Men-on-a-mission movies set during World War II – such as Guns of the Navarone or Where Eagles Dare – that see a mismatched group of people embarking on near suicidal missions have long been inspiration for video games. RAID: World War II – a co-op multiplayer title in the vein of the Payday series – hopes to apply this oft-used setup in possibly the most straightforward translation possible as you guide a cadre of operatives on their mission to stick it to the Nazi war machine by stealing loads of gold and blowing a whole bunch of stuff up.
To say RAID: World War II is in the vein of the Payday series is probably a bit of an understatement, as in quite a few ways it feels like a Payday game in period specific fancy dress. This shouldn’t be all that surprising given that developer Lion Game Lion has close ties to the Payday team, and even worked on some add-on content for the series in the past. The trouble is RAID: World War II has few of the strengths of the Payday games but a whole lot of its weaknesses – even going as far to throw a few new ones into the mix as well.
Playable either online with other players or offline with AI bots, each of the missions has you working through multiple steps as you make your way towards your ultimate goal, whether it’s blowing up the front of a treasury building so you can loot it contents or infiltrating a flak gun tower so you can take down a nearby airship.
Understandably the Nazis aren’t just going to let you go about your destructive business, and while a few of the missions can, in theory, be completed stealthily, you have so few tools to deal with the eagle eyed soldiers silently that it’s difficult not to end up going all gun blazing. This would be fine since all the best mission movies end with a big shootout, but fighting the enemies in RAID: World War II is an unsatisfying experience to say the least.
One of the best parts of the Payday games was the ebb and flow of the combat as you weathered each police assault, but in this case the pacing feels way more inconsistent as it swings from having no enemies in sight one minute to waves of enemies appearing in what feels like a constant flow the next. These poorly animated, identikit Nazis mill around in packs before hiding out behind cover, or make a beeline for your position, which results in most engagements taking place at close to point blank range.
Each mission is designed to be replayed so you can accumulate the experience you need to level up the four different character classes you can play: Recon, Assault, Demolition, and Insurgent. While this allows you to unlock new abilities for each class, none of these upgrades end up being very interesting – outside of unlocking new weapons – with most revolving around either increasing the impact of something you can already do, or decreasing the effect of something the enemies can do to you. Even the supposedly powerful "war cries" that each character class has are unimaginative, offering some totally underwhelming temporary buffs that never feel like they make that much of an difference when you use them.
While your characters will get noticeably more formidable as you progress, what you’re doing in your first hour will be exactly what you’ll be doing ten hours later. Even some slight randomisation around the location of some objectives isn’t enough to keep things from getting tired quickly, and upping the difficulty of the missions either by ramping it up to a higher level or using challenge cards that apply modifiers in exchange for increased rewards – acquired from random drops after a successful a mission – only serve to make the frustrating enemies, who manage to shoot you with pinpoint accuracy the moment you break cover, even more annoying to deal with.
Should you be unfortunate enough to fail a mission you’ll end up with an absolutely pitiful amount of experience for your trouble, and while success should rightly be incentivised, you’ll all too frequently fail through no fault of your own due to this title’s biggest problem: its bugs
This reviewer lost count of how often RAID: World War II crashed mid-mission, and even failed to complete one of the operations – where up to six mini-missions are linked together – in the final stage due to a crash. On top of this, the scripting broke multiple times in raids leaving the players present with no choice but to quit and try again.
Even forgetting the rampant technical issues RAID: World War II is an unpolished game with the animation and graphical fidelity being a particular let down. Drab textures, sparsely detailed environments, and some wonky character movements come together to make a title that would’ve raised comment if it released on the PlayStation 3 and arguably isn’t worth the £30 asking price.
Given the lack of polish in virtually every area of the game, the inclusion of some FMV sequences ends up being perplexing, and rather jarring to boot. What’s even more mind-boggling is that they got John Cleese to appear in some of these sections as the man in charge of your missions back in England. As if Mr Cleese delivering his usual tired shtick wasn’t enough, at the end of a mission you’re also treated to some odd short clips of an actor absolutely hamming it up as Hitler in an appropriately happy or angry mood depending on how your team did.
Probably the biggest concern with any multiplayer focussed title, though, will be around the health of its player base and how easy it is to link up with other players. To its credit RAID: World War II has a server browser so you can quickly see the available games at any time, but on the downside it lays bare just how few people are actually playing.
With the number of games frequently in the single digits and the player count rarely breaking into the twenties it doesn’t bode well for this title having a thriving community further down the road. If playing with the AI was better this wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world, but they’re just not good enough. They’re fine in helping you shoot Nazis but they struggle to revive you consistently, especially if you get downed in an out of the way place they’ll have trouble finding their way to.
RAID: World War II apes the Payday series so intentionally that it’s pretty hard not to view it as an ill-advised spin off. With dated presentation, tedious combat, and a consistently low player count, it actually feels like a step back when compared to Payday 2. Perhaps the biggest nail in its coffin, though, is just how buggy it is, with frequent crashes and broken scripting fanning the fires of your disappointment until it resembles the haunted look in John Cleese’s eyes during the atrocious FMV cut-scenes.