Call of Duty: World War II Beta Impressions
For the past two weekends, Activision have been holding a private beta for the upcoming title from developer Sledgehammer Games. Sledgehammer's first Call of Duty entry was Advanced Warfare back in 2014, which saw the series leap forward into a future filled with exo-suits, supply drops and laser guns.
Since Advanced Warfare's release, the titles that followed from Treyarch and Infinity Ward sparked a ton of controversy, last years Infinite Warfare in-particular, with the series seemingly stuck in a sci-fi future it couldn't escape. Flash forward to 2017 and the same developers who took Call of Duty into the future are now winding the clock back all the way to World War II - a setting the series hasn't visited since 2008's Call of Duty: World at War.
With the boots now firmly planted to the ground, how well does Sledgehammer's take of World War II stack up?
For the first time since Black Ops 2, World War II changes up the Create-A-Class system - removing the Pick 10 system and opting for more of a Battlefield style role system known as Divisions. The beta begins with an introduction sequence, allowing you to select one of five different divisions known as; Infantry, Airborne, Armored, Mountain and Expedition.
Each Division has a specific skill for their specified role. Infantry includes a Bayonet Charge, Airborne includes a suppressor for SMG's, Armored includes a bi-pod for machine guns, Mountain provides aim assist and the ability to view enemy player names while aiming down sights with a sniper, and Expeditionary includes incendiary shells for shotguns.
Perks have also had a change up too, now being referred to as 'Basic Training'. Basic Training acts identically to Perks, however you can only have one equipped at a time unlike Perks allowing for multiple. These Basic Training's can allow you to; resupply bullets from killed enemies, take extra tactical and lethal grenades, have cheaper scorestreaks, be undetected by enemy recon aircraft etc.
Divisions also include specific Basic Training, such as the ability to put two extra attachments on a primary weapon for Infantry, sprint longer and faster for Airborne, and take a rocket launcher as a secondary weapon for Armored.
World War II includes the same game modes you come to expect from a Call of Duty multiplayer, such as Team Deathmatch, Domination and Kill Confirmed. However, World War II introduces a new game mode known as War - a linear, cinematic style mode filled with multiple objectives, and the game mode I enjoyed most from the Beta.
War is essentially a take on Battlefield 1's Operations mode mixed with Overwatch's Escort and Assault modes. Operation Breakout, the map available in the Beta, begins with the Allies team arriving at a Manor the Axis team currently hold. If the Allies take the Manor, the Axis are forced to retreat and prevent the Allies from then building a bridge for their tank to cross. The Allies team are then tasked with destroying an ammo dump, before escorting their tank the final stretch to a church base containing the Axis' flak cannons.
Scorestreaks are removed from War, but replaced by a singular care package drop on the Axis side when pushed back and a mountable tank turret on the Allies side. However, the care package only drops a flamethrower, which in some cases can be useless when the enemies are sniping from their spawn. The care package could be diversified a bit, not by giving any overpowered scorestreak item, but by giving something that could be much more useful to the Axis team like a Counter Recon Aircraft as well as the flamethrower.
World War II features classic weaponry you'd expect to find in a WWII game, including the STG-44, M1 Garand, PPSH-41, M1911, Thompson etc. which can all be levelled up to unlock new attachments in typical Call of Duty fashion. The PPSH in-particular I did feel needed some improvements, which had been completely nerfed compared to its World at War counterpart, known for its extremely high fire rate and iconic sound. Additionally, certain weapons seemed feel a bit slow and sluggish to handle, including snipers and light machine guns. Overall the best weapon from my experience was the STG-44, with a solid all-round fire rate and damage, in addition to the three attachments I had on it whilst playing as the Infantry Division.
It wouldn't be a Call of Duty game without scorestreaks, bringing a World War II twist on some of the well-known scorestreaks from previous titles. While these streak items are earned by how much score you earn in a life, I found some to require much more than in previous CoD games. The Recon Plane for example requires 500 score to use, essentially requiring you in a Team Deathmatch to go on a 5 kill streak in order to use whereas previous Call of Duty games required 3 kills to use a UAV, and 5 kills for something like a Care Package or Missile Strike.
Previous Call of Duty games included a killcam at the end of match, showcasing who on the winning team got the final kill. That has been scrapped in World War II, replaced with a 'Play of the Game' camera from Overwatch showcasing the player who got the best kills at a certain time. Even if it is directly copied from Overwatch, its a great new addition to showcase the best player even if they were on the losing team. Although, from my experience in the beta, it seemed to really only focus on those who got triple kills rather than if a player got a grenade double kill across the map or a very long range sniper kill - one thing I think should be addressed in the final game.
As someone who mostly plays Battlefield multiplayer, I still always enjoy playing Call of Duty games, however mostly for their Campaign and Zombies experiences, and rarely dabble in their Multiplayer aspect outside of that. While currently in it's beta state, Call of Duty World War II's multiplayer is the most fun I've had playing a CoD multiplayer in a very long time. Even if it hasn't been that long since we last played a boots-on-the-ground Call of Duty game, it feels like a refreshing experience for the franchise whilst simultaneously revisiting a setting that has been long dormant in the First Person Shooter genre.
One aspect I look forward to seeing most that was absent from the Beta is the Headquarters - a new 48-player social space set on Normandy Beach several days after D-day. Here players can walk around, interact with other players, pick up daily missions from quest givers, practice at the firing range and view items such as e-sports events, leaderboards and even mail. The idea of this, while definitely similar to Destiny's The Tower, is a first for Call of Duty and truly sounds like a unique experience I cannot wait to try.
Call of Duty World War II launches on 3rd November, under two months away now, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Expect a review from us to come around that time covering the full multiplayer experience, as well as both the Campaign and Nazi Zombie modes.