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Call of Duty WWII Preview | A Controversial Return



Activision announced the production and release of Call of Duty: WWII earlier in 2017, and with Sledgehammer Games heading up development, the newest addition to the Call of Duty (CoD) series is looking like a polished return to its roots. Recently, OnlySP had the opportunity to go hands-on with a demo of the game. The demo was a multiplayer battle featuring one of the more popular game modes: Domination. Utilizing standard current-gen graphics, enveloping audio, and heart-pounding gameplay mechanics, Call of Duty: WWII is shaping up to be a fun and memorable, but also quintessential experience that might see CoD propelled to new heights. Simultaneously, the game will also attempt to retain its title as the king of World War II first-person shooters.

From the moment players load up the match, CoD: WWII looks appropriately similar to past installments. The terrain—a battle-torn ruin complete with a couple of bunkers and a centralized crumbling shelter—is a testament of how far graphics have come since the previous CoD based in World War II (2008’s World at War). While World at War’s visuals were considered cutting-edge at the time of the game’s release on PC, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360, they pale in comparison to that of Sledgehammer’s current WWII iteration. Every inch of the map is a symbol of the technological advancement that has accompanied current-gen consoles since 2013. Stones appear rough and chipped, buildings stand devastated down to their foundation, banners are ripped and battered, and the ground is pockmarked by craters and debris.

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CoD: WWII’s soldiers sport uniforms iconic to the time period, with US troops dressed in green-brown and German troops adorned in a darker grey-green. The definition of each uniform is sometimes unique to the player-character (PC) based on their weapon loadout (for example, snipers often wear a ghillie suit in lieu of the typical military uniform). Looking closely, players will be able to see pockets, snaps, utility belts, clips, spare magazines, grenades, and various other accessories on characters’ clothes. This particular attention to detail is unsurprising given Sledgehammer’s commitment to providing an authentic World War II experience that adheres to CoD’s realistic yet arcade style.

The rest of WWII’s graphics revolve around the weapons’ details, explosions, smoke, and weather effects, all of which are impressive, but commonplace. The graphics are unlikely to be the deciding factor on whether or not CoD: WWII is a success. When most AAA titles display high quality visuals, determining a game’s success based on its graphics is a rather unrealistic approach. However, when combined with the other elements of what makes a great game, the visuals can certainly tip the scale one way or the other. With CoD, the graphics would result in a net positive should the rest of the content be a mixture of high and low quality.

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CoD: WWII’s sound effects are what one would expect from a first-person shooter set in World War II. Gunfire’s repetitive, deafening cracking; the cacophonous booms blasted by grenades and heavier explosions; and the rapid zips and thumps associated with bullets ripping across the battlefield and tearing into flesh and buildings all come together to deliver an impactful, minacious atmosphere. In addition, the shouts and callouts of US and German troops reporting on developing situations, such as a capture point being overrun or captured by allied players, return in a professionally-delivered manner. When listening to the troops update players, one cannot help but find their convincing narrative fitting. However, the true voice acting test will occur in the full game’s single-player campaign upon release.

The remaining audio revolves around soldiers panting while sprinting, the clanking and jingling of troops’ metallic gear clinking around during long runs, and weapon tapping when reloading. These effects are common among shooters, and do not elevate the game to the next level by themselves. Withal, the sounds work in conjunction with the rest of the gameplay to fabricate a genuine war experience, one likely to leave excited fans eager for the return to World War II satisfied with their playthroughs. Though, as with all previews, one should remain skeptical until the final product is released and ready for review.

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Gameplay remains a typical Call of Duty endeavor. With the game’s controls being identical to past titles and the smooth movements of the PC, Call of Duty: WWII is the latest addition to a series steeped in fluidity. Tossing grenades, firing different weapons at varying rates, and surviving absurd encounters are all par for the course in this series that debuted 14 years ago. So far, Call of Duty’s actual gameplay offers no real innovations. However, OnlySP is excited to review the game at a later date to see what Sledgehammer Games has in store for the franchise’s fans. With standards constantly being raised within the industry, a slight amount of originality can be the difference between decent and astounding.

