Call of Duty: WWII is a first-person shooter video game developed by Sledgehammer Games and published by Activision. It is the fourteenth main installment in the Call of Duty series and was released worldwide on November 3, 2017 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is the first title in the series to be set primarily during World War II since Call of Duty: World at War in 2008. The game is set in the European theatre, and is centered around a squad in the 1st Infantry Division, following their battles on the Western Front, and set mainly in the historical events of Operation Overlord; the multiplayer expands to different fronts not seen in the campaign.
Upon release, the game received generally positive reviews from critics, with many appreciating the return to the franchise's World War II roots. Praise was given towards its story, visuals, the combat support of squad members and return of the health bar in single-player, Zombies mode, and multiplayer. However, it was criticized for the single-player's lack of innovation and similarity to past games set in the same era.
Similar to its predecessors, Call of Duty: WWII is a first-person shooter game but it removes the advanced system of movement present in the two previous Call of Duty titles, which included double jumping and wall running. Instead, it features a return of traditional movement to the series, taking it back to a "boots on the ground" gameplay style. The game does not feature an unlimited sprint mechanic, seen in the previous two titles. Instead of a "slide" movement mechanic, which allowed players to slide quickly on the ground, WWII features a "hit-the-deck" mechanic that allows the player to leap forward and throw themselves on the ground in order to get to cover quickly, similarly to a previous mechanic known as "dolphin dive" in Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
WWII is the first title since the original game and Call of Duty 2: Big Red One not to feature health regeneration in the campaign. Instead, players must find health packs scattered throughout levels, or rely on their medic squadmate to provide health packs. Other members of the player's squad can provide ammunition, grenades, call in mortar strikes, or spot enemies and reveal their position in form of silhouettes. In certain sections of the game, enemy soldiers in the campaign can be captured, and wounded allies can be dragged to cover. In some parts of the campaign, players are able to control vehicles.
The multiplayer mode for Call of Duty: WWII was revealed on E3 2017, which took place from June 13–15.Sledgehammer Games announced features such as the new headquarters social space, divisions, war mode and the return to "boots-on-the-ground" gameplay. Players who pre-order the game were invited to a closed beta, which was released initially for the PlayStation 4, but later was released on other platforms.
In online multiplayer matches, players are randomly assigned either to Allies or Axis side. On Allies side, players can play as soldiers in American, British, Soviet, French Resistance armies. On the Axis side, players play as the Wehrmacht, rather than Waffen-SS in an effort to avoid 'glorifying' Nazi extremists. When explaining this decision, Glen Schofield, co-founder and co-studio head at Sledgehammer, said "The big distinction that Germans still make today is that between the German military and the Nazis. We made sure we made that distinction in the game, that the Germans were doing their duty".
Instead of the usual create-a-class system, WWII features Divisions. Players can choose one out of five divisions, each with their own different basic combat training, division training and weapon skills. This also eliminates perks, as players need to progress through ranks in divisions in order to use additional skills. Five divisions featured in the game are:
WWII also features Headquarters mode, which acts as a social space in the game. The hub is set on the Omaha Beach in Normandy, three days after the invasion when Allies retake the beach and turn it into a base. 48 players can be in the Headquarters at a time, and take part in various activities. For example, players can watch other players open loot boxes while in the Headquarters. There is a firing range in the hub, where all players can practise their shooting skills with all weapons, as well as a field where they can test scorestreaks. There are also areas where players can engage in "1v1" fights, as other players watch the duels.
The end-game "killcam" highlight shown at the end of multiplayer matches has been changed to "Bronze Star", which show kills "deemed most impressive" (counted by most points gained in a row), similar to Overwatch. The exception to this is the Search & Destroy game mode, which does not use Bronze Star killcam. Search & Destroy uses a final killcam, showing the last kill in the round.
A new game mode, War, is introduced as a "narrative-driven" multiplayer game mode, developed in partnership with Raven Software. In War, two teams of 6 players perform objectives as either the Allied or Axis faction, inspired by some of the iconic World War II battles, such as storming Normandy on D-Day as the Allied, or defending the Normandy bunker as the Axis in the map Operation Neptune. In addition to War, popular game modes such as Team Deathmatch, Domination and Hardpoint return, as well as Gridiron, a "boots on the ground" variation of Uplink, which was originally introduced by Sledgehammer Games in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
WWII includes a zombies cooperative game mode, similar to previous entries by Treyarch and Infinity Ward, with its own original storyline set in alternate history and separate from the campaign. The game mode, dubbed Nazi Zombies in reference to its first iteration in Treyarch's Call of Duty: World at War, is also set in the events of World War II, as the Third Reich makes a desperate attempt to turn the tide of the war by creating an undead army in the final stages of the war. While the mode is based on science-fiction and is a fictional take on the war, Sledgehammer Games co-founder Michael Condrey said that the story of the mode is based on some "real events". He also revealed that the experience is similar to Dead Space, a third person shooter horror video game directed by both Condrey and Schofield during their work time at EA Redwood Shores.
