Call of Duty WWII Review – Returning to Their Roots

Activision and Sledgehammer Games are taking us back to where it all began. Call of Duty: WW2 is out now and has already posted over $500 Million in sales, but the question is, should you add to their coffers and make the trip back to WWII.

Read our review to find out



The Call of Duty franchise started back in 2003 and made a name for itself both on PCs and consoles. The story telling was OK, but it was the action, both single player and multiplayer, that was its strong point. The franchise took several different routes with several publishers, with Treyarch taking on the Black Ops series and Infinity Ward (the original Call of Duty developer) and Sledgehammer Games taking on the other Call of Duty games. With Call of Duty: World at War, zombie mode was introduced and has almost become a franchise in itself. The franchise that started out in WWII has made it into the future with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare making it all the way into space based warfare. With its latest installment, the franchise returns to the war that started it all, and in turn tries to take us back with it.

The Call of Duty franchise has always tried to have a decent storyline and the original title did a decent job of that, but its main focus has always seemed to be multiplayer and zombies with only limited resources and time spent on the campaign modes. Historically, like dropping into Normandy as a member of the 101st Airborne or running though the battlefield of Stalingrad as a Russian soldier in search of a weapon, the franchise has tried to tell stories from multiple view points in regards to actual battles and places. Call of Duty: WWII attempts to do this as well but falls short with several missed opportunities.

The story in Call of Duty: WWII follows a young Texas soldier, Private Red Daniels, who is assigned to a hard as nails sergeant, played by Josh Duhamel, and nice guy lieutenant. Your squad mates are introduced in rolling cut scenes and you learn a little about each guy, but not enough to really connect with them or empathize with them. Eventually you are in an open top transport boat and preparing to assault Omaha Beach. As far as the game tells you, it’s all Americans making this assault but anyone who knows history knows that isn’t so. Not that the game gets this wrong, it’s just that the game doesn’t mention who else is taking part in this deadly invasion.

When it comes to playing a Call of Duty campaign, I see myself as a hardcore veteran and always jump in playing on that difficulty. Through the very first level of this campaign, it didn’t take me long to realize that the health system would require me to take a very cautious approach to taking down the enemy. Your health is not regenerated but requires health packs to refill it. Your squad mates each have a sub-mission and that is to provide you with different items. One mate can give you health packs, one can give you smoke markers for mortar rounds, another can give you ammo, and another can give you grenades, once their meters are full. Your hard as nails sergeant can scout out an area and highlight any enemies for you once his meter is full. To fill a meter, you just need to kill German Soldiers, and then to interact with a mate you just have to get close to them and press up on the D-Pad (PS4). No need to worry about any of your mates dying in battle because apparently they can’t die, even when taking direct mortar rounds or eating a grenade, as long as you didn’t throw it.

The campaign follows the war from the beaches of Normandy, to liberating Paris and crossing the Rhine, but it’s almost always from Red’s point of view. There are several times that the developer could have branched out and gave us more insight into other characters but they failed to do so. At one point, you play as a young woman from the French resistance and have to infiltrate a German stronghold. There’s no real connection to this character but how hard would it have been for the developer to give us some decent backstory other than a few lines of dialogue? Had we seen just a small amount of her struggles prior to our arrival, it would have went a long ways to making that connection. In another instance, we are piloting a fighter plane with some guy that I’m not even sure what his name was. Again, just a little backstory would have went a long ways in connecting us not just to this character, but to his view of the war as well. In another instance you find yourself as a tank driver trying to rescue Red and his squad when they are pinned down. Fun sequence and the tank is fun to operate, but there’s no connect with the guy driving it. All we know is his name and really, it’s hard to care what happens to him once you are no longer in control of him.

None of the story issues should take away from the fact that the game is really fun to play. Driving a tank, flying a plane, or shooting them down with an AA gun adds to the standard FPS gun play. Weapon variety is as you would expect from a WWII shooter, with semi-auto and full auto rifles galore and the occasional sniper rifle for those situations where cover and support is the key.There is no loadout choice for the campaign so I started each level with my standard issue rifle and .45 hand gun. Germans were dropping grease guns and other weapons left and right, so it wasn’t a big issue, but I would have rather had the choice of a load out instead of that rifle and hand gun. Maybe a Barret and a decent sniper.

My only complaint with the gameplay is the single-mindedness of the enemies. You will be in the middle of a firefight, maybe with a couple of your guys standing there with you, shooting Germans left and right, and the bad guys will charge and run right past your mates and zero in on you. Your mates might even get a few shots in on these guys, but they’ll keep coming until you end them. This isn’t as noticeable on the easier difficulties, but playing on Veteran will have you wondering if your guys are shooting blanks at times. The Germans would drop pretty quick when I shot them in the face, so I had to wonder what my mates were using for bullets.

As with past Call of Duty games, there are plenty of collectibles to find and even a few new bells and whistles. Heroic Moments will have you either dragging a wounded soldier off of the battlefield or assisting a soldier who is in a death lock with a German Soldier. Each level has several of these and dragging someone off of a battlefield while bullets are zipping past you can make for some tense moments, especially when it only takes a few bullets to kill you on Veteran. You’ll hear the soldiers crying out for help when one of these moments arise, and not helping them would just be wrong.

Once you’ve finished the campaign, Nazi Zombies mode is ready and waiting for you. This is the tried and true, 4 player co-op mode that will keep you entertained for hours of Zombie killing fun. The zombies have been created with a more nightmarish look this time around, and wave after wave of them will try their best to eat you and/or tear you limb from limb. You can play locally, split-screen with two players or jump online and play with three online players or split-screen plus two online players. You could also play solo, but really, who would want too? The game screams co-op since you can revive each other if the zombies take you down.

The multiplayer modes are pretty standard for a Call of Duty game, and add many hours to what should be about a 10-12 hour campaign mode. The graphics for the game are exceptional, with character models that look lifelike, and human damage that may give you nightmares. Heads are literally blown off completely, or, even worse, partially, revealing body parts that people should never be able to see.

Sledgehammer Games’ Call of Duty: WWII is a fun and entertaining return to the roots of the franchise, but could have been so much more. The story telling could have gone much deeper and could have connected us to these characters in a way that allowed us to care if they made it home or even cared that their home is now liberated and Nazi free. The story it did tell, it told well, but left us wanting to know more about some of those secondary characters that we came across.

All in all, heading back to the roots of the franchise is well worth your time and money.


Call of Duty WWII review copy provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, please read What our review scores really mean.