Call Of Duty WW2 could do with more jet packs

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I jumped into the Call of Duty: WW2 beta over the weekend, and found that the series’ leap back into the past applies to more than just the time period it’s set in.

Before I go into the negative, I should make it clear that CoD WW2 [official site] is still fun in most of the ways that every CoD is fun. Shooting remains satisfying, with fast and frantic action that provides more immediate gratification than many of its peers. It’s more focused, with no danger of getting lost in the ‘war soup’ of Battlefield or the complications of character choice in Overwatch. Its progression systems do a good job of keeping you on the hook, drip feeding you new weapons, scorestreak rewards and perks that combine to open up different playstyles. In short, there’s definitely still room for CoD’s brand of multiplayer FPS.

But is there room for CoD WW2? I’m not so sure. In reverting to a historic setting, Sledgehammer Games have stripped away mechanics that elevated the futuristic setting of recent CoD installments above their predecessors. And yes, I do mean that literally: as we’ve written about before, jumpjets and wallrunning are both additions that changed CoD’s level design for the better. It also allowed the game to move away from drab and dreary looking battlezones in favour of a more vibrant and colourful palette. By comparison World War 2, you might remember, was pretty brown.

So, what does WW2 have to offer that can compete with jetpacks and wall running? The best contender for me is probably ‘old fashioned bolt action rifles’. Each class (called ‘Divisions’ here) has abilities and advantages that unlock with play time. The starting one for the sniper class allows you to hold your breath while aiming, which eliminates sway and makes everything apart from what’s in your crosshair fade into darkness. It muffles the sound of the carnage around you too, generating oddly peaceful moments before being plunged back into the fray.

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The thuddingly named ‘War’ mode is the biggest addition to the series, and plays a lot like a smaller, one map version of Battlefield’s Operations. It involves one team trying to take a series of objectives while the other defends them. Those objectives aren’t just abstract capture points, they’re actual features of the map: a house that needs storming, a bridge that needs building, an ammo dump that needs destroying and a tank that needs escorting. It provides a more involved structure that’s been lacking from any mode CoD has dabbled with before, along with a welcome dose of variety within a single match. You have to wait a few seconds (gasp) before spawning, which combined with the more objective orientated play makes kills feel a bit more meaningful.

There was only one map for it in the beta, ‘Operation Breakpoint’, where the Allies ultimate goal is to blow up some Axis flak guns that are targeting their bombers. While I’m a fan of the mode overall, it does put even more pressure than usual on map design. That bridge building section can be a nightmare, as it forces the attacking team to lay in the open while constructing it. I found rounds often ended there with a victory for the defending team: as someone in the chat observed, ‘Bridge too stronk’.

The mode also does away with scorestreak rewards, which is a sensible choice for a system that I’m still in two minds about. The rewards aren’t as egregious as they were in early iterations of CoD, where the best players got given overpowered tools that they didn’t need. Nowadays they’re just given moderately powerful tools that they don’t need, like single use molotov grenades or one-shot artillery shells.

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When respawning is as quick as it is, occasionally dieing to one of these weapons in a way that feels unfair doesn’t matter all that much. I also can’t deny that I’ve had fun wielding them myself, and the system does add tension to those moments where you’re just on the threshold of earning a reward. I found myself missing those moments in War mode, but it could act as a nice sanctuary for players who don’t get on with the scorestreak system.

The other modes aren’t new to the series, with team deathmatch, Hardpoint and Domination all making a return. I was surprised there wasn’t a free-for-all mode in the beta, as for me that’s always felt like the most comfortable fit for a game which has – until War mode – never placed any emphasis on team coordination. Team deathmatch is what it sounds like while in Domination both teams battle over three control points, with each point held causing your team’s score to increase. The first team to 200 points wins. Hardpoint might be the most interesting besides War mode, which features a single capture point that randomly changes position every 60 seconds. It does a good job of constantly shifting the flow of battle around the map, creating more varied situations than simply attacking or defending as players race to the next point.

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As I’ve already mentioned, most of the maps aren’t much to look at. The bombed out city of Aachen, the concrete and dirt of Point Du Hoc and the snowy fields of Ardennes Forest all offer much the same assortment of greys and browns. The map set against the rock of Gibraltar provides some relief from all that – it’s a much brighter battlefield where the sun is actually shining.

Trouble is, the sun’s still shining in Infinite Warfare and Black Ops 3, and I’m not yet convinced WW2 will be worth playing instead. There’s an argument that it’s worth having variety, and I can imagine some might appreciate a return to a less mobile, more traditional Call of Duty, but based on the beta it feels to me like a step backward.

Call of Duty: WW2 is due out on November 3rd.