In regards to gameplay, Nazi Zombies retains the wave-based survival formula that have been used in all previous Zombies entries, with brand new additions. A class system is introduced, where players can opt for one of four combat roles: Offense, Control, Medic and Support, which provide different in-game abilities. Class loadouts are also included, with equippable Raven Mods, which are perks similar to the multiplayer mode. Sledgehammer Games also attempted to rationalize some of the popular mechanics, such as weapon wallbuys and currencies, with realistic explanation that fit within the lore of the game mode. Nazi Zombies includes a hint system, where portions of the main story quest are given directional hints for players to find and progress. In regards to the story quest, Sledgehammer's creative director Cameron Dayton reveals that there is a "casual path" for new and casual players where they can progress with the story, while a "hardcore" path, which is considered the official canon, exists with hidden objectives, and expands more on the story beyond what the casual path contains.
On June 6, 1944, U.S. Army Private First Class Ronald "Red" Daniels (Brett Zimmermann) of the 1st Infantry Division takes part in the Normandy landings with his platoon, consisting of Private First Class Robert Zussman (Jonathan Tucker), Private Drew Stiles (Kevin Coubal), Technician Fifth Grade Frank Aiello (Jeff Schine), Technical Sergeant William Pierson (Josh Duhamel) and First Lieutenant Joseph Turner (Jeffrey Pierce). Zussman is stabbed by a German soldier, resulting in his hospitalization for several weeks.
Zussman returns to duty in time for Operation Cobra, where American forces successfully push to reclaim the town of Marigny. The platoon is ordered by Colonel Davis (Matt Riedy) to conduct an operation with British Special Operations Executive officers Major Arthur Crowley (David Alpay) and Vivian (Helen Sadler) to intercept a German armored train carrying V2-rockets. Daniels and Zussman successfully derail the train before being escorted back to their squad by French Resistance leader Rousseau (Bella Dayne).
A week later, Rousseau and Crowley infiltrate a German garrison in Paris to retrieve explosives in preparation for the platoon's assault upon it. Midway through, Rousseau kills SS-und Polizeiführer Heinrich (J. Paul Boehmer) in retaliation for his murder of her family. The platoon then liberates Paris.
Two months later, the platoon enters Aachen, and is saved from a German attack by support from tank commander Staff Sergeant Augustine Pérez (Christian Lanz). They are then ordered to take over a German-occupied hotel. They discover civilians inside the hotel, and Turner orders their evacuation, to Pierson's dismay. A young girl named Anna (Lilith Max) goes missing, and Daniels rescues her. German soldiers open fire on a truck carrying the civilians, killing Anna's older sister. Pierson sends the truck away without protection, creating a rift with Turner.
At the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, the platoon is ordered to take Hill 493. Turner splits the platoon into two groups; Pierson and Zussman are tasked with advancing towards the hill, while Turner and Daniels cover them until they can meet at the bottom. Turner's squad soon receives a transmission revealing that Pierson ordered an attack on the hill against Turner's orders, forcing Turner to join in. The platoon destroys artillery positions, but the Germans counterattack with a Tiger II tank. Daniels is knocked out trying to disable the tank, which is destroyed by Pérez. Turner is fatally wounded rescuing Daniels, and orders Daniels to abandon him while he covers the platoon's escape. Pierson becomes head of the platoon and makes Daniels his second-in-command, promoting him to Corporal.
At the height of the Battle of the Bulge, the platoon is surrounded by Germans. Daniels meets an African-American technician, Howard (Russell Richardson), who helps the platoon contact air support. The platoon captures several German soldiers, and discovers that the Germans plan to destroy a bridge at Remagen, the last bridge over the Rhine. After destroying the explosives in transit, Pierson orders the platoon to attack a nearby air base to destroy the remaining explosives. The attack fails, resulting in Daniels and Zussman being surrounded by enemy troops. Daniels is saved by Howard, while Zussman is captured and taken to a German prisoner of war camp, Stalag IX-B. Daniels disobeys Pierson and attempts to pursue the German truck carrying Zussman, but ends up injuring himself in the process and letting the truck escape. He is then hospitalized, with Pierson denying him from the platoon. In Stalag IX-B, Zussman is interrogated on his Jewish heritage by SS officer Metz (George Regout), then is beaten and sent to a concentration camp.
