War Redefines Sledgehammer’s Call of Duty: WWII Multiplayer [Preview]
When we sat down with Sledgehammer Games before E3 officially began, it was to get a glimpse at Call of Duty: WWII's story. The development team is taking the duty of relaying the deadliness and heroism of the world's greatest conflict quite seriously, and everything we saw of it rang true with Sledgehammer's earnestness. The campaigns aren't what people traditionally come to Call of Duty for these days, and Sledgehammer hasn't forgotten about multiplayer. While it won't be quite as authentic and sobering as the story, Call of Duty: WWII's new multiplayer elements will make for some interesting online sessions.
Sledgehammer is adding a few new wrinkles to Call of Duty's traditional multiplayer model. First, there's the social space known as Headquarters. Here, you'll be able to enlist in any of the game's divisions, practice weapon loadouts, hit up the firing range, and just hang out with friends and other folks in a massive lobby. We didn't get to see much of Headquarters as our time with WWII's multiplayer was more focused on the action and play, but it's certainly something more appealing and tied to the history of World War II than we've seen in past entries.
As to those divisions, WWII is ditching the class creation of the last few entries, and will rely more on players fitting into actual military divisions like the Airborne, Infantry, Expeditionary, and Mountain. Each has a pre-set of weapon types for both primary and secondary armaments, as well as special division skills, basic training skills and the ability to level up with division training. All of those things can be accomplished by doing well in matches, or accomplishing some feats in Headquarters. While each of the classes was locked for us at E3, Sledgehammer did assure players that you can still customize your player character loadouts, even though create-a-class has been formally ditched this time around.
We fooled around with all the different divisions across both the standard team deathmatch and WWII's new War mode, and each clearly had some advantages tailored to specific playstyles. The Expeditionary's shotguns were our clear favorite for TDM, but we felt more comfortable with the more standard M-1 loadout for Infantry when it came time for War. That could all change based on the map of course, as the deathmatch map was a tight-quarters trench fight above the beaches of Normandy. Sub-machine guns and shotguns had a clear advantage in the narrow paths, emulating the brutal close-encounter combat so often seen in those muddy walkways.
Team deathmatch is fairly standard at this point, and we didn't notice much in our single round that gave us the impression Sledgehammer was shaking things up too dramatically. Player movement is still fast, at least compared to the single-player, and health regeneration hasn't gone anywhere either. Where Call of Duty: WWII starts to stand out from predecessors is with the new War mode. This objective-based battle pits Allied and Axis forces against one another in a three-tiered battle that can end at any point. We tried out "Operation Breakout," wherein the Allies had to storm a manor, rebuild a bridge, destroy an ammo depot, and finally, take out anti-air guns. The Axis had to stop us at each step in order to succeed.
If War sounds like objective modes you've seen elsewhere, that's probably because it's very close to competitor game modes like Battlefield 1's Operations or even Overwatch's Escort. As the Axis on this map, stopping the Allies from even completing just one of the objectives ended the match. We lost the manor, but were able to hold off the platoon of engineers trying to cross the ravine in a matter of minutes. Once one side is stalled out, the game goes to half-time, and teams switch sides. All you need to do to win is make it farther than the opposition did during their attempt, but if you're baller like our team was at E3, you finish out the whole dang objective list just to be safe.
Building the bridge was a challenge, as it leaves you open to attack from just about every direction while you hammer away. Once you get the bridge loaded up though, a Sherman tank arrives that you need to escort the rest of the way, and it will only move forward so long as Allied forces are nearby providing cover from the Germans. The tank will fall back if it is overwhelmed, as it drives on auto-pilot, but keeping someone in the machine gun up top does help maintain momentum. Truthfully, once we had the tank, the rest of the match was basically a foregone conclusion. The Germans just couldn't muster enough consistent offense to keep us from advancing on the ammo depot and then the anti-air encampment.
While that probably won't be true once more players have time to build strategies around every map and meta, for this session it felt good to win so handily. For those Call of Duty players that find themselves often overmatched in standard multiplayer, War does give you plenty of experience for assisting in other ways. There's no better way to get people involved than by having an easier path to leveling than kills and assists. Those still come into play mind you, but when you feel like you're contributing to the cause even when you find your kill/death ratio heavily leaning towards the negative, it makes you want to keep playing rather than putting the controller down.
Call of Duty: WWII's multiplayer does enough of the old standards to make longtime fans happy, but also brings with it some of Sledgehammer's ingenuity to make it just as welcoming to lapsed players. Complete newcomers may still be overwhelmed by the options and learning the ins and outs of the loadout metas, but at least War and Headquarters will give them a chance to become better acquainted before embarking into deathmatch modes.
Call of Duty: WWII will be out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on November 3.