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Call of Duty WWII Beta Preview!

With one of the most hyped Call of Duty games since Modern Warfare close on the horizon, today we’re going to take a look at the newly released beta for Call of Duty: World War II.

This beta starts right away with not only a problem about the beta, but about the PS4 and Xbox One themselves. The beta alone, with 4 modes and 4 maps to its name, takes up 16 GB of storage. There’s a real problem with optimization of this generation’s games, especially when the games played by mostly casual players are the ones that push the need for expanding the system storage. Some of my friends only play games like Call of Duty and NBA 2k, and they can only have 5 games saved onto their hard drive at a time because of the huge amount of hard drive space these games often take up.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the beta. Immediately, you’re treated to a cutscene, but a problem already arises. The cutscene dipped below 30 FPS at several points, and it seems ridiculous to wait 2 hours for the game to download, only to have the game run sub-optimally.

Divisions of the United Warfront

There are five divisions to choose from, with each one clearly designed for a different type of weapon. While you can choose any weapon regardless of which class you choose, each class is targeted for each type of weapon. The classes are as follows:

Infantry- Assault rifles

Airborne- Sub machine guns

Armored- Light machine guns

Mountain- Sniper rifles

Expeditionary- Shotguns

Each division comes with an accompanying video, which are supposed to look and feel like they’re training videos pulled straight from the WWII era, but a key detail seems to have been overlooked. The videos look like stock 1942 footage, but the audio was left unedited, and sounds far too clear and modern. The lack of audio retouching somewhat spoiled the immersion that the videos were supposed to bring.

I chose the infantry, but you can change your division at any time for 1 token.

The Barracks

The class customization screen has been streamlined, with one primary weapon, one secondary weapon, one tactical or lethal grenade, and “basic training”, which is this year’s version of the perks available in previous games. There are also 6 score streaks, of which you can choose three. The design of the weapons and scorestreaks are commendable, and would look right at home on the battlefields of France or Germany.

The games’ menu, however, looks like it was taken straight from the game that is in no part responsible for Call of Duty WWII‘s existence in the first place- Battlefield 1. Take at look at these comparison shots:

 

These menus are simply too similar for there to not be an influence, and this seems a bit lazy on Sledgehammer’s part.

The Front Lines

The game features 4 main game modes: Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint, Domination, and War. Team Deathmatch, Hardpoint, and Domination are similar to other Call of Duty games, with few rule changes. The gameplay feels better because of the return to classic Call of Duty gameplay, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. Players often prone as soon as they come face to face with an enemy, meaning “dropshotting” has made a return from previous games, and which works too well to go unchecked. The only way I can think to counter this is to slow down the speed of crouching/going prone, which would be an easy fix to add between now and release day.

The maps are very well designed. Pointe du Hoc, Gibraltar, and Ardennes are all very well balanced between long range and short range combat. Each of these maps has 3 well crafted sections, with well-integrated connections in between.Other than one of the hardpoint locations on Ardennes being in a small rock tunnel that relegates all of the fighting to a tiny area, I can’t think of any major flaws in the maps. Let’s hope that all of the maps are this good in the full release.

War mode, however, is what makes Call of Duty: World War II stand out to me over the other shooters releasing this year. This game mode (in the beta build) is a battle between the axis and allies in a small town, involving a battle over 4 different objectives. The allies are tasked with eliminating anti-aircraft missile sites set up deep inside the town of St. Lo, France, with a tank. The Allies must complete 4 different objectives in order to win, with only 4 minutes to complete each objective. If they are stopped at any point, the Axis powers win.

The first objective is to take over a house with valuable information inside, much like hardpoint. This objective features 3 main entry points: the front door and the destructible walls on either side of the house. The thing that makes War mode so unique is that different weapon types have clear advantages over others on each portion of the map. The first portion, for example, heavily favors shotguns and assault rifles.

 

The second objective features a ravine with parts of the neighborhood on each side. The goal is to build a bridge across the ravine. While players can go into the ravine, they cannot crossover onto the other side for more than a few seconds. This makes weapons like sniper rifles, and light machine guns much more beneficial. Unfortunately, this area is the weakest part of the experience. More often than not, there just aren’t enough people using sniper rifles for this to play out to its fullest. What happens most of the time is that the Allied forces just throw a smoke grenade and then dive onto the bridge to build as much as possible before being gunned down. This style of play just isn’t very fun for 6 vs 6, and would be much better suited for an 8 vs 8 or 10 vs 10 mode.

The third section is different from the first two. There is an ammunition supply blocking the way of the tank, and the Allies must plant a bomb on the cache and then defend the bomb for 45 seconds. The trick is that there are 6 destructible walls surrounding the ammo supply. This creates a conundrum for invading Allies, as they want to destroy walls to get in and rebuild walls to keep enemies out. The layout of the map benefits submachine gun and shotgun users the most, with close quarters combat being crucial to this portion of the map. This is (in my opinion) the best part of the mode, where players have to weigh the consequences of each wall destroyed. The only problem with this sector is that I have yet to see a team lose in this section, even after playing about 20 games of war mode. That could be easily fixed by making defusing the bomb quicker than it is now.

 

The final section of the map is a bit of a role reversal. The allied tank moves toward the anti-aircraft missiles, and the Axis powers have to prevent it from getting there. The tank only moves when Allied players are next to it, and if Axis players are surrounding the tank, it will actually move backward. Combat on this section is a mashup of all weapon types, as all of them are viable and can be used effectively. The tank portion is fitting for the closing portion; one where all players can contribute to the last push for victory.

One of the key aspects of War mode is that there is no kill/death ratio on the scoreboard, instead a total team score and kill count. If past games are anything to go by, if there was a personal kill/death ratio displayed, players would be more inclined to solely kill enemies instead of trying to complete the objective. This would take away all viability of a sequence like the bridge, as people often die every 15 seconds or so. This feels like a step in the right direction for Call of Duty, as players notoriously ignore the objective in modes like Hardpoint. Perhaps, if this goes well, they could remove the kill/death ratio from all modes except Team Deathmatch in upcoming games.


Verdict

Overall, this game has some serious flaws (huge download size, choppy scenes, jarring gameplay, etc). But War mode gives me confidence in the future of the series. It feels like the team based gameplay that the Call of Duty series desperately needed is finally here. Let’s hope that Sledgehammer Games further implements modes like War in the full game.

Call of Duty: WWII releases November 3rd for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

-Andrew

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