I liked Sledgehammer Games’ Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. It was a very good first outing that only raised my expectations for their 2017 title, Call of Duty: WW2. The return to World War II was not an automatic win for me as someone who played through the many World War II first person shooters of the early 2000’s. Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, the original Call of Duty and its subsequent sequels. I was skeptical. I didn’t have confidence that this game would bring anything that I haven’t seen before. As a result, I put it on the back burner.
It turns out the only way to get me to play this game was to give it away via PlayStation Plus’ Instant Game Collection. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t find it very entertaining. It was trite.
Telling an original WW2 story isn’t easy. There have been countless stories from that tragic war spanning all sorts of mediums including books, TV shows, movies, and other video games. Call of Duty: WW2 opted to tell a Band of Brothers styled story that followed the a group of soldiers throughout the major events of the war on the Western front. All the hallmarks were there including the Normandy beach landing, the liberation of France, the brutal winters in the forests of Belgium, and then culminating with the horrible camps in Germany.
The game unfolded like a soulless knock off. I see what they’re trying to do, but I wasn’t onboard with any of it. I played through four missions and wanted to bail out, but kept going in hopes of something redeeming. There were interesting missions such as the liberation of Paris, but everything else fell short.
The sense of scale and bombast was something that I was especially disappointed with. I’m replaying Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 again and it’s surprising how off WW2 felt in this area. Call of Duty: WW2 felt claustrophobic and cramped compared to Infinity Ward’s 11 year old game. I recall having to drag a soldier to safety in the middle of a raging gunfight. I thought I was dragging them to cover, but it was actually a nearby triage area with medics. I could have spat and hit the Nazis from this triage area. It made more sense for me to clear off the enemy and have a medic walk over to save him.
I reacted similarly throughout countless outdoor firefights. It felt like they were trying to portray epic moments without the appropriate scale. Imagine trying to portray Ronald Speirs epic run down the road in Band of Brothers, but instead of him running for three blocks, it was him just running across a two lane road. It just didn’t work.
I got to know the characters in Call of Duty: WW2 through their mechanical uses and not their stories. There was the ammo guy, the health pack guy, and grenades guy. I cannot tell you their names a week removed from finishing the game, but I remember their functions very well. The problem with tying mechanics to characters is that I never felt any of them were in any real danger. The existence of certain Trophies ensured some of them would be sticking around for the long haul.
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Call of Duty came at a time where Saving Private Ryan served as the benchmark. Call of Duty: WW2 arrived where countless games, movies, and shows have already saturated the market. The crux of the game needed to be more than World War II story told through the lens of a brotherhood of soldiers. This story was told better elsewhere. What I felt they should have done was to update the approach those classic WWII shooters of the early 2000s did. Try to recreate the magnitude and scale of that horrific war for a new generation.
I didn’t like it