I’m into the back to basics approach
Call of Duty: WWII kicked off its private beta access today, and the main draw is War Mode, Activision’s multi-objective gametype, as well as Team Deathmatch, Domination, Hardpoint (basically King of the Hill). All stuff you’ve seen before (even War, as games like Unreal Tournament have tangoed with this dynamic style before), and not exactly befitting of a demo that will woo anyone who’s abandoned the series.
After playing the beta for an extended period of time though, I think I might be in the minority of players that will embrace the return.
WWII (a name I hate typing by the way) didn’t have to work hard to earn my trust, as I really like the devolution of the fluff that’s crept its way into recent Call of Duty games. I mean let’s break it down — Black Ops II? Modern. Ghosts? Modern. Advanced Warfare? Oh you better believe it’s Modern. Black Ops III? Even more modern with a slice of Jacob’s Ladder for good measure to trick you into thinking it’s representative of a bygone era of war, but no it’s still very modern. And Infinite Warfare, oh it’s the most modern to date. You could say it’s…more than modern.
Jetpacks are fine but they’re getting into over-saturated territory given that they’re in every modern entry (that and wallrunning), so the old-school run-and-gun style is a welcome return. That said, actual running and gunning is going to feel weird to some, as it takes slightly longer to get back into an offensive stance after a sprint. I personally dig that WWII feels more tactical, but folks used to sprinting often will have a hard time adjusting, just like they did when dolphin diving was removed.
It’s a weird shift. We’ve seen Activision go bigger and bigger with each entry, doubling down on the “Modern!” angle much to the ire of its fans, but they still sell. Maybe Sledgehammer went a little too far this time? Or maybe those same fans don’t actually know what they want collectively? I can’t tell. Its launch build will unravel that mystery, and so will cold hard sales come November.
Another holdup it seems is “Divisions,” which have replaced create-a-class. It’s a decidedly more rigid system that flies in the face of the “customize everything” aspect that Activision has shoved in and iterated on for the past five years or so. There’s stuff to tweak here and there, but you can’t change absolutely everything and swap perks willynilly. But where people see less customization, I see less time spent in menus min-maxing and more time shooting. That, and potentially less microtransactions and need for loot boxes. Much like life, Activision…Activision will always find a way. There’s hope, though.
Call of Duty: WWII is going to be divisive if several major facets aren’t changed by the time the final version hits. Fans wanted Activision to return to its roots, but don’t seem to be enjoying all of the design concessions that entails, like strict create-a-class requirements that existed in the past and nuanced details like sprint efficacy. As a ’90s PC kid I feel right at home.
The beta is in a private session right now, but will start in earnest on September 1 at 10AM PT on PS4 and Xbox One, and will run through September 4. WWII is out on November 3.