28 Comments

  1. Ryos says:

    World war 2, everybody get your jetpack
    (if you want authentic war, call of duty knows the score)
    World war 2, COD’s got lots of new ideas
    (for example there’s anne frank, special unit robot tank)

    • Kollega says:

      With the headline containing both “Call of Duty WW2” and “jet packs”, I so wanted this to be the first comment. And the hivemind didn’t disappoint. Bravo!

  2. Petethegoat says:

    I tried the beta and enjoyed it quite a lot. Last COD was the first Blops, and I think this generates similar joys to that, and the high point of the series (in terms of multiplayer), MW2.

  3. colw00t says:

    Call of Duty WW2 just makes me tired to think about. In the largest conflict in human history, with fighting all over the globe, we get to play as Americans in France… again. The very tail end of the war, the setting that’s been beaten to death.

    • Pharaoh Nanjulian says:

      Quite so. This doesn’t look like it’ll interest me. I’ve been playing a lot of ‘Verdun’ recently. How refreshing to be able to play as Belgians, Brits, Canadians and French (with fantastic uniforms to boot)!

  4. Unsheep says:

    Overall, these games (CoD, BF) can never win with the media anymore, can they?

    – if the game is sci-fi the media complains about it feeling “too modern” and unrealistic, and how they wish it was more like the old games

    – if the game is actually like the old games, the media complains about it feeling too unmodern and realistic

    Although the author, Matt Cox, does seem to favour the sci-fi stuff more, for similar reasons as myself (more interesting environments, cool mechanics …)

  5. D3MiNiO says:

    Thank god it doesn’t have jetpacks. Finally a Call of Duty game that i’m gonna buy, after many years

    • Flopper says:

      Many years after release when it’s $10? Or many years after the last one you bought? Hopefully when it’s $10. This thing is a turd. At least do yourself a favor and get it on console where it will have a healthy player base. Will be dead on PC within 30 days of release.

  6. stringerdell says:

    Ive played more than enough CoD for one lifetime.

  7. Crosby says:

    While this is article is 100% opinion based, it’s literally proven by sales figures that the CoD series was dying because of how bad the mechanics and gameplay of jetpacks were.

    Also I’ve played or owned every single Call of Duty ever released and can tell you the jetpack maps are what started ruining the series as well. The heyday of CoD map design was from Call of Duty 4, World at War, and Modern Warfare 2. Black Ops, Call of Duty 2, and Black Ops 2 are honorable mentions. What you had after those games were tight-angled, tons of rooms, very small maps, which took away from what Call of Duty was built on and what made the franchise fun. The jetpack maps are simply some of the most unenjoyable creations in the series. If they continued with maps like Castle from WaW, Strike from CoD4, Derailed from MW2, the series might not have went downhill after Black Ops 2.

  8. Partialist says:

    Some of us really dislike the frantic pace of modern FPS’, and contrivances like jet packs and wall running.
    Some of us actually really enjoy World War II as a setting, and look foward to whatever games represent it.
    Some of us really like greys and browns, and dark/drab environments…

    Statements like “most of the maps aren’t much to look at” really beg the question – what would a WWII map that is “much to look at” look like? I am sure there are examples; the point is that the author just dismisses the aesthetic and doesn’t even try.

    It feels like wanting more of precisely this kind of ‘step backwards’ is tantamount to not being ‘proper gaming’ or something, instead of just being for a different audience, with different expectations (and a historically very well established gaming audience at that).

    Yes, comparisons with other entries in the CoD franchise are obvious and inevitable, but perhaps you could actually avoid these for precisely those reasons? How many other articles are we likely to see across the gaming press comparing CoD WWII to CoD IW et al.?

    Given there is (and perhaps always will be) a dedicated audience for WWII shooters, perhaps it would have been more illuminating to have an article by someone who actually enjoys these, rather than being dismissive of their conventions (whether aesthetic or gameplay -wise).

    In other words, I would far prefer to read a comparison of this game with other WWII shooters for relative merit, as opposed to needless apples/oranges comparison of a WWII setting with a science fictional one.

    • wengart says:

      If you don’t like the “frantic pace of modern FPS” then why are you even looking at COD?

      • fearandloathing says:

        It could be that for many people the best multiplayer experience was with CoD2, followed by Modern Warfare (1), which was fairly low-paced in comparison with other modern CoDs. That was my hope too, but not expectation of course. No stupid weapon customization*, no skills other than players’, weapons that actually hurt when they shoot. Even without divisions that complement each other, CoD2 necessitated team-play through game&map design without preventing occasional heroic team-kills. CoD2 introduced dynamism through different weapon-sets for teams, rather than unlockables, and it still feels great. You cannot be a good cod2 player without getting decent with kar98, even while doing the same damage, all rifles feel different from each other, and all weapons have a bit rock,papers,scissors thing going on between them. And this is no nostalgia, I recently re-installed the game, while servers are annoying fixated on toujane and too crowded, it still is the best MP FPS for me.

