During the Call of Duty WWII Private Multiplayer last weekend, I did something. Something I hadn’t done for a long time. I had fun playing CoD multiplayer. WWII takes players back to the roots of the franchise, literally and figuratively.
The last time we played a CoD set during World War II was nine years ago with World at War. That game focused on the Pacific Theatre of War though. WWII returns to the familiar European locations we most closely associate with World War II.
Returning to an earlier, simpler time of warfare harkens back to an earlier, simpler time in gaming. Call of Duty was at the forefront of multiplayer game design. As a result, it was forced to constantly innovate to stay ahead of the pack. It’s no wonder that current Call of Duty multiplayer bears almost no similarity to older titles. Thankfully, WWII reverses this trend.
Set during World War II, the latest CoD does away with wall running, shooting around corners and drone strikes. Any and all references to futuristic warfare have been scrubbed away. What we’re left with, is a soldier and their weapon. That’s it.
And is it ever a revelation. It’s hard to imagine going back and playing Black Ops III or Infinite Warfare after sampling WWII’s goods. It’s so pared back, scaled down and distilled to the purest, simplest version of Call of Duty. Your soldier doesn’t even sprint very quickly. It’s wholly focused on the human face and human cost of war. No fancy tricks. No robots. Just brave men and women, fighting for their country.
Not that I want to glorify war. That’s not my intention. Especially not in the current geopolitical climate. However, it is telling that instead of looking forward to future wars, we’re looking back at those that came before. Have we become tired of imagining a war torn future? Does it seem all too real to us now? Perhaps we’d rather look back and romanticise the times when good triumphed over evil instead of worrying about what may happen tomorrow or the next day.
Battlefield 1 has already shown gamers that going back in time, rather than forward, need not necessarily make for a less exciting game. With roughly half a million players it’s certainly a success. Call of Duty has always trumped Battlefield in terms of player numbers and sales, so WWII can expect more players. The pull of World War II and nostalgia for older style Call of Duty are sure to help boost its popularity.
It’s fortunate then that WWII is such a pleasure to play. Your character has weight and there are a realness and heft to their movements. The weaponry is all classic and has the right look, feel and sound to really enhance the experience. When playing newer CoD titles, players had no point of reference of connection to the weaponry. It was all theoretical and hypothetical. Sure, some of them looked cool and did nifty stuff. None of it felt real though. WWII’s weapons and soldiers feel like they’re real. Real people fighting a real war.
Call of Duty WWII’s Private Beta demonstrates why CoD is one of the most played games of all time. It’s a clear example of exceptional game design, flawless executed. But don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself and then you’ll see.
The beta returns this weekend for both PS4 and Xbox One.
Call of Duty WWII will be available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One on November 3, 2017.