One of the gaming industries supergiants is getting ready to rise again, this time with a more old school coat of paint. Call of Duty returns to the World War II era this year in the aptly named Call of Duty WWII, and with it comes a return to the series roots that many fans have been yearning for after years of futuristic, sci-fi romps. With the full release of the game still two months away in November, the private Beta for PS4 owners over the last two weekends has given us a taste of what to expect from the upcoming multiplayer section of the game.
Setting the Stage
Before any critique can begin, it’s important to note just how much was made available for players to check out in the Beta. From the beginning, there are five divisions that somewhat inform the playstyle the player might want to use them for. After some leveling up, though, options become available in each division to switch weapons and equipment, allowing for significant overlap between them. That said, every player should be able to find a loadout that suits them for each game mode and map – of which there were four and five respectively.
The four game modes will not come as a surprise to Call of Duty fans who have grown accustomed to the same basic multiplayer structure for years now. Team Deathmatch is the clear stand out and it’s where I spent most of my time playing the Beta, while Hardpoint and Domination also make their return from previous entries in the franchise. The last mode is simply called War, and is best described as a smaller, faster version of Battlefield One’s Operations mode. It takes place in several, somewhat varied stages over a larger map. Of course, this is still Call of Duty, so teams are still limited to around six players on each side and the map is less a massive battlefield and more a handful of multiplayer maps stuck end-to-end, which suits Call of Duty WWII’s pace well.
The five maps available in the Beta were modeled after some well-known locations from World War II. There is a snowy map in the Ardennes forest, a beach-side excursion at Point Du Hoc, an urban skirmish at Operation Breakout, and a Mediterranean battle at Gibraltar – all of which are playable in Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint and Domination. The all-new War mode had only one map, in a French city called Saint-Lo. With four modes and five maps, the Beta feels quite robust, and did not get stale over the course of the seven hours that I played it.
Struggling to Find the Fun
As somebody who plays a lot of first-person shooters, I consider myself to be of fairly decent skill – nowhere near mastery, but definitely not a bottom-feeder. So I can safely say that a large portion of people who play this game will spend the majority of their time being shot through walls by enemies they had no chance of seeing, as well as being quick-scoped by Call of Duty gods wielding sniper rifles that will kill you in a single shot. Unfortunately, unless you’re better than almost everyone in the match, you will likely not have much fun playing CoD WWII’s multiplayer.
This is largely brought about by two factors: speed and minimal health. First of all, the game is fast. There is a small sense of dissonance with how fast-paced the game is, while being set in the realistic, historic battlefields of World War II. But that’s not why the game isn’t particularly fun at lower skill levels. The speed combined with the close-quarters nature of the maps means that you will get shot in the back. Quite a lot, actually. And since the game gives the player relatively little health, if an enemy starts shooting you before you see them, you virtually have no chance to compete. Not only do bullets pass through much of the terrain, most guns only require 3-ish hits to down an enemy.
All of this combines into a game where pure twitch-skill is king, and lower skill players have absolutely nothing to offer their team. In fact, if your skill level is below the point of getting more kills than deaths, it’d literally be more beneficial to your team to go sit in a corner and do nothing.
These problems largely apply to all game modes, but they certainly apply to Team Deathmatch the most. Domination and Hardpoint were somewhat more enjoyable to play, as there is actual teamwork involved that you simply don’t see in Team Deathmatch. For the same reasons, playing War Mode was, by far, the most fun I had playing the Beta, though the problems I already mentioned do still come back to haunt it somewhat as well. It manages to be the best part about the beta simply by being something new and different.
Should You Be Worried?
If you’re a fan of Call of Duty multiplayer, especially over the last four or five years, than you have nothing to worry about. If you like the intense skill curve that requires you to slowly memorize spawn points and weapon damage drop-offs, than you will likely have a great time with it. But for the rest of us, even those who really enjoy other shooters, I struggle to recommend jumping in on this entry. It is certainly less bombastic and over the top than some of the more recent entries in the series, but it’s still a game ultimately about measuring your twitch skills against random strangers on the internet. I’ve long been a fan of Call of Duty’s single-player campaigns and I love the ever-popular zombies mode. On the backs of those two chunks of the game, I can easily see Call of Duty WWII being a hit, and well worth the money. But I’m fairly confident that I will not be spending much time in Team Deathmatch when the game is released in full.
Look for our full review of Call of Duty WWII when it launches on PS4 November 3rd.