Call of Duty: WWII‘s single-player campaign doesn’t begin with a battlefield-scarring motor blast or bayonet to the belly, but with a surprisingly subtle, action-free scene. From the perspective of protagonist Private Daniels, players are briefly introduced to his squad-mates, and given a glimpse at their different personalities.
This attempt to put a human face on a horrific historic event might seem hollow, if it weren’t for the story’s ability to continually connect you with these characters during the campaign. Through cinematic custscenes and in-game interactions, however, Daniels — and his brothers in arms — become people you actually care about and root for. The result is a level of emotional engagement we rarely felt from behind the one-note super-soldiers and space marines of the last several CoD entries.
Your allies aren’t just gun-toting scenery but teammates you rely on.
It doesn’t hurt that this welcome dynamic is also built into the gameplay, as your allies aren’t just gun-toting scenery but teammates you rely on. A new squad support system sees you calling on your buddies for various supplies and skills, such as scouting, ammo, and health. The latter is especially important because WWII shelves previous instalments’ regenerating life for health packs, a nice change that further ratchets the realism.
While CoD‘s latest chapter sports well-developed characters and an emotionally resonant narrative, it certainly doesn’t do so at the cost of blockbuster-rivaling action. In fact, thanks to the game’s ear-rattling audio work and immersive effects — fire, smoke, debris, water, and weather have never looked better — the story-fuelled mode may be the series’ most cinematic to date.
WWII‘s welcome changes also extend to its multiplayer and zombie modes, mixing some fresh ingredients into the franchise’s familiar recipes. The former sees the return of fan-favourite competitive challenges, but also mixes things up with ‘War’, a new versus mode that refreshingly favours teamwork and objectives over scoring head-shots. Surviving waves of undead Nazis is also more fun thanks to the nerve-jangling cooperative mode being more, er, fleshed-out with creepy narrative elements and story-based goals to complete.
WWII doesn’t break the Call of Duty mould. If you’re looking for a total re-invention or overhaul on the series’ tried-and-true template, you won’t find it here. That said, the franchise’s return to the front-lines of the second world war sees its reliable formula — and some great new features— combine to deliver the best entry in some time.