After recovering for eight weeks, Daniels learns from Davis about the events that changed Pierson in the Battle of Kasserine Pass: instead of recklessly leading his men to their deaths, like everyone thought, he risked his and his men's lives in vain to save part of his platoon that was trapped. Daniels later confronts Pierson in his tent and tears up his honorable discharge papers in order to rejoin the platoon. They successfully capture the last bridge over the Rhine. The platoon heads into Germany, liberating concentration camps in search of Zussman, eventually reaching the Berga concentration camp, which they find abandoned; the camp's survivors were sent on a death march. Daniels finds and saves Zussman by killing Metz before he can execute him.
At the end of the war, Daniels parts ways with his platoon and returns to Texas, reuniting with his wife and newborn son. He visits the grave of his older brother, Paul (Chris Browning), who died while fighting a wolf when Red failed to shoot it in time. He places his Bronze Star medal on the grave, saying that his brother deserves it for teaching him how to fight for himself and for his brothers.
Austrian engineer Marie Fischer (Katheryn Winnick) is sent on a mission to her hometown village of Mittelburg, Bavaria by her commanding officer, Major Rideau (Darin De Paul), to retrieve lost artifacts stolen by the Nazis for experimentation, as well as rescue her brother, Klaus, who provided the information. Klaus has been unwillingly working with their lead scientist Peter Straub (Udo Kier) and weapons expert Colonel Heinz Richter (Tomm Voss) on a project to exploit a new energy dubbed "Geistkraft" (literally translates as: ‘Spiritforce’) to assist the Nazi party's war efforts. Marie is accompanied by Scottish ex-art thief Drostan Hynd (David Tennant), French Resistance fighter Olivia Durant (Élodie Yung) and American captain Jefferson Potts (Ving Rhames), all of whom have significant knowledge on the stolen arts and relics. However, on their train ride to Mittelburg, the group is attacked by an unidentified colossal being. Marie is stranded from the others, and finds herself taking temporary refuge at a small house nearby, where she holds out against hordes of dead German soldiers reanimated by Geistkraft, until she is able to make her way to the village.
After reuniting with the other three, Marie and the group proceed further down into the village's hidden bunker, where Straub has set up his laboratory. There, they fend off against Straub's undead horde, as well as Richter, whose obsession on weaponization of Geistkraft puts him at odds with Straub. Eventually, the group recovers the artifact, the hilt of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa's sword. They then encounter the creature from earlier, a humanoid-shaped amalgam of numerous body parts sewn and stitched together, dubbed the Panzermörder, with Klaus fused into the creature's chest. Using special magnetized batteries, the group manages to stun the Panzermörder and attach the batteries onto it, causing it to be attracted to Richter's zeppelin flying above the village. The zeppelin explodes, killing the Panzermörder and freeing Klaus from its body. The hilt's power somehow revives Klaus, causing him to be possessed by an unknown force. Klaus staggers into the village, telling Marie and the group to continue fighting, and that the Emperor must not return, before activating a fire trap, seemingly killing himself.
Call of Duty: World War II is the second game in the Call of Duty franchise developed by Sledgehammer Games, and the third to benefit under publisher Activision's three-year development cycle (the first being Sledgehammer's Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare) in order for a longer development time for each game. A modern Call of Duty title set in World War II was alluded to in a 2014 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare launch interview with Michael Condrey, co-founder of Sledgehammer Games. In the interview by Metro, the interviewer asked him what the possibilities of where the next Call of Duty could go in terms of setting. Condrey responded, "Well, no. It’s curious. I can only answer from my own personal tastes, this is my own personal opinion. But some of my favorite pieces of entertainment are set in World War II. Band of Brothers, I’m a massive fan of Band of Brothers." Condrey then dived further into the subject, "And that’s a great hero’s war, kind of the last that was recognised as a noble cause in a war. So yeah, I think a next generation game with the latest production values and robustness in a World War II setting like Band of Brothers would be amazing. Now, how would it play and how would the multiplayer work after the new movement set in Advanced Warfare? That’s a tougher question than I’ve had to tackle yet…".
