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CALL OF DUTY: WWII Marks a Gritty Return to the Series’ Roots (E3 2017 Preview)

The Call of Duty franchise has been around for nearly 17 years, and in that time, players have hit the battlefield during World War II, modern day, and far into the future. Though the last three titles in Activision’s annual cycle, which went the futuristic route, were great in their own right, fans have been thirsting for a return to the series’ roots. The time has finally come, as we saw when we went hands-on with Call of Duty: World War II at E3 this year, courtesy of Sledgehammer Games.

For those who’ve been longing for that simple boots-on-the-ground pleasure, I’m happy to report that it’s here and in full force in WWII. Gone are the days of wall-running, jetpacks, and multi-directional sliding across the sci-fi landscapes. Sledgehammer’s latest puts players knee-deep in the trenches of France, Belgium, and eventually Germany with a first-person shooter experience that feels more grounded than it has in almost 10 years.

Before diving in for a few multiplayer sessions (which we will get to in a minute), the team showed us a brief bit of the campaign. The mission (Operation COBRA) took place seven weeks after D-Day, in Marigny. As Sargent Pearson and his squad fight through enemy occupied France towards a large enemy force that’s holed up in a nearby church, they realize that the Germans are targeting ally support, and putting the whole operation at risk.

After a stunning action-packed sequence in which the player and his squad mates were escaping the crumbling chapel (and avoiding the cathedral bell at any cost, via QTE), the mission was over and my heart was racing. The section was surprisingly cinematic, and felt reminiscent of an action-adventure title. As soon as the section was over, our meeting group headed to the next room to play a few rounds of multiplayer.

I was able to play a match of Team Death Match, Domination, and the all-new War mode. For obvious reasons, the first two were nothing out of the ordinary. War Mode, on the other hand, was the fun highlight. After pulling a loss in the first mode, and a victorious (and incredibly close) win in the second mode, we kicked off the quest-driven War mode. I joined the Allies team on a mission to first capture an objective, then build a bridge, plant a bomb, and escort and defend a tank in a race to the finish line—all while the opposing Axis enemies did everything in their power to impede our progress.

Considering Call of Duty‘s reputation as a lone-wolf experience, such a team-oriented mode was a breath of fresh air. Battlefield 1 pulled off a similar mode and was successful with its audience. The mission truly felt like you were part of a real squad coming together to make it to a final objective. WWII is about banding together with your team, and it definitely comes across in the gameplay. Where the experience stands up next to EA’s strong Battlefield I remains to be seen.

There are a few welcome tweaks to gameplay, like healing via med kit (that is handed to you by a helpful teammate) instead of automatic health regeneration. The developer has also done away with Create-A-Class and Perks. Instead, players are able to choose between five divisions: Infantry, Armor, Airborne, Mountain, and Expeditionary—which each have their own specialty. I was partial to the sub-machine gun toting Airborne, but that’s just me. There’s something here for everyone, and an opportunity to test them out in a firing range prior to jumping into a match.

As for one of the other new additions, Sledgehammer announced a special online lobby called Headquarters. We don’t have all of the details just yet, but we know that It will act as a sort of hub for players who are able to connect with 47 other teammates online. Here players will start and end their night with the rest of the team as they tackle quests, matches, and more.

We can’t wait to see what else Call of Duty: World War II has to offer when it launches on November 7, 2017. Are you excited to head back to the past? Let us know in the comments.

Image: Activision

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