Call of Duty WWII Beta – the Good, the Bad, and the Please Fix
We have a few Call of Duty WWII tips for Sledgehammer Games regarding the recent beta.
The Call of Duty: WWII beta recently made its way to the PlayStation 4 for those that pre-ordered the game. If you missed it and want to see what the latest edition of the storied franchise is all about, a second private beta is planned for September 1-4 on the PS4 and Xbox One. As with all betas, it only offered a small slice of the game – specifically the multiplayer – but it was enough for us to give us a sense of what developer Sledgehammer Games got right – and what it is hopefully going to change.
There are usually two reasons a developer offers a beta – the first is that the game still needs some fine-tuning and the easiest way to get all the necessary data is to open it up to a small section of the public; the second is to release a de facto demo – the devs will still take a lot of info from that demo and polish the game, but the main reason for the beta is to sell the game to the public. WWII probably falls somewhere in between the two sides.
The Call of Duty franchise has been in the decline for the last few years. The series is still an absolute beast, raking in over a billion dollars most years, but Call of Duty peeked with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which sold well over 30 million copies, pushing it close to $2 billion. By comparrison, while 2015’s Black Ops III did see strong sales (it was the fifth best selling game in the series’ history), last year’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was the franchise’s lowest-selling edition since the game made the jump from the PC to console, shipping just shy of 12 million units. For any other series that would make it a huge hit, but for Call of Duty the bar is extremely high.
So it’s not surprising that this year’s offering from Sledgehammer Games is a back-to-basics approach. Gone are the orbital killstreaks, jetpacks, and futuristic weapons that actually served to annoy fans as much as entice them; back are some of the weapons that made the series a hit (albeit heavily fictionalized versions of them). The results area a game that could win fans back to the aging franchise – but there are a few things that need to be addressed first.
The weapons in WWII are taken from the era, but the game versions function closer to modern weapons than to their real-world counterparts. The beta only offers a small cross section of the weapons you’ll have in the full game, but the available weapons confirmed that while the setting is taking a big leap back from the laser weapons of recent games, the weapons are only taking a medium-sized step back.
It’s difficult to get a real sense of how they will all work together, but in general, the weapons will be closer to Modern Warfare than World at War. There are plenty of single shot rifles, but like all the recent games, automatic weapons are the dominant tool. A real PPSh-41 wouldn’t be roughly the same as an MP5 from Modern Wamakese, but it make sense in the game to power the weapons up.
While only three maps were available in the WWII beta, the game seems to follow the modern COD style, with large maps and multiple levels. The “three lane” mentality is still present (each map has a pathway on the left, right, and center), and it is made more complicated with multiple buildings and tunnels. But the same design mentality is at work.
While these maps may not be representative of the whole, the examples in the game hint at a similar feel to the last few games – for better and worse. There will be choke points, blind corners, areas where the field of view is limited for you but not others, etc. There are also spawn issues that are just inherent in this type of map – if an enemy has people at both far sides of the map, you will spawn in the center, which immediately puts you at risk. That’s almost a staple of COD games at this point, and WWII is no exception.
The beta also showed just four game modes: Team Deathmatch, Domination, Hardpoint, and War. The fourth, War, is an all new mode that is similar to the Battlefield series’ “Rush,” where attackers move to complete an objective – take a location, build something, plant a bomb, etc., – while the other side defends. The single map available gave a sense of the mode, but not enough to really know how it will be received.
The other three game modes were also likely chosen for very specific reasons. TDM is a staple and makes sense to include, while the other two are two of the most frenetic games, filled with explosions, close quarter fights, and fast-paced games. It remains to be seen how the other maps will play out.
Each new COD game finds a way to alter the loadout, but not so much as to make it unfamiliar. In this year’s edition, the big shift introduces “Divisions” – essentially classes that you choose and level up. You choose the Division you want – each starts out with a preselected primary and secondary weapon, as well as a single, unique ability– a bayonet, a suppresser, an LMG Bipod, Sniper Sharpshooter, or Shotgun Incendiary Shells. The more you level up that Division, the more abilities you unlock – there are five levels in total for each Division, each offering a unique ability (the fifth and final level unlocks a weapon that is unique to that Division).
When you select a Division, you can still choose any loadout you want (once you unlock it), although some Divisions are better for certain weapons than other (the “Mountain” division with its sharpshooter ability is made for snipers, for example). Ultimately, the divisions are quick enough to max out that you’ll probably end up playing with them all, at least a bit. Plus, certain divisions are better suited for certain game modes. The “Armored” division, for instance, may better suited for a game like domination than most, since it offers some protection against explosives.
Whether you like it or not is a matter of preference. It is different from previous COD games when it comes to the loadout, but not radically so. It’s a new way to do the same thing. Some will find it better, some worse, but in the end it will be familiar.
WWII marks a return to its roots for the COD series, and not just in terms of the setting. Everything is dialed back a bit, from the weapons to the killstreaks to the perks (you now choose just a single perk from the “Basic Training” category). Also gone are wall running, double jumping, jetpacks, and all the other futuristic accoutrements.
That alone isn’t enough to ensure the game will be a hit with players, but it is a very good start.
The COD series was born as a WWII shooter, and then broke into the realm of supergame by going to a modern setting. Each game has since grown more complex, very much relying on the adage “bigger is better.” But as each new game has pushed the series forward in time (with the exception of World at War and Black Ops), it may have kept a lot of the base, but it sacrificed new fans along the way.
COD WWII feels much more accessible than previous games. A new player jumping into Infinite Warfare will probably wonder what the hell is going on when a sixth killstreak lights up the screen and kills them instantly without warning. With more perks, special attacks, gadgets, and killstreaks being added all the time, the game moves a little bit further away from the series roots as a shooter. It’s still too early to know how it will play out in WWII, but in this case, backward is a good direction for the franchise to move.
While WWII is a much different game than Infinite Warfare, it is still, at its core, a COD game. There is nothing radically different from previous offerings, and if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. The weapons may change, the maps may look better, but WWII isn’t all that much different than, say, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Given that that game will be a decade old this November, that’s not a good strategy for an aging gaming franchise.
The series has been stagnant for years now, with changes coming on the micro level rather than the macro. The addition of a new social feature known as Headquarters (which was not available in the beta) won’t make a huge difference, and while the new Zombie mode sounds appealing, COD WWII is still the same game as its predecessors.
That might be enough for some, but it probably won’t win back many fans that have long since abandoned the series.
A beta is designed for developers to fine tune the game, not redevelop it. It can’t help with fundamental issues, but it will hopefully allow the devs the chance to fix a few of the issues that affect the balance of a game – and there are several in WWII. From hit boxes to overpowered weapons (and underpowered weapons) to inconsistent headshot markers, the game has some rough edges to smooth out.
There are balance issues, but it is a beta. Even if there are plenty of them. COD WWII has a few months and a year of patches ahead of it. Fingers crossed Sledgehammer will iron out the wrinkles and give us a COD game that fans can once again embrace.