Call of Duty: WWII
A visit to Activision’s booth at E3 afforded the chance to sit down for some extended time with the forthcoming Call of Duty : WWII, where I tried out a few multiplayer games, and then chatted with the developers. I came away from my time playing the game with a clear sense that the competitive experience is in store for a few big changes this time around.
Over the course of three matches, I fought my way through a Team Deathmatch amid trenches near Normandy at Pointe Du Hoc, attempted to control points in a Domination match in the Ardennes Forest, and attempted to build a bridge and destroy AA guns for the Allies in the brand new War objective-driven game mode. In every match, I was impressed by the solid shooting and remarkably detailed environments, but it was challenging to truly understand what set apart the structure of play from previous Call of Duty games. A few conversations with the developers helped to clarify that picture, and made it clear that at least three major elements of the competitive experience are changing or being added.
The first big new aspect of play was the last of those game modes I attempted. War is a more narrative-driven objective mode than prior Call of Duty game modes, with interstitial cut scenes, evolving goals, and dedicated battlefields specifically built to support the mode. Each War map will be different from the last, not just in its layout and art, but also in the objectives that players on each side must complete. No matter the environment, one team is always on defense while the other is on assault. The map I played at was a manor complex about six miles inland from the Normandy landing zone, in which the Allied team needed to take over a house from the Axis forces, and stop some AA guns. Along the way, a bridge must be built to win. All the while, the other team is trying to stop us.
The mode is a refreshing change of pace for the franchise. More familiar styles of play are still available, but War mode feels like a natural outgrowth for CoD competitive play, encouraging teamwork, smart flanking behaviors, and coordinated assaults.
Joining a Division
World War II soldiers would volunteer and enlist into one of several different divisions, and Sledgehammer’s game is looking to use that historical model to reshape the progression system for Call of Duty players. As in previous games, you’ll still progress and level your overall career as you put in time with the game. Bu in addition, you will enlist into different divisions, each of which brings different abilities and specialties into play.
Five iconic divisions from World War II are selectable. The Airborne division specializes in SMGs. The Armored division can mount any LMG on points around the maps. Infantry are especially adept with rifles. The Expeditionary Force gain incendiary rounds. And the Mountain division are devastating distance snipers. You can switch between divisions anytime you want, but your successes help to level that particular division – each division levels independently. Focus your efforts on a particular division, and you’ll see commensurate rewards for that play style.
Call of Duty: WW II is embracing a dedicated social space, and its goals are multi-purpose. The headquarters is an actual space you can visit – an outpost a few miles inland from the Allies landing point at Normandy, set three days after D-Day. The Headquarters location can support up to 48 players at once, and it allows for increased social engagement with your fellow players, and a place to peacock your cool gear and character customization.
In addition to encountering your fellow players, the HQ has a few more specific options connected to it. You can head off to a firing range and practice your aim, or engage in competitive target practice with a buddy to see who is the best marksman. The HQ also supports 1v1 duels – a perfect option for players who are waiting to group up into larger squads. A designated overlook on the map offers place for you to prestige your character in public, showing off your big accomplishment to your fellow players.
Sledgehammer is aiming for the Headquarters social space to act as a bookend to your game session. You enter the space when you launch into competitive multiplayer, and have a chance to prepare for battle. And when your matches are done, you can return here to close out your day of combat. Additional HQ features are yet to be announced, but the idea already offers some interesting opportunities for community engagement.
Taken together, it’s clear that Call of Duty: WW II’s new multiplayer features are working together to encourage long-term player investment, increased community engagement, and more options for structured teamwork. We have a lot yet to learn about the project, but my time with the competitive aspect of the game at E3 showed a great deal of promise.