Published on August 30th, 2017 | by Sean Warhurst
Call of Duty WWII Private Multiplayer Beta Impressions
Summary: It remains to be seen whether or not Call of Duty WWII can win back the hearts and minds of those who frequently bemoan the franchise’s recent direction but it appears that Sledgehammer are taking every possible step to prove that they have the goods.
With a much touted return to the classic boots on the ground gameplay that the series became famous for before degenerating into incomprehensible futuristic forays, the Call of Duty WWII beta was heavily anticipated by fans who have clamoured for solid and uncomplicated combat devoid of jetpacks and automated grenades.
Now I personally thought Infinite Warfare was a relatively accomplished effort with one of the strongest campaign narratives in recent memory, but it was let down by a stale multiplayer component that didn’t provide any real iterative differences over what was found in Black Ops III.
As such, I was keen to see how the multiplayer would hold up with this latest effort, particularly since I harboured some reticence due to viewing Sledgehammer as the weakest of the three main Call of Duty development houses.
Open to those who’ve taken the plunge and pre-ordered the game, Call of Duty WWII’s first private beta ran over last weekend, with a second to come this weekend before a final public beta is made available to all; in order to see whether or not WWII has the goods to stand up against last year’s excellently received Battlefield 1, I picked up my service rifle, donned my fatigues and cranked out a jaunty little ditty by the Glen Miller Band as I prepared to dive back into the trenches.
With three different maps and a smattering of modes to choose from, including the newest addition, “War”, there was a decent amount of content to keep players busy. Initially players were given a level cap of 20 but the final day of the beta raised the cap to 25; this meant that you could engage in a fair amount of customisability as you moved through the ranks, unlocking attachments and perks as you went along.
Upon booting up the beta I was quickly reminded just how rusty my FPS skills are compared to seemingly my entire opposition. Relentlessly hammered round after round, I was becoming dejected as I struggled to adjust to the removal of core modern quality of life improvements to the series, such as sliding and depending on spider grenades to compensate for lack of accuracy whilst throwing.
Without these crutches I felt outmatched by the opposition and, even worse, I couldn’t squeeze off more than a few shots before my aiming reticule jerked skywards and I fell to the returning volley of bullets from my wounded but ultimately victorious opponent.
The gameplay feels in some way like a reversion rather than an evolution; what I mean by this is that certain features that were added to the series over the years have been excised so that the back to basics combat is forced to stand on its own merits. In their desire to return to the time period that first characterised the series, Sledgehammer have also seemingly forgotten that looking back to the past doesn’t mean having to revert your mechanics accordingly.
Yet somehow, to my surprise, Call of Duty WWII works for the most part. While it’s true that my first few matches were a struggle and I was dubious whether or not the game was going to click with me, after gaining a few hard earned levels, tweaking my loadout and applying attachments everything suddenly fell into place and my doubts regarding quality were slowly but surely washed away.
Adjustment periods are going to vary, of course, and many aren’t going to have the same shaky few rounds as I did, but it’s reassuring that my persistence paid off in a relatively short period and I soon found myself locked into that age old struggle between the impending dawn and the desire to go just one more round.
As mentioned above, there were three maps available to play through, and although they can seem like they’re filled with twisting, confusing paths and high points for opportunistic snipers to take advantage of, I was surprised by how quickly I became familiar with their layouts, mapping out choke points and the best ways to avoid heavy combat. This is a testament to Sledgehammer’s level design, as even when spawn points were switching ends every few minutes I never once found myself lost or wandering aimlessly after a few matches on a particular map.
Of the three maps, I think the trenches and bunkers of Pointe du Hoc were probably my favourite environment to rampage through, as the close quarters makes for some super intense encounters. Ardennes Forest looks the business, with snow covered ruins providing a backdrop to the conflict and the seaside village of Gibraltar boasts hidden passages through cliffs and a ton of verticality, although the spawn points can be camped a little too easily in the latter for my liking.
It’s a nice touch to once again see stages based on real world locations rather than some fabricated simulation and knowing that these battles actually took place adds a level of gravitas that has been long absent from the franchise.
Alongside the three main maps upon which you can choose to play Domination, Team Deathmatch and a handful of other modes, there’s also the new mode “War”, which takes place on its own unique map. Tasking teams with certain tasks to achieve, such as building a bridge or, conversely, preventing that bridge from being built, War is a more structured take on combat that prioritises completing objectives and pushing forward over your ability to no-scope random players.
Teamwork is paramount here, as a match can be over relatively quickly if your team doesn’t focus on the mission at hand; progression is handled in stages and each stage can be halted at any time, meaning a match can see your squad pushing forward until they’ve destroyed the enemy encampment or alternatively they could stumble at the very first block and hand victory to the opposing team on a platter.
Each game of War sees a halftime turnover where the roles are reversed, which adds a nice bit of variety to things and ensures that you’ll be completing multiple different tasks with every single round. I find that straight deathmatch and the like can get a tad tiresome, and although in essence War doesn’t really deviate from securing capture points, it’s nice to have a sort of structured mission mode, complete with opening and closing cinematics, that puts the onus on teamwork and strategy over running and gunning everything in sight.
Fingers crossed that this mode is heavily expanded upon in the final games, as I can see myself putting in more than a few hours working my way through a series of different War missions.
With five different class types to play around with, there’s bound to be a loadout and skillset that suits your style of play. I switched quickly to a heavy machine gun and raised it a few levels so I could level up its accuracy and damage rate, but as some stages call for a more hands on approach, I also built a loadout around close combat weaponry so I could be prepared for the trenches. It feels like having multiple loadouts on hand for different situations is actually necessary this time around, which is bound to keep complacent players on their toes.
Overall, I’m optimistic that this return to roots will resonate with fans. The new War mode is a ton of fun to play through and the prerequisite deathmatches and the like feel paradoxically fresher than they have in years due to the limitations imposed on the player; here you truly feel like a cog in a larger machine rather than a mass murdering lone wolf as the anachronistic weaponry is nowhere near as overpowered as things have been in the last few iterations.
If I had to gripe about anything, it would be that the TTK felt a little too high, but that really comes down to personal opinion.
It remains to be seen whether or not Call of Duty WWII can win back the hearts and minds of those who frequently bemoan the franchise’s recent direction but it appears that Sledgehammer are taking every possible step to prove that they have the goods and the following two betas should give us a clearer indication of whether or not they’re going to be able to pull it off.