Call of Duty WWII PC Beta Impressions

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I took some time to hop into a few matches of the open PC Beta for the latest Call of Duty title. Promising to go back to World War II, there was a strange optimism from some writers in the industry that I just didn't understand. The idea that we somehow need to re-explore this very well trodden area of World War II is preposterous given the actual scope of the war and how much of its numerous stories have yet to be told through the medium of games. But I digress. I'm here to talk about the multiplayer experience on PC, and I can sum it up in three words: do not bother.

Call of Duty WWII's PC open beta is a glitchy mess of long wait times, disconnects, lag and the choicest of vitriolic chat comments. My time playing reminded me why I stopped playing COD in the first place, and for that I suppose I should be thankful. All sarcasm aside though, I am more than a little disappointed in the experience, short lived as it was, and for more reasons than the bugs.

For all the talk from Activision and Sledgehammer about how they wanted to really "honor the experience" of soldiers in WWII, and what was said about a commitment to quality and authenticity, the experience I had fell far short of those goals. First and foremost, the gameplay felt less like a natural extension of the genre in its current state, and more like a throwback to the days of Call of Duty 3. The controls and weapon handling feel incredibly floaty, imparting almost no sense of weight to the character movement. watching any of the characters move feels like watching a Benny Hill chase sequence. Everything and everyone is just a little too light on their feet.

Second, the map design contains a number of elements that just don't seem to make much sense given the layout of the terrain. In the map I played, there are machine gun emplacements in a number of areas around the map. However, none of them have particularly good sight lines to high traffic areas, at best offering a good cover of one doorway. The map also provides little opportunity for long range combat at all, with short alleys and lack of vertical terrain. There simply isn't a great place for a decent sniper to place themselves where they can work with the optimal range of the weapon they are given.

I am a firm believer that games should always strive to push the industry forward, to break new ground. Call of Duty WWII remains true to form here in that it does not innovate in any way shape or form. Instead it tries to emulate the success of the previous entries in the series and change or tweak as little as possible. It shouldn't come as a surprise at all; its a tactic that is one of the hallmarks of the franchise.

Finally of course is the other players. Some would say that I can't blame the developers or publisher for the words of people playing the game, but I think at this point it is fair to point out that Activision has done little to curb the notoriously awful behavior and language of Call of Duty's player community. The ban hammer is sure to swing in the event a player cheats, but not when that player uses hateful or misogynistic language to belittle or abuse other players in the game. It didn't even take any kind of time for me to encounter that type of toxic player I referred to. At the end of the first game I played, someone on our team mocked the losing team, telling them "Get fu****, fa*****." Later matches with other players were no better.

I'm frankly surprised to hear such praise lauded on the game from so many other writers. I couldn't find anything in Call of Duty WWII that I could really point to as having been done particularly well. I don't feel that the flatter levels are a good thing, I don't thing that the battles should have to have less dynamics to terrain and movement, I don't find the shooting to be the least bit impressive and I still can't stand the abuse hurled at other players so casually. You can have your Call of Duty if you want it. I'm done with it.