In its current state, Call of Duty: WWII is more of the same from the franchise, regardless of promises for something both consistent and new. However, a typical experience does not make the game a bad one. On the contrary, a typical experience is often a relished one, and is the norm because fans gravitate towards the gameplay in question. Not every game has to shatter records. Nevertheless, OnlySP will be interested in covering Call of Duty: WWII’s campaign, ready to analyze the plot, characters, and the depiction of soldiers pitted against overwhelming opposition and seemingly insurmountable odds. War is a nasty business, and portraying the nitty gritty atrocities of war and their effects on the comrades-in-arms (phrased based on Sledgehammer’s controversial decision to include female soldiers in World War II’s militaries) will be a challenging undertaking for Sledgehammer based on their descriptions of the game so far. Keep an eye out for OnlySP’s review at a later date, and be sure to check out the site’s other recent previews.


198X Review — A Nostalgia Trip Without a Destination




Some short stories feel more like chapters—snipped out of a larger work—that struggle to make sense on their own. 198X represents a translation of that ethos to video game form. As a result, the game feels unfulfilling, though that does not detract from the overall quality on offer. Ultimately, the player’s appraisal of 198X will depend on whether they place more stock in story or gameplay because while the former leaves much to be desired, the latter will be a hit for anyone with fond memories of the 8- and 16-bit classics.

In the framing and overall structure, 198X is decidedly modern, but everything else pulses with a retro vibe. At its core, the game is a compilation, weaving together five distinct experiences under the auspice of a story of personal development. From the Double Dragon-infused ‘Beating Heart’ to the turn-based dungeon RPG ‘Kill Screen’, each title feels slick, if a little undercooked. Those old-school originals could only dream of being as smooth as these throwbacks. However, the two-button input methodology results in the games feeling just a touch too simple, though their brevity—each clocking in at a maximum of 15 minutes (depending on the player’s skill level and muscle memory)—makes that less of an issue than it might have been. If more depth is present, it is hidden well, as the game lacks any sort of tutorial to guide players. Nevertheless, the stellar presentation goes a long way towards papering over the cracks.

The pixel art aesthetic of 198X is staggering. Each of the worlds that players make their way through is pitched perfectly to fit the mood it evokes. From the grungy brawler of the first game to the more melancholic mood of the open-road racer, the screen is drenched in lavish colour and far more detail than one might expect from such a seemingly simple art style.

Easily a match for the visuals is the audio. The in-game sounds of a car engine or bone-crunching strike are low-key, which allows the music to come to the fore. Those tunes are all from the electronic genre, simple, yet layered with enough depth to not feel tedious or tiring. Easily overshadowing all the rest though is Maya Tuttle’s voice-over narration as The Kid. Her tone is one of pervasive resignation that works to reinforce the same mood within the script.

That melancholia will surely strike a chord with anyone who has grown up on the fringes. The Kid speaks of once loving and now hating the Suburbia of their childhood, where memories of happiness collide with a contemporary feeling of entrapment. The words and lines are powerfully evocative—made even more so by the connection between the gameworlds and the prevailing emotion at that point. The problem is that they amount to nothing. The story comprises of these snippets—these freestanding scenes of life lived lonely—that never coalesce into anything. The Kid may find an arcade and speak of finding some sort of home and a source of strength, but it goes nowhere. The game ends just as things start to get interesting. Setting up for a sequel is no sin. Plenty of other games and media products—from Dante’s Inferno to Harry Potter—have done just that. However, to be effective, such first parts need to offer a story in and of themselves, not just the promise of a story to come, and that is where 198X falls apart.

With each game in the compilation being a straightforward, one-and-done affair and the overarching narrative feeling like a prologue at best, 198X is wafer-thin. The presentation is simply remarkable, and the package has enough variety to be worth a look, but the unmistakable impression is that something is missing.

OnlySP Review Score 2 Pass

Reviewed on PC. Coming soon to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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