Call of Duty is a franchise very near and dear to my heart. Modern Warfare 4 was the game that truly introduced me to online competitive multiplayer action. Not only that, I made a lot of friends over Xbox Live on that very game and joined my first clan. Year after year, without fail I would get the latest game and would be enthralled with them time after time. Admittedly, the past few games, my love for the series dwindled, the same fast-paced, jet-pack action got old for me and I longed for the return to boots on the ground. Well, here we are.

I’m just going to go ahead and say that this story is my favourite of the series. Private “Red” Daniels played by Brett Zimmerman serves as the main protagonist, he has emotional baggage from his past that becomes more apparent later on. I feel out of all the main characters he has the most depth and character development within the confines of just one game, as opposed to the returning characters featured in the Modern Warfare trilogy.

Daniels is a part of the ‘Bloody First’ a nickname given to the American 1st Infantry Division. Joining him are a cast of likeable and meaningful assortment of characters including his best friend, Private First Class Robert Zussman played by Jonathan Tucker and Sergeant First Class William Pierson brought to life by Josh Duhamel from Transformers fame just to name a few. Pierson is my close second favourite character based on his story arc and how it develops from beginning to end.

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Also featured are the inclusion of female characters that aren’t just shoe-horned into the typical ‘receptionist’ type characters. Instead, we’re treated to a secretive British spy and bad-ass French resistance soldier. Both add weight to the journey and don’t feel like they’re included just for diversity’s sake.

Every mission captured my full attention and featured many memorable moments that either made me smile or even tear up a little. Scattered through-out are these incredible set-pieces that without fail had me look on in awe and think, this is cool. Sledgehammer know how to write a damn good story and that comes across in the dialogue.

One after mission debriefing statement made by Daniels goes along the lines of, ‘I don’t know who the hell decided this was the way to retake Europe, but I can tell you one thing, they weren’t on the beach with us this morning.’ I just felt that statement is so powerful in sending the player back in time, to step in the soldier’s shoes, they are the ones out there in the field following orders, whilst the ones giving orders aren’t even in the battles. That is just one example of many quotes that I feel add so much more to the overall package.

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It recreates the brutality of World War II with its weighted gameplay, guns are heavy, movement is slow in comparison to the Call of Duty’s recent outings and shooting is sharp. The weapons of that era are my favourite to use in any video game, just because of the feel and sounds, shout-outs to the STG-44 and Kar98K.

There are various slow-motion action sequences that build the tension and produce epic scenes with their quick-time events. Some will be as basic as a slow-down that allows you to shoot at enemies approaching or a fight scene in which there are points you need to be interactive with to try and beat the foe. This shakes up the action a little, gives you something extra to do and hey, variety is nice.

Trenches, bunkers, beaches, it all looks fantastic. Everything from level design to textures, and detail to colours, this doesn’t just feels like a WWII shooter, but looks like it too. The character models are impressive, from facial details to their uniforms and even animations. Because of this it’s easier to get immersed and invested in what you are doing, especially when the locations are as diverse and interesting as they are. Omaha Beach for example has been depicted numerous times over the years and is a huge part of history, and the Ardennes Forest is where one of the most horrific battles during the war took place. I appreciate being able to dive in and get somewhat of a glimpse into these places.

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I feel like a broken record with how much I go on and on about the importance of good sound design and praising developers when it’s executed correctly, but this nails it. The whole darn thing, voice acting that captures the emotions perfectly, sound effects that make me squeal with excitement and an epic score that makes for an amazing experience.

Online multiplayer has been a staple in the Call of Duty series for over a decade, in this instalment it comes with some minor tweaks and features. Headquarters is a brand-new HUB area that allows players to walk around as their in-game avatar and do various things like shoot at the firing range, test out scorestreaks, purchase contracts etc. More of a quality of life feature, that I really like, it gives you something to do when waiting to get all your team together.

Classes take the form of Divisions and there are five to choose from, each with different descriptions, backgrounds and perks. Infantry, Airborne, Armored, Mountain and Expeditionary each are tailored to certain load-outs. Mountain is your sniper class, progression in this division allows perks like silent movement, invisible to enemy recon aircraft and hidden to player-controlled streaks. These promote the idea of players choosing roles but are quite versatile considering you can use whichever combination of weapons, attachments and division. Freedom to play how you want but you benefit from playing in a more conventional manner.

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There are 9 game modes to choose from and suit players from all experiences, playstyles and preference. Ranging from free-for-all for those who prefer running solo to the team-based and tactical style of Search & Destroy. For 4 of the modes there is a hardcore variant in which HUD is disabled and health is lowered. Personally, I think hardcore is the way to play, however that is limited to just the 4 modes. The maps are diverse and just as detailed as the single-player levels, I admittedly stopped helping my team at various points just to take a look around, sorry team.

Operations are my favourite addition to the multiplayer suite and are combat scenarios that feature different objectives throughout. Two teams, one on defense and the other offense, in a rush style mode. There are currently three operations to play which for myself isn’t enough, but I’m a little bit biased because it is so damn enjoyable.

Nazi Zombies is one of the most popular game modes ever, it’s back and has learned from some of the mistakes made by the more recent ventures. Everything is just more balanced, from health to damage taken and from spawn points to zombie speed. I felt Black Ops III was more difficult for whatever reason, but the early maps were too easy, this rectifies that and is more fun because of it.

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The Final Reich plays out like a mission with a series of objectives to complete that allows you to delve further into the story of what happened. I welcome this with open arms, a narrative zombie experience that is easily accessible, sign me up. Furthermore, customisation is present with players able to adjust their load-outs and weapon builds that they unlock through progression. You get rewarded by playing the mode, which ultimately is needed as an incentive to play as opposed to, just seeing how high a round you can survive to.

Call of Duty WWII does an impressive job of delivering an enjoyable, informative and somewhat realistic shooter experience. The story comes complete with characters that you can get invested in and care about. Gameplay is solid and is a testament as to how Call of Duty always delivers on that front. Three different ways to play each with depth and something to clutch onto. Be it running solo, co-op or against others, the journey is an absolute blast.

OVERALL: 9.5/10 – EXCELLENCE

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

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