By Ben Kane, JWV Programs Assistant
Like its competitor Battlefield 1, the immersive video game Call of Duty: WWII takes a step back from the exoskeletons and drones of future warfare, and marks the first game since 2008s World At War to take place during World War II. The game is not without its flaws, but where it makes a misstep in one area, it makes up for it in others.
As American GI “PFC Daniels” of the 1st Infantry Division, you trek through the well-known battlefields of Europe, fighting alongside soldiers who, while occasionally interesting, are ruined somewhat by being generic, stereotypical depictions of American soldiers. The game begins just before the Normandy landings, and the naïve feelings of the soldiers who announce that everything is going to be just fine and everyone will be ok quickly dissipate once the horrors of war become apparent.
Call of Duty: WWII tries to act like Battlefield 1 in another way, and shares a poignant brutality in the early portions of the game. These moments are well done and necessary, but are frustratingly few and far between, as you then promptly continue fighting through Europe largely as a one man army. I say largely because, in a departure from previous games, health is only restored through “health packs” obtained on the battlefield and from teammates, which makes them slightly above completely useless. Of course there are many moments where it feels like you can take on Nazi Germany on your own, but the game does feature the occasionally difficult moment that forces you to rely on your squad to an extent. However, I couldn’t help but think of how strange it was that often the last act of a German soldier who has been shot is to throw a health pack onto the ground for his enemies to use.
Infrequently, one is put in the driver’s seats of a fighter plane and a tank. The tank section was far more interesting to play than the dogfight, as the destructible environments and need to fire at the weaker sections of the tank provided more interesting game play than the fairly bland aerial combat section
The graphics are as decent as other installments, and the artificial intelligence (AI) is definitely nothing to write home about, as computer-controlled enemies often just stood over the bodies of their comrades in one of the several forced stealth sections, not alerting their fellow soldiers that one of their own has been killed. It would have been the mark of an evolving studio to have taken steps to improve the graphics and the AI, and make the player feel like an actual part of the world and not an outsider solely in existence to kill. As I’m sprint-hopping from tent to tent at the command points between missions, a soldier making a passing quip about my strange behavior would have been a nice touch.
Call of Duty: WWII is, not unexpectedly, not very historically accurate. However, there are several instances of historical accuracy that makes me think at least one writer did some homework. The members of the French Forces of the Interior, the French resistance group led by General and future president of France Charles De Gaulle, had armbands featuring the actual insignia of the FFI. There is also a cut scene and a segment that takes place in the largely and sadly unknown Berga concentration camp, where several hundred G.I.s were imprisoned and many were worked to death or shot. The cut scene portrayed camp commandant Erwin Metz, as well as a brief dialogue exchange that is known to have occurred at the camp. There certainly could and should have been more poignant and historically accurate moments, but the few they have are much appreciated.
Multiplayer gaming is business as usual for the series, with maps that favor players who run around with machine guns blindly and without strategy. It’s not great multiplayer, especially when compared with the terrific multiplayer of Battlefield 1, but it’s not overly unpleasant to play. However, the dropping of loot boxes onto Omaha Beach so other players can see you opening them is in immensely poor taste, the idea definitely should have been shot down during development
Despite the clichés and issues that have been prevalent in the series since the beginning, Call of Duty: WWII is a solid installment in the series. The game isn’t revolutionary, and it largely fails to live up to the potential that the time period provides, but it’s worth checking out, especially if you can get it at a good price.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being best, I rate this game at a 7.75.
Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018