Thoughts: Call of Duty WWII is stuck in the past


War may be hell, but Call of Duty: WWII is just... boring. For the first time since 2008, Activision's famed franchise has returned to the Second World War, but it lacks the surprise we've come to expect over the last decade.

I understand that a certain cadre of fans demanded a return to a more grounded Call of Duty experience in response to the future combat of Advanced and Infinite Warfare, but I was not among them. I liked the chances developers Infinity Ward, Treyarch, and Sledgehammer took with both the campaigns and multiplayer, re-imagining the CoD formula with jetpacks and lasers. Most important were the mobility upgrades; I couldn't imagine going back to Kill Confirmed without wall-running and double-jumps. 

Considering my predilections, you can imagine how depressed I was to start WWII's campaign and face yet another battle on the beaches of Normandy. The rest of the game's campaign is just as predictable. Name a cliché from WWII shooters and it's represented here: Tank level? Check. Sniper mission? Yep. Tonally-questionable visit to a concentration camp? Unfortunately, check. It desperately tries to endear you to members of your unit, but its attempts at emotion feel lifeless. The stealth mission offers a brief glimpse into a more interesting game, full of espionage and an actual villain, but you quickly return to the hum-drum battlefield.

Outside of the campaign lie the online multiplayer and zombie modes, because at this point it wouldn't be Call of Duty without them. Multiplayer feels like last year's Modern Warfare: Remastered retrofitted with 1940s guns, so you know what to expect. They bring over that game's loot system as well, crates and all, but this time they find a new home at Headquarters. Imagined as the CoD equivalent to Destiny's Tower, it's a hub between multiplayer matches where you can break open crates and take contract-esque Orders for some extra XP. It also serves as a place for social interaction with other players, but as of this writing it's still a ghost town.

The package feels like it's missing any real variety or hook, well, beyond its return to the franchise's roots. Judging by the success of Battlefield 1 and this game's stellar first week, we're likely to see more old-school weapons than new school from our multiplayer shooters. Let's just hope that the Respawns and Ids of the world give us some crazy respites from all the history.

- Matt