Review: ‘Call of Duty: World War II’ gives series a much-needed breath of fresh air

Call of Duty is one of the most scrutinized game series of all time, and after the past few games, rightfully so. With the arrival of the latest entry in the saga, fans and gamers are wondering if “Call of Duty: World War II” is the return to form for a franchise desperately in need of a breath of fresh air.

Over the past few games, fans have clamored for a more robust and old-school feel, something that “Advanced Warfare,” “Black Ops 3” and “Infinite Warfare” haven’t been able to give them. It was then announced that the franchise would move away from the EXO suits, direct neural interface and space combat of the previous entries, and back toward the boots-on-the-ground gameplay that many so craved.

Could this be the game in which developers finally gave fans what they wanted? That’s for individual players to decide. For me, it certainly was.

As someone who has purchased the last few games only for the zombies mode, I found this game an all-around improvement for a series that had grown stale. The campaign was a nonstop thrill ride, zombies have taken a few bold steps into a new, unique experience altogether and while I’ve never been a real multiplayer gamer, it’s very enjoyable as well.

For this review, we will take a look at all three phases of the game to help let you decide if “World War II” is worth investing the time and money into Sledgehammer Games’ latest release.

Campaign

This is the strongest part of the game, and there is no doubt about it. Fans of Treyarch’s “World at War” (2008) will be delighted to see that the story in this year’s Call of Duty resembles that one quite closely.

Upon hitting the start button, gamers take control of Private Ronald “Red” Daniels, a farm boy from Longview, Texas, in the American 1st Infantry Division. One thing that becomes abundantly clear early on is that this story is more about the characters. You see this throughout the entire campaign, as the dynamic between different squad members changes from battle to battle.

There’s also excellent character development. You see your best friend in the squad go from being a lovable goof in camp to a reliable backbone in the battlefield. Your squad leader maintains this hardcore, impossible-to-impress exterior throughout a majority of the campaign, before a major plot point opens his eyes to what true leadership means. A soldier’s sacrifice for the greater good of the mission is felt with more intensity and gravity than ever before, and that is what makes the campaign so enjoyable.

For the past few years, this game series has given its fans characters that they simply never learn to care about, thus making them almost expendable. By the time you reach the end of each story, you find yourself wondering, “What was the point of all of this?” “World War II” has broken that trend and given the gaming community some of its best characters yet.

The soldiers are also expertly voiced, as Josh Duhamel (“Transformers”), Jonathan Tucker (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) and Matt Riedy (“Mad Men,” “Hawaii Five-O”) give some of the best performances Call of Duty has ever produced. Duhamel gives the standout performance of the bunch, portraying the wild card Tech Sergeant William Pierson. In the beginning, all you know about Pierson is that he has a checkered past as a leader, but as you progress, the player begins to see more of his dark side in combat. It isn’t until a major plot point is revealed that Pierson realizes that it isn’t the past that defines you, but how you use it and learn from it that makes you a leader.

The best part about the campaign is that it doesn’t glorify war, but rather it attempts to show how gory and horrific it was. As the story creeps toward its end, your squad comes upon a Nazi labor camp, and you are shown a tiny glimpse of the Holocaust. This is what sets “World War II”  apart from every other game, because you don’t always feel happy as the hero. You see loss and death all around you, and it does a lot to portray just how brutal the Second World War was.

When the campaign ended, I found myself very impressed at the portrayals of battles I had only read about. Whether it was the liberation of Paris, the storming of the beach in Normandy or the final conclusion at the battle of the Rhine, “Call of Duty: World War II” provides fans with a nonstop thrill ride that easily makes up for the past few blunders in the series.

Multiplayer

While the campaign was great, this is why many people buy the game. At its core, Call of Duty is a multiplayer franchise, and this year was no different.

Right off the bat, fans will notice the new hub area known as the headquarters. When you first see it, you will likely think of “Destiny,” as it is very similar to both the tower and the farm from that franchise. It functions as an area where you can interact with other players, accept and complete orders and challenges and battle other players in one-versus-one pit matches.

You will also have to pledge yourself to one of the five different divisions. Each division provides its members with different abilities and buffs while you level up within it. Don’t worry, you can level each of the divisions up as you see fit, but it was really interesting and cool to see something new in the franchise.

The actual multiplayer doesn’t do anything to set itself apart however, as it sticks to the tried and true formula Call of Duty has employed for years. The time-to-kill is very low, and it all boils down to who shoots first. If you have played and enjoyed the multiplayer of the past, you will enjoy this just as much.

Longtime fans of the series will also be happy to see the return of several vintage weapons. Whether you wield the PPSH-41 submachine gun or the infamous MG-42 light machine gun, there are likely weapons that you will recognize with a grin on your face as you head into battle.

Overall, while it doesn’t do anything new or unique, the multiplayer in “World War II” remains as fun and fast-paced as ever. If you are looking for a fun game to play with your friends, this is certainly one to look at.

Zombies

This is where the game begins to really change up its formula. Its new take on “Nazi zombies” has given fans one of the best experiences to date.

One of the biggest changes is the new class system. Players will choose one of four classes (offense, control, support and medic), each with its own buffs and abilities. You then will take to the streets of the map known as “The Final Reich.”

This map is beautiful and horrifying all at the same time. As you wander the streets of a 1940s town, you will hear the sounds of the undead as they stalk you throughout the game. Venturing farther, turning the power on will open up a Nazi bunker and reveal the results of human experimentation. To discover all of the dark secrets, you’ll have to complete the game’s guided Easter egg.

This leads to another change in the zombie formula, as the game provides you with objectives to complete en route to solving the Easter egg. It begins by turning on valves located around the town and opening a bunker door, and from there you work your way through different challenges to combat the evil horde.

One thing the map does that “Infinite Warfare” struggled with is provides a terrific feel of horror and despair. Jump-scares fill different areas of the map, and just when you think you’re safe to stop and take a breath, a zombie will come out of the window you are standing next to and take you down. It’s that horror feel that has been lacking in zombies ever since it was introduced back in ‘World at War,’ and it is a fantastic return to that feeling that many wanted.

Overall

When all is said and done, this is going to be the game that hopefully jump starts a return to the top. The campaign is a remarkable feat, multiplayer is as fun as ever and zombies remains the addicting mode it has always been. Whether you are a veteran of the series or a complete newcomer, “Call of Duty: World War II” is a must-play for any gamer in 2017.

To contact Rusty Ellis (@RustyEllis13), email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

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