Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Back to doing your duty in the war

Call Of Duty: WWII

Platform tested: Xbox One X

Review: I've skipped two whole Call of Duty games of recent time, the shift from a more classic warfare to sci-fi settings have put me off in the long run. A great relief when COD WWII was announced then, Slegdehammer games have gone back to the "boots on the ground" warfare. To see people wanted this to happen can be reflected in the eager way Activision has advertised it as a "boots to the ground" COD game. It's been a long while since there's been a large triple A production of a second world war game. I was excited to get my hands on this game to say the least. Plus the game was enhanced for my new Xbox One X! 

The main singleplayer story for WWII is simple; you follow a U.S. soldier from his landing at the bullet inferno that was the Normandie beach landing, all the way through Netherlands and France, finally reaching Nazi-Germany. It's a linear structure where each mission is set in a new location. Following the whole allied campaign into the depths of Germany is quite exciting, but fairly standard storyline for a game featuring this war. I really like that they've focused on a lot of nature locations this time, with warm and sunny french farmlands in the sun, to dark and cold woods near the borders of Germany. It's a nice departure from sci-fi settings.

I must just make a footnote that my review is about the singleplayer, my playtime has not been enough to dig into the multiplayer. But the interactive battlefield hub as a menu for the multiplayer mode, the boots on the ground gameplay with traditional weapons and the large nazi-zombie coop mode gives way for a lot of value for money here. The singleplayer lifespan is a fairly okay length, but all the additional content in multiplayer and zombie mode make up for it. Anyway, lets dig into my singleplayer experience some more.

The game is divided into a mission structure with cutscenes before and after, there's a lot of variety in each mission and a lengthy size to each. I loved seeing all the different locations along the way as I made progress through firefights in forests, villages and military fortifications along the way. A lot of the scenarios in the missions are based on famous WWII battles. There's also some variation going on with the gameplay too, tank missions are thrown in, sniping battles and a cool undercover stealth mission. The latter brings me back to fond memories of something similar in the old Medal of Honor games. While it's hardly reinventing the wheel, it's nice to have throwback to the more classic structure of WWII games from the past.

While impressively depicting the d-day landing with it's beach and bunkers, WWII doesn't truly shine until the second mission and throughout. It's a beautiful game depicting the countrysides you pass through in France and Germany on your way to liberating Europe. Especially the foliage is impressive and the levels have a fairly open structure to them, although they sadly still rely on the classic "walk from A to B" structure. Everything looks so smooth in the solid 60fps framerate and in the super high resolution on my Xbox One X version, making everything look so free of jaggies and shimmering objects. WWII goes for a slightly more soft approach to it's picture quality, but I think it goes well with the more natural environments and setting of the second world war era. There's a ton of detail in the texture work with muddy and stony countryside paths looking absolutely amazing in sunsets and in the light of dark nights moon light. 

Perhaps this pretty visual experience brings the sound impression to such a low for me. COD has always suffered from a tinny and bass-less sound, WWII continues this trend. It's like they just have added the sounds of the couple of soldiers next to you and throw in tank or airplane here an there as a background layer. It's sounds so thin, no rich sound picture with lots of background noise from guns, explosion and a heavy bass as you'd expect. The sound really puts the franchise a mile behind competition like the Battlefield series. I want heavy sounding guns, explosions with lots of bass and tons of background noise in my war games, not a tinny bb gun and a few sound channels on top!

WWII has some other issues I wish to mention apart from the bad sound design. The actual structure of the game, while welcome to it's more old-school approach, feels scripted and linear. You are asked to go to a certain location, do a certain task, then move on and each event will trigger enemies attacking and so forth. It's like a old COD with a new coat of paint and luckily without the infinitive spawning of enemies. A sort of equipment management for the singleplayer would have been nice too, I'm stuck to getting a default setup for each mission and having to find and replace guns I prefer using on the battlefield. All in all, I would have perhaps liked a more dynamic battlefield, less linear level structures and perhaps longer battles where more of the environment could be destroyed. Would it also have been to much to ask for a coop possibility in the singeplayer too?

After taking a futuristic approach for years, it's nice to see the Call of Duty franchise return to some actually historic events and more grounded gameplay. While I enjoyed the classic WWII approach to a game, it could have done with even more modernising in it's structure and level layout. I guess the COD franchise just isn't up fro taking huge chances. I enjoyed the impressive singleplayert playthough and it leaves me hoping that COD is going more back to it's roots from now on. I'd love a take on the Vietnam or Korean war for instance. WII is a solid shooter which maybe takes a little too safe and familiar path.



    + Plus points

    • Beautiful visuals in singleplayer at 60fps, with especially impsessive depiction of nature and foilage.
    • COD is back to "boots on the ground" tgameplay, finally.
    • For those delving into all three main modes; single, multi and zombie mode aree included, it's a solid package.

    - Minus points

    • Sound design is bad, weak weapon punch and very little environmental depth.
    • Very few innovative ideas going on, a standard and linear WW2 game.
    • Shortish singleplayer experience, like most COD games you are just moving along from A to B and thus the lifespan is limited.

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