Also available on PlayStation 4 and Windows
After nine long years, Call of Duty finally makes its triumphant return to World War II. Not since 2008's World at War has Call of Duty gone back to its roots in war torn western Europe, but Sledgehammer made sure that when it did, it was as if it never left. I'm a sucker for historical games in general (I mean, I AM a history teacher) and especially games set in World War II, so I'm a little naturally biased, but this is a REALLY fantastic game.
WWII follows the US Army's 1st Infantry Division - "Big Red One" - which the aptly named Call of Duty 2: Big Red One also made its subject. I've not played CoD2: BRO, so I'll not be comparing the two, but aside from the photorealistic visuals (I seriously couldn't tell at first if it were live actors or CGI), the part about WWII that stands out the most is how damn well the characters are portrayed. This is another example of fantastic writing coupled with superb voice acting to deliver an unforgettable experience. The campaign follows battles that anyone even somewhat versed in the second world war should know - the D-Day invasion, the liberation of Paris, the Battle of the Bulge - but the emphasis on the characters and their interactions is what really sets this game apart from other World War II shooters. It's not just about the mission; that just serves as a backdrop for the intrapersonal and interpersonal struggles these young men go through as they throw themselves into the meat grinder day after day.
Call of Duty has dramatically raised its standards over the past few years, taking the series from multiplayer games with an okay-I-guess campaign to being a truly great single player experience, and this is no exception. The voice acting is absolutely spot on, and the character development is among the most well written of any Call of Duty game to date. Only Black Ops III can give WWII a run for its money in terms of writing quality, character development, and voice acting, and I'm honestly not sure which one I'd say is better; both are masterpieces of FPS storytelling and immersion.
In a turn that's very much unlike Call of Duty, I actually think the multiplayer is the weakest element of the game. Don't get me wrong, the mulitplayer is still fun and well made. It just pales in comparison to the supremely well crafted single player campaign. The zombies mode is about what you'd expect, and it's quite well done, but I've never been the biggest fan of Call of Duty's zombies mode. I want my zombie games to be zombie games, and the other side of that is that I want my non-zombie games to be non-zombie games. That's a very minor and personal nitpick, though. All in all, the multiplayer is well executed, but it definitely plays second fiddle to the campaign.
One little bonus is the inclusion of 15 of Activision's Atari 2600 games that you can play on an arcade-style from the multiplayer hub. Each play takes 10 "armory" tokens that you can earn in multiplayer, but you can play black and white versions of fifteen of Activision's old Atari 2600 games - Barnstorming, Boxing, Chopper Command, Cosmic Commuter, Demon Attack, Enduro, Fishing Derby, Grand Prix, Kaboom, Pitfall II, Private Eye, River Raid, Seaquest, Skiing, and Spider Fighter. Chopper Command and River Raid are two of my favorite games on the system, so that got me REALLY excited to see.
Call of Duty isn't generally thought of for its amazing single player experiences, but Call of Duty: WWII has carried the mantle of its most recent predecessors in working to address that series shortcoming. While I, personally, found the multiplayer element to be a bit less enticing than the past few Call of Duty games, the single player is just phenomenal. The emphasis on characterization and relationships really elevates the quality of the narrative to a level that's rarely seen in AAA shooters these days, and that's worthy of recognition. I'm tempted to give this game a perfect rating because of my general lack of concern for multiplayer, but as it is an important element of Call of Duty's identity and a key part of the game for most people, I'll take it into account and call the game "almost" perfect. Because it is damn near "almost" perfect.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.