        *not talking about appearance and whole women&black nazis, don’t give a damn about that

      • Partialist says:

        Precisely because of everything else I said in my comment – I am interested in it as a World War II game, before other considerations.

    • mukuste says:

      “Some of us really dislike the frantic pace of modern FPS”

      What a weird statement to make. Most classic FPS fans rather complain about how slow modern FPSes are. Have you ever played Quake 3 Arena?

      • Partialist says:

        I should have been more specific I guess – I was not thinking of twitchy arena shooters, which I’ve never liked, but which have indeed existed since Doom. My mistake.

        I guess I was thinking of the way the pace of things like Battlefield franchise have upped the frantic pace with each release.

        I stand by the other things I said though – the comparisons in this article are largely pointless and I would have preferred reflections based on a better understand of the audience for a World War II game, and resulting gameplay & aesthetic conventions.

    • CidL says:

      It’s possible I’ve never agreed with a comment more than this one. Bloody well said.

    • Emu says:

      Some of us really dislike the frantic pace of modern FPS’, and contrivances like jet packs and wall running.

      I guess you never played any of the old first person shooters like Unreal, Unreal Tournament, Quake 1/2/3, Doom, etc. They make modern shooters look slow. If I remember right, UT:2003 was when the Unreal series slowed down to a more modern pace.

      • dahools says:

        To be fair not that I am getting into what is or is not an FPS nowadays, those you mentioned I remember well. However I would call them arena shooters which as you rightly say we’re much quicker than today’s and in my opinion looking back should be a genre of their own not compared with all FPS’s that have come since.

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      phuzz says:

      what would a WWII map that is “much to look at” look like?

      Well, how about like Stalingrad in the first CoD? Or the Sicily level with the lighthouse in the expansion?

    • Zmobie says:

      “what would a WWII map that is “much to look at” look like?”
      From what i can gather from screenshots much of the scenery looks like it’s covered with a half-inch layer of dust, a very brown washed-out look. AFAIK it would look much better if the bricks were redder, the vegetation greener and more lush, the wet mud on the ground darker, a wooden cart might be painted light-blue or lincoln green etc. A more varied palette and more vibrant and contrasting colours would do alot in making the scenery look great, and for me at least would look more realistic.

  9. stillsurvivor says:

    [Genuine Question Here] I only have a PC now and I loved COD back when I had an Xbox. For the past couple years the franchise has had just a swarm of negative reviews on Steam every single year. Now WW2 is about to come out and I’m actually really excited, but from what I see on steam, any recent pc call of duty game has been a steaming pile of shit at every stage of its life. I wanna know if there’s actually ppl out here that think it’s gonna be good on PC this year. (also I know RPS is a ‘pc gaming website’ but I just wanna be sure these couple positive comments I’m seeing on here aren’t just a couple console gamers that have wandered in. lol). Thanks.

    • CidL says:

      I’ve played PC CoD a bit over the last few years, albeit less than before that. And it’s fine – playable, good graphics, nothing that makes you think PC owners are getting shafted somehow.

      Whether the games have been any good or not in terms of gameplay is another matter. But the PC release is fine if you’re anywhere close to adulthood.

  10. Komsomol says:

    I enjoyed it a lot.

    The bridge part is actually pretty easy to get through. You need to use smoke grenades to block the view of the defenders.

  11. devonair says:

    I can understand the author lamenting the removal of jetpacks and wall-running, as those elements did add to the play style of COD. As a longtime Halo player, I was originally excited to see more vertical movement added to the franchise. But when those features became more and more prevalent, the bulk of my friends who were my regular COD-party stopped playing. I had one friend describe the verticality of Advanced Warfare as “traumatizing”, because he was just never able to adjust. I’ll agree that COD:AW made it too much of a focus, but feel like Black Ops 3 and IW dialed it back just enough for it to still be fun. For myself, I enjoy playing both types of games (i.e., both “jetpacks and wallrunning” and “boots on the ground”) — but more than anything, I’m just looking forward to my friends returning to play this game with me.

  12. lfcifer7 says:

    Jet Packs in a WWII game? That is just ludicrous. Not because of realism, or game mechanics, but style. Do you really think anyone who wants to play a WWII game wants jet packs? That’s the very thing that drove me away from CoD, now that they are finally going back to their roots I’m interested again. All CoD fans I’ve spoke to recently agree with this, the fans of newer series aren’t interested, but the older ones are. There seems to be a very large disconnect between Matt Cox and the player-base he is writing about.

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    Neurotic says:

    ‘Secret Weapons of WWII’ would like to say hello.

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