I haven’t been a “Call of Duty” fan since 2007’s “Modern Warfare.” Something about the series’ push into current and then, oddly enough, futuristic and straight-up sci-fi combat turned me off from the series that started as a shooter based in real, historical wars.
So imagine my excitement when it was announced the franchise would be returning to World War II with “Call of Duty: WWII.” I was happy to dive back into a first-person shooter with a real global conflict as the backdrop. But “Call of Duty: WWII” isn’t the series revitalization I was hoping for.
Like any good World War II game, this one starts with you storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. It’s bloody and violent, but it doesn’t capture the absolute horror of D-Day as other media, even other games, have in the past. The beginning moments of “WWII” had a chance to really gut-punch players with an emotional introduction that no other game before has had the technical capabilities to accomplish. Instead, the section was over before I knew it.
The rest of the game includes several set pieces—some beyond ridiculous. In one mission, I derailed an entire train and somehow wasn’t crushed as I watched cars fly through the air over me and topple buildings at 100 mph.
As you might expect from a “Call of Duty” game, “WWII’s” shooting is its strong suit. Whether using focus to slow down time to shoot skulls or just running and gunning with various World War II weapons, I never got sick of filling Nazis with bullets. “WWII’s” controls are as tight and responsive as they come.
To help drive home the idea of the camaraderie and companionship that existed during what was hell on Earth for many soldiers, “WWII’s” campaign allows you to issue orders to your squad—which I appreciated. When running low on ammo or if I needed to spot some enemies, it was simple to call on my fellow men to help me out. It made me feel like less of a video game hero and more like just another soldier relying on his buddies to get through alive—exactly how I want to feel when playing such a game.
While you play as the same soldier, Ronald “Red” Daniels, throughout almost the entire campaign, there is one unusual level. During one mission, you play as a female French resistance member who’s basically responsible for her fellow countrymen retaking Paris from the Nazis. I can’t help but feel the developers included it to score some diversity points in a game that otherwise features a cast of exclusively white men, but I don’t really care about their reasons; it’s one of the game’s most memorable and interesting levels.
“WWII” also features a shoehorned subplot that deals with racism. Race, in general, in the game is mishandled, considering you can play multiplayer matches as a black female Nazi, which is laughably ridiculous. Good thing most people playing multiplayer—which is why the majority of “Call of Duty’s” fan base exclusively buys the games—don’t care about its historical accuracy.
I wish the story had been longer and more emotional, but there was something extra for me after beating the campaign: Nazi Zombies. This returning mode allows you to team with friends and vanquish wave after wave of undead Germans while completing various objectives. It can be confusing and chaotic, but it’s fun with a few buddies at your side.
One new multiplayer game mode, War, is the competitive mode I spent most of my time playing. It’s the closest thing to “realistic” combat in “WWII,” complete with different objectives, but it still ends up being the boring, close-quarters, run-and-gun matches of which every “Call of Duty” game since “Modern Warfare” has consisted. Shootouts feel random and devoid of skill, as if the difference between life and death is all about who sees his or her opponent first and nothing more. It’s too frantic for me, and the lag I encountered in nearly every match did little to alleviate my annoyance.
Those who do like the multiplayer, however, will find plenty for which to come back. As in every “Call of Duty” game, “WWII” features different ranks, guns, attachments, perks, emblems and other goodies that unlock over time the more you play, giving players an addicting grind to keep them returning. It’s a fun way to make progression that much more engaging.
“Call of Duty: WWII” doesn’t deliver the emotional campaign I was hoping for, instead opting for set-piece moments and some strange subplots. That doesn’t detract from outstanding shooting mechanics and tight controls.
Those who enjoy the game’s chaotic and often laggy multiplayer will find plenty of reasons to return, and Nazi Zombies is a great mode looking for some cooperative action.
Final score: 6.5/10
“Call of Duty: WWII” was reviewed on the Xbox One with a review copy provided by Activision.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing email@example.com, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.