They say that war never changes, and if the Call of Duty franchise is any indication, they just might be right. We've been getting annual releases for more than ten years in a row now, and while the setting, the bad guys, and the weapons used against them may have changed, much of the gameplay has remained the same since the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007. Sledgehammer Games are looking to change that, however, when they release Call of Duty: WWII later this autumn. Ironically, they plan on doing so by going back to the series' roots: World War II.
Call of Duty: WWII is set to introduce a number of brave soldiers in its single-player campaign. One of them is Sergeant Pierson, voiced by Hollywood actor Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas, Transformers), and we'll also get to step into the boots of a woman fighting off the German occupation in France. For the most part, however, we'll get to play the part of Private Daniels, an inexperienced young soldier in the US 1st Infantry Division. As the Allied forces push through a heavily occupied Europe, and later into Nazi Germany, Daniels' will have to muster all his strength to carry on while knowing that every bullet that comes flying his way may be his end.
You see, the story mode of Call of Duty: WWII isn't meant to be cool and badass. It's supposed to be horrifying. War is hell, Sledgehammer knows this. It's harsh, dirty and deadly, and Daniels is right in the middle of it. The developer's goal is for players to feel just as scared and vulnerable as the soldiers we'll be controlling, and this will be accomplished by returning to the health systems of old, where players have to rely on medkits scattered around the battlefield, instead of laying low and regenerating their health like in most modern day shooters. According to Sledgehammer's co-founder, Michael Condrey, these changes have been made to ensure that the series moves away from the "super-soldier" gameplay of the past decade.
In WWII, you won't be able to take three shots to the head, duck behind cover and then be ready for action again a few seconds later. Here you'll be part of a squad, and working together and helping each other out is the key to success. If you're bleeding out in a trench you'll need the help of a medic, and if you're running low on ammo you'll have to rely on fellow squad members to assist you. Sledgehammer are even going to toy with the idea of separating you from specific team members so as to force the player into changing up their game and the way they handle certain situations. No medic available? Be extra careful. While we didn't get a chance to try out the campaign for ourselves, the demonstration we got to see at E3 did look a lot more engaging and dramatic than we're used to seeing in previous titles. The stakes are being raised, and the combat looks grounded in realism and gritty.
On the road to Germany, we'll make stops at the Battle of the Bulge and the beautiful beaches of Normandy, France. We've all seen the D-Day invasion a hundred times in different media by now, but we have to admit that we're interested to see it in video game form again - downed soldiers turn the splashing waves red, while the German's gun turrets send sand and dirt flying all over the shore. The Allied forces' return fire is reflected in the wet sand, and fire and smoke of the destroyed ships behind us are blotting out the sun. Call of Duty: WWII is going to be one stunning game, and the impressive visuals seem to get Sledgehammers point across: war is hell.
On the multiplayer side of things, however, war is looking a little bit more familiar. Sure, you won't be double jumping, jetpack boosting, or punching through walls this time around, since the game takes place in the mid-40s, but the competitive modes in the game will have regenerating health, customisable loadouts, and score streaks - just like in previous titles. The slowed tempo will put an emphasis on teamwork and coordination, and it's important to know the strengths and weaknesses of the different playable classes. You won't be creating your own this time around, instead, you'll get to choose between a number of "Divisions". These archetypes will be levelled up and "trained" separately, and they'll all have their unique weapons and abilities.