the goose-stepping dead, solving mild puzzles and upgrading weapons. Featuring voice acting from the likes of David Tennant and Ving Rhames this mode is a hoot, managing to be gory and even moderately scary. Although I missed the ability to craft barricades this was probably the highlight of the whole package.
Ultimately Call of Duty: WWII is solid but unextraordinary. The campaign is fine, the multiplayer enjoyable and the zombies pretty fun – but none of it feels as deep and interesting as Battlefield 1. With a few friends you regularly play with there’s a lot to enjoy here, just don’t go expecting a complete overhaul of CoD’s aging engine.