Sledgehammer Games was hesitant to reveal all the authentic settings from World War II that developers have put into the game's storyline. Activision initially refused to deny claims that Nazi extermination camps would be featured in the game. Adam Rosenberg of Mashable wrote that video games set during World War II tended to be "Holocaust deniers" in the sense that they avoided broaching the subject for business reasons, but that this could be the very first Call of Duty World War II based game where the Holocaust would be depicted. Senior creative director Bret Robbins said in an interview "Some very, very dark thi.orgngs happened during this conflict and it felt wrong for us to ignore that." He further stated “We absolutely show atrocities. It’s an unfortunate part of the history, but you can’t tell an authentic, truthful story without going there. So we went there.” Robbins argued that audiences can now handle games with more maturity and nuance, “People are ready for it. They want it,” he said. When asked directly over Twitter as to whether or not the story campaign would allow gamers the opportunity to play as soldiers from the Axis powers such as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, Sledgehammer Games confirmed that the campaign gameplay would be limited to allied forces. More specifically, Sledgehammer co-founder Michael Condrey confirmed that the game will focus exclusively on the Allied powers.
The Windows version of the game was developed in partnership with Raven Software. In regards to it, Raven's CTO Dwight Luetscher stated that they were trying to focus on the Windows platform, as well as the community, by responding to their needs for it to excel. The Windows version features several notable changes, including removal of controller aim assist and addition of sensitivity slider for aim-down-sights mechanic.
All pre-orders excluding the PC version included access to the private beta, which was made available first on the PlayStation 4 from August 25 to 28, followed by a second week for both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One from September 1 to 4. The PC beta was announced as an open beta, and ran from September 29 to October 2 on Steam. Players who participated in the beta received the Beta Combat Pack for the full game, which contains a special in-game helmet, emblem and calling card. The game is available in three editions: Base Edition, Digital Deluxe Edition and the Pro Edition. The Pro Edition was sold exclusively at GameStop, with pre-orders of the game at GameStop also included a limited edition hat.
The game was released worldwide on November 3, 2017 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Upon the game's release, online servers were down for most of the day, inhibiting players from playing online multiplayer, as well as some not being able to access the campaign and Nazi Zombies. Activision acknowledged the problem and announced they were working to resolve it.
On December 19, 2017, Activision released a preview trailer for the first downloadable content pack, The Resistance, containing 3 new multiplayer maps: Anthropoid, Valkyrie, Occupation (the latter of which is a remake of Resistance from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3), 1 new War map: Operation Intercept, and 1 new Nazi Zombies map, The Darkest Shore. The map pack is expected to be released January 30, 2018 first on PlayStation 4, 30 days before the release on Xbox One and Steam.
Call of Duty: WWII received "generally favorable" reviews, according to review aggregator Metacritic.
Miguel Concepcion of GameSpot awarded the game a 9/10, writing that the campaign was "moving" and "salutes the brotherhood that grows and strengthens on the battlefield", while praising the game's "excellent visuals and sound design". Daniel Tack from Game Informer gave the game a 8.75/10, stating that he felt the campaign was the only drawback overall; despite capturing a "signature explosive feel through various adrenaline-fueled moments", he thought progression felt tedious as a result of "standard gunplay and endless killing fields." He praised the multiplayer as the "shining star of the three modes", especially enjoying the game's new War mode in terms of its variety, and highlighted the return to the traditional gameplay and range of customization options.
In his 8.5/10 review for Electronic Gaming Monthly, Nick Plasses wrote that the campaign's protagonists were "well characterized and [...] the cause for the game's most impactful conflicts". He praised the lack of regenerating health which gave the game "new levels of strategy and exploration, ultimately adding more entertainment than frustration", and that the reliance on fellow soldiers "necessitates more strategic positioning and resource management". IGN's Miranda Sanchez awarded the game 8/10, saying the campaign was a "more human perspective than we've seen in recent years", with interesting and diverse characters. However, she criticized its conflicting tone, as well as several repetitive and frustrating missions. She wrote that the Zombies was the standout mode in the game, which helped strike "a rewarding balance for the diehard zombies fans [...] and those that just want to jump in and have a good time", although criticized that the experience suffered when playing with other people.
Destructoid's Chris Moyse praised the game as a "satisfying experience" and the campaign as "one of the series' best in some time", but felt that "it also makes little effort to overhaul the brand as a whole, playing it incredibly safe when the opportunity for reinvention was right there for the taking." Polygon's Russ Frushtick generally praised the multiplayer, calling it "strong and enjoyable", but criticized the campaign, writing that "just about every mission feels like déjà vu, as if I'd played it before in another game" and that "Changing the time period so dramatically only helps to highlight how little has changed since the franchise's total re-imagining with Call of Duty 4." Jeff Gerstmann of Giant Bomb was more critical of the game as a whole, stating that "despite all of Activision's big talk about "boots on the ground" action and how this was going to be some big deal, the setting change didn't bring any new and exciting inspiration with it. This feels like the most wheel-spinning, by-the-numbers Call of Duty they've made thus far."
The game earned over $500 million within its first three days of release.