After several games set further and further into the future, the Call of Duty series is turning back the clock and returning to its World War 2 roots. Titled Call of Duty: WWII, the next installment of the mega franchise will have us once again storming the beaches of Normandy and driving the Nazis back into the heart of Germany. Our character will be a solider in the US 1st Army Division, and the story being told is intended to be a more intimate and human tale of war, as opposed to Call of Duty’s usual bombastic tales of supermen action heroes. Having watched the singleplayer campaign reveal trailer for the game and read a few articles on what to expect from it, I’ve got some thoughts on WWII that I’m going to share with you today. If you’ve not yet seen the reveal trailer for WWII, I’ve embedded it below. Keep in mind that WWII is a war game and it is rated M, so expect some mature content in it.
At the outset let me say that I’ve been a fan of Call of Duty games since 2007 when Modern Warfare came out, so the announcement of any new Call of Duty has my interest. Though I can only speak to the singleplayer campaigns of the games I’ve played, I can say that Call of Duty has rarely disappointed me and the series has rightfully maintained its position as a juggernaut within the world of video games due to the undeniable level of quality in each mainline entry of the series over the past decade. There is a certain level of excellence that can be reasonably expected with Call of Duty, and at the moment I think we can assume WWII will at least be about as good as any of the other games from the last ten years.
As for the game’s setting, I can completely understand why Call of Duty is going back to World War 2, given the success experienced by the rival Battlefield series in setting its latest game in World War 1, as well as the general sentiment that gamers were getting tired of the futuristic Call of Duty games. Going back to a time before advanced technology could be just the refreshment that some Call of Duty players want, and might even bring lapsed players back into the fold. Personally, I never experienced the World War 2 fatigue that catalyzed a lot of shooter games jumping to the modern era back in the mid to late-2000s, and I’m currently not tired of futuristic shooters either, but I recognize that I’m kind of an atypical person so I’d be the wrong guy to ask regarding when a game series should make a radical change.
Storywise, I’m not sure what to think just yet. From what I’ve read I get the feeling that the storytelling will be somewhat like The Last of Us or Spec Ops: The Line, (neither of which are Call of Duty games) in that we will get a very personal tale centered around a small cast of characters. This could be a good thing, but at the same time that’s not what I normally associate Call of Duty with. In my mind, with some exceptions, Call of Duty stories are usually about over-the-top craziness and plots whose main purpose is to give a reason why you’re engaging in absurd action set pieces. It also occurred to me when reading about WWII that Call of Duty is going to be retreading some old ground with the story of this game in that it will focus on a soldier from the US 1st Army Division. We already got a Call of Duty game centered on the 1st Army Division back in 2005, so I wonder how closely the campaigns from each game will match up. The last thing I noted about the story when I was reading about WWII was how one of the main themes appears to be the horror of war. The horrors of World War 2 were already handled very well by a previous Call of Duty game, namely 2008’s World at War, which as an aside is one of the few exceptions to the bombastic trend of Call of Duty storylines from the past decade, so we know it can be done. World at War, however, was set in the Pacific and the Eastern Front, whereas WWII will be set on the Western Front, so I think it’s fair to say the horrors depicted will be a bit different in this game.
Until an actual gameplay trailer or demonstration is released I can’t write much about WWII’s gameplay, but there are several things that are currently known about it. Obviously, being set in World War 2 means there will be none of the drone strikes, exosuits, and advanced weapons that have been prevalent in recent Call of Duty games. Instead, we’ll be back to using M1 Garand rifles and other guns common to World War 2, and we’ll probably be fighting at closer ranges, seeing as how very few weapons back then had scopes. WWII is, however, changing the gameplay in two small, but very important areas. First, regenerative health has been tossed out the window, so instead of hiding for a few seconds when wounded, you’ll need to crawl over to the nearest medic to get patched up. Second, and closely related to the previous item, ammo is no longer just lying around on the ground, so when you run out of bullets you’ll need to find a squadmate who can give you a fresh magazine for your gun. These two changes to the Call of Duty gameplay formula could work well, or might be really annoying. I honestly probably won’t have made up my mind about these changes until I’ve been able to play the game myself.
That’s all I have to say about WWII at the moment. Given that WWII was only just announced a few days ago, there’s not much else to go on, though I’m guessing we’ll have more details soon enough at this year’s E3. As I pondered this new Call of Duty, however, a final realization did strike me as I was typing up this writing piece. The development team behind WWII is the studio Sledgehammer Games, who were also the people that created the excellent Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. With Sledgehammer working on WWII, it seems safe to assume we will not be getting Advanced Warfare 2, which means two of my favorite Call of Duty games from recent years—Advanced Warfare and Ghosts—are not getting sequels. As much as I would have preferred getting Advanced Warfare 2, I guess I’ll just have to let it go and hope that WWII is a worthy replacement. I think I’ll also need to replay World at War before playing WWII. Seeing how two different Call of Duty games treat World War 2 could be an interesting experience.