Some Thoughts About the Call of Duty: WWII Private Beta

Posted on August 26, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Games, Xbox One with 16 Comments

As a huge fan of the Call of Duty series, I’m intensely curious about the series’ return to World War II.

Rumors about this change have been around for years, but with Activision’s various studios failing to launch a successful new series in the wake of Call of Duty: Ghosts, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,and then Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the firm was forced to make some big changes.

And I feel that it has chosen poorly.

Unless, that is, there is more to this plan than Activision has thus far stated.

As you may recall, Activision in April announced that it would return Call of Duty to its World War II roots with the next installment of this best-selling game series, called Call of Duty: WWII. At the time, I noted that World War II is not the answer to the problems plaguing COD.

So what do I mean by that? It’s not that Call of Duty: WWII can’t be a great game. In fact, just looking at the limited Private Beta this week—it’s available to those who preorder the game digitally, first on PlayStation 4, and then next week on Xbox One—I can see how graphically advanced it is, and how wonderful and tight the controls are.

The issue is that, no matter the graphics fidelity and playability, World War II is played out. We’ve seen and done all of this before. Starting up the beta for the first time, I was instantly transported back to the opening scene of Call of Duty 3 as it appears to be a reimagining of that 11-year-old intro.

Here we go again, back to Europe in the 1940s.

Nostalgia can only get you so far. Nintendo gets this, When it releases throwback NES and SNES consoles, it does so for a limited time only to stoke interest. And it doesn’t try to release new games for the things. This market is, by definition, small and temporary.

More to the point, I can’t see Activision creating a new series out of this war. And that, ultimately, is the problem: The real failures of Ghosts, Advanced Warfare, and Infinite Warfare is that they did not garner enough interest to grow them into three-game arcs that could help pad out a decade of gaming. Each was designed for that purpose. And each failed.

Wintery Ardennes map.

A couple of points.

One of those games, Call of Duty: Ghosts, was actually excellent, and was, in my opinion, the apex of the “classic” Call of Duty game series. That should have, still could, form the basis for a three-game series.

A game that came between Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, was likewise excellent. Was arguably the best version of COD ever made. And that’s true despite the fact that it is one of the “nouveau” versions of the game, with the wall-running and jet packing game style that COD purists seem to hate. But it worked in BO3. Interesting.

Pointe Du Hoc map.

What Activision is looking for is a way to push three separate series, each by a different studio, and each released once every three years. It is remotely possible that a World War II series could fit into this scheme, but I doubt it. Instead, I’d rather see a new Modern Warfare trilogy, a new Black Ops trilogy. And then Ghosts. Each should offer multiplayer modes that provide both classic and “nouveau” game styles. And then actual gamers can choose which of them are best.

As for the Call of Duty: WWII Private Beta, it’s a pretty game even on a non-4K console. I will be watching to see how closely the Xbox One S can mimic the PS4, and am expecting them to be identical. I will be watching going forward to see how the 4K versions look and play on the respective consoles as well.

Looking down-sight in the Gibraltar map.

But in its current form, Call of Duty: WWII provides just a handful of multiplayer maps with just a handful of game types, and no single player campaign at all. We have a bit over two months to go before we see the final game, which will be complete, and will expand over time with downloadable content (DLC).

But as good as it is, I’m worried about longevity. Not just from a series sense but for the following year. I tend to stick with the latest COD title for the year after which it’s released, and the availability of multiplayer map pack DLC helps make that happen. With Advanced Warfare, I actually went back to the Xbox 360 and played older COD games instead. And then with Infinite Warfare this past year, I played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered instead. I’m still playing it.

All I’m looking for is a positive K/D.

And … it’s better than Call of Duty: WWII. It’s not as pretty. And there are some age-related issues around kill/score-streaks and so. But it’s still the better game. As I can now compare them. I know, it’s not fair. But I will choose to spend my time the way I choose to spend my time. And if the rest of Call of Duty: WWII multiplayer is just more of this … I don’t know.

Reviewers are going to prattle on and on about the “satisfyingly metal click” that classic weapons make, about the visceral action they perceive from the World War II settings, and other nonsense. But COD is not something you play for two weeks and put down. And the issue with something this old-fashioned and, sorry, nostalgic, is that that what Call of Duty: WWII seems to lack is long-term appeal. It doesn’t address Activisions’s need. Or my needs as a long-time COD fan and gamer.

So, we’ll see. I will hop in next week on the Xbox One version of the game’s Private Beta. And I’ll be there in early November when the full game arrives. But my initial concerns remain.


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