The campaign in Call Of Duty: World War II does a great job of capturing the chaos of a battlefield in Europe 1944. It’s a gritty, bloody experience and while the characters may not be particularly unique, it is a journey that leaves you wishing that there was more. So once again it’s time to grab our M1 carbine rifles and take to the beaches of Normandy, as we’ve done so many times before in a first person shooter. It’s back to basics here, checking off all the key moments a generic World War II game should have.
Sometimes it can be messy and overwhelming, but in a good way. In a way that has your eyes darting around the screen looking for a target to blast away at, all the while your ears filled with the sounds of bullets, screams, falling trees and explosions that go on around you. Often you’ll be hugging cover, knowing that peeping up will instantly draw the enemy’s fire. And health doesn’t regenerate, so like it or not, eventually your going to have to risk it, knowing that one stray bullet is going to end it all. This leaves you far more on edge than simply waiting a few moments, for you’re health to get back up to top. Death comes quick- often so quick you can’t help but laugh. At least until it gets frustrating, when death comes so instantly, that you have no idea what happened or even who shot you.
But in a way, it’s a stark reminder of how fragile life would have been in these kind of situations. There’s a nice variety of your typical World War II guns, all of which handle well and are satisfying to use, in a true Call Of Duty fashion. Although, I’m not quite sure how many times flamethrowers were actually used in the war. Battles get more and more intense as the campaign goes on, ever stacking the odds against you. Unfortunately the characters here aren’t particularly interesting. In fact, each squad member becomes more memorable for their squad ability, rather than their personality.
For example, after killing enough men, Zussman will throw you a medipack. Or Aiello will provide you with a signal grenade that will call in a mortar strike. Being hunkered down in the mud and dirt with these men adds to the scale of each of the fights, making you feel like a small cog of an actual assault rather than you just going out there and doing it solo. There’s also opportunities for moments of heroism, which maybe forcing an enemy squad to surrender, or to drag a wounded ally to safety, despite the hail of bullets around you and despite the sometimes dodgy dragging controls.
These sporadic optional moments add a bit more depth to the battles, although failing them often leads to you just killing yourself so you can try them again. Occasionally the story shifts its focus to a different character, who provides support to your team. For example, you may have to provide reinforcement as a tank division. Infiltrate a Nazi stronghold as a French Resistance member, when you have to make sure you get all of your facts straight. Vive la résistance! Or you may have to take to the skies as a fighter pilot.
These moments add some variety and create a bigger picture of all the different elements involved in war, but, are just probably there because we’ve come to expect a tank section and a plane section in a game about war. Of course, being a Call Of Duty game, there’s got to be some insane and over the top action sequences that would more at place in a Hollywood blockbuster, rather than a war. For example, check out this sequence. But the game never gets too out of control- after all, it is based on an actual war. At the end it hits the breaks and slows right down to provide a poignant reminder of this.
Returning to the World War II setting has its advantages and disadvantages. While the technology and weapons may not be as advanced, and while it’s certainly not a new setting for gaming, it does have that indisputable heroic element. For these soldiers, no sacrifice was too great. Thanks for reading. Next time- let’s look at the multiplayer.