It's a brave move bringing Call of Duty: WWII out so soon after Battlefield 1, both games looking back to the 20th Century's World Wars when most first-person shooters are looking forward to the future. But while EA's 2016 title added elements that made it more accessible and arguably moved it closer to Activision's mammoth franchise, WWII pushes CoD further away from a potential middle-ground. Despite the historical setting, this is a supremely arcade-style game, about as far away from a simulator as you can get.
Sledgehammer's second go as primary developer on a Call of Duty game is a bold step backwards in time, but the tone is very much contemporary. I haven't played any of the single player campaign, but that's what they must've meant with the "Band of Brothers for this generation" pitch. WWII multiplayer is more like Tropic Thunder for 2017, or at least the Michael Bay trailer edit of it.
Coming from BF1 to WWII is a shock to the system; the pace is significantly faster, the maps much, much smaller. The pressure-cooker feeling is amplified in every game mode, too – Domination objectives can be secured in just a few seconds, even if you're on it by yourself (which, inevitably, I was most of the time in the beta as I was playing with randoms). The spawn-kill-die-repeat cycle seems more extreme than ever, but maybe it's just my perception after not playing CoD for a year.
WWII also suffers from a problem that's similar to one in Modern Warfare 2: the developers have identified little nuggets that fans loved in previous games, then overused them ad nauseam so they're not cool any more. 'Oh, you like the ping sound when an M1 Garand magazine is depleted? Great, we'll add it to every reload regardless of how many bullets have been fired, and also chuck it randomly on some menu screens too! You can't get too much M1 Garand ping!'
It cranks everything up into overdrive. All of the weapons have more oomph to their sound than they should, and the shotguns have some sort of incendiary shells that make them more like cannons. It's hard to express the nostalgic attachment a generation of first-person shooter addicts have to the weapons resurrected in this game, but the over-the-top servicing almost ruins it.
But you know what really rules? Boots on the ground. As arcade-y as WWII is, there's no jetpacking around the place, double-jumping, or wall-running, and there sure as shit ain't no invisibility perks or any sci-fi shenanigans like that. It's bizarrely refreshing to get back into one of the good old wars, it just would've provided a far more potent satisfaction had BF1 not gotten there first.
The killstreak rewards I deployed in the beta were your bog-standard UAV, a manually guided bomb, and an artillery barrage. The most intriguing, original one – 'paratroopers' – wasn't in the beta, nor was the WWII version of the one where you pilot a super-powered airship that rains death from above. The rewards I used were basically updates of now run-of-the-mill CoD killstreaks, thematically altered for the WWII setting, and that's great. They're a lot of fun, and one of the primary reasons fans love this franchise.
As much as the crazy, hyped-up vibe will turn off a lot of players, it'll be just the ticket for a whole army of others. The popularity of tiny maps like Nuketown proves that CoD fans generally like their combat ridiculously fast-paced, and WWII certainly delivers that. It's a very silly World War II game, but playing it does give that unmistakable CoD buzz that I loved so much for so long.