Interestingly enough, we had a lot of positive things to say about Call of Duty: Black Ops III's multiplayer when it was going through its beta. We liked how it was a middle ground between the so-called “boots on the ground” playstyle and Advanced Warfare's twitchy, movement-based skill. However, we came to loathe the multiplayer a few weeks after the game’s launch. Everybody was still finding their footing during the beta, so it felt different and exciting. But the final product turned into a madhouse of skill dependent on movement and verticality. We actually felt like it somewhat worked for Advanced Warfare, but it didn’t jive well with Black Ops III’s gunplay. Don’t get us started on how Infinite Warfare exacerbated this problem along with bloated features and unlockables.
That’s why Call of Duty: WWII is a breath of fresh air. It strips the series of its recent turns toward speed and movement with extra mechanics, instead opting for a simpler control scheme identical to Black Ops; there’s no boosting, sliding, or wall-running – just the good, old dolphin dive. It’s a slower-paced, simpler Call of Duty with no frills, but it still has surprising shifts by upsetting long-established approaches to the series’ customisable systems. Some of these shifts are superficial, and more gameplay and balancing tweaks are needed, but as the beta stands, it holds promise for a Call of Duty multiplayer we might like to return to often.
You’ve probably heard of the new Headquarters arena where players can congregate, compete, and open loot boxes, but this wasn’t in the beta despite there being a cutscene giving you a bird’s eye view of the place. It follows your character being escorted to Divisions Training where you watch clips of military leaders telling you about the eponymous factions you can join. Rest assured, you’re not committing to one permanently. Each create-a-class can make use of any Division, which are curious mixes of iconic perks and attachments specialised for usage with particular weapon groups.
The one we selected, Mountain, is for snipers. When you ADS, you’ll receive extra aim assist and the area around your scope will be blacked out for focus. As you play with this class, you’ll level up with it and unlock new abilities like silent movement, being invisible on enemy radars, and a new weapon. The Infantry Division is for assault rifles and automatically equips them with a bayonet. You’ll eventually unlock the ability to have more attachments and ammo, too. However, should you decide you want more ammo and attachments for your SMG, the bayonet will not be applied to the weapon. The first benefits of each Division are weapon specific, so you’re somewhat discouraged from choosing Divisions that run counter to their weapon class counterparts.
This is agonising with the realisation that silencers are only for SMGs with the Airborne Division, so say goodbye to quiet sniper and assault rifles. A good majority of the additional benefits were available outside of Divisions with Basic Training, which is basically the perks system with a new face and name. You were able to have the Mountain’s silence with the Phantom ribbon or the Infantry’s extra ammo with the Loaded ribbon in earlier versions of the multiplayer. However, it seems as though the beta has done away with ribbons like these to prevent benefits from cross-populating across Divisions and Basic Training. So if you really want silent footsteps and not being spotted by recon killstreaks with a shotgun, you’ll have to go with the Mountain Division. You have to compromise with these new systems, which reorder – for better or worse – how series conventions are equipped with more neatly categorised roles.
There’s no new modes to speak of with the exception of War, which is a legitimately clever one that we can’t believe other shooters haven’t copped already. It boils down to a hodgepodge of modes rolled into one with a more cinematic vibe. Instead of everyone trying to get kills or moving to the next hard-point, one side is trying to defend or prevent the other team from doing all sorts of things. In Operation Breakout, the first objective is to storm and control a point to access intel. Once this is done, the attackers move forward to build a bridge, which requires a lot of smoke grenades and teammates watching each others’ backs. Then the mode turns into a brief vignette of Sabotage followed by an Overwatch-esque payload mission where you escort a tank. Think of it as Battlefield 1’s Operations mode, but instead, it’s asymmetrical and has even more modes thrown in.
We found it a lot of fun because the typically short duration time that each mode vignette lasts fits Call of Duty’s quick-natured pace. There’s a lot of creative, potential mixes and mashes of different modes in War, so we hope several more are added upon the game’s release. Besides this, you have your usual fare with TDM, Domination, and the like, but what about the actual maps? From the three in rotation, we’re hoping that the final game will have bigger and more open maps. The majority of them aren’t sniper friendly and have some bad respawning and weird flow. Call us salty, but we felt like stumbling across groups of enemies and getting killed from behind felt even more prominent than usual.
Another issue that’s hard to objectively consider is how we felt like there was lag and major hit scan issues. There were countless times where we undoubtedly landed a hit or even multiple ones, and yet enemies would respectively be unfazed or shrug it off like nothing. We also felt that ADS and even hip firing out of sprint felt too slow, making us overly cautious. Balancing issues to consider would be buffing LMGs (because no one uses them) and debuffing the range and/or damage of grenades.
Besides these quibbles, it’s nice to get back to smaller create-a-class arrangements, simpler killstreaks, and butter smooth gameplay that brings the skill of gunplay into focus again. It’s hard to say whether separating perks in terms of specificity with Divisions and Basic Training is limiting in a good or bad way, and Sledgehammer Games has some kinks to sort out before launch, too. But if you’ve been looking for a Call of Duty more reminiscent in design to the likes of World at War and Black Ops, then you’ll parachuting into the right war come this November.
Did you get to play the first iteration of Call of Duty: WWII's beta? What are your thoughts on the multiplayer so far? Any strengths or weaknesses that we failed to mention? Heil us in the comments section below to let us know, and be sure to check out the second run of the private beta this coming Friday.