Call of Duty: WWII - title

I haven't played a Call of Duty game since World At War on the PS3 almost 10 years ago. I really liked the first two CoD games on PC, but after Infinity Ward stopped developing the games, they increasingly focused on spectacle rather than any attempt to accurately portray war. After throwing back more enemy grenades in the first mission of World At War than were probably ever manufactured in all of World War II (I'm exaggerating a little bit), I got sick of that game and basically gave up on the franchise.

After having a little bit of fun with EA's Battlefield 1, I decided to pick up a used copy of Call of Duty World War II from eBay. I was curious if the return to World War II would be taken a little bit more seriously by Activision. It wasn't. This is the same old stale Call of Duty that I've been actively avoiding for the past decade. The single-player campaign didn't do anything to pull me in.

A light-gun shooting gallery

Probably the biggest problem with the campaign is just how rote and repetitive it feels. Almost all of the game's missions boil down to moving from one shooting gallery to another. When you aren't in an outright combat tunnel (like a bunker or trench), you're only given about a hundred feet of lateral space to work with. The whole game feels very confined and small in scale, with very few opportunities for any tactical movement such as flanking maneuvers. Just sit behind cover and pop out to take a few shots, then repeat. It might as well be an on-rails shooter, or one of those pop-out-and-shoot light-gun arcade machines like Time Crisis. I wonder if this was maybe done to make the game work better in VR? Maybe they wanted to reduce the amount of movement so that players don't get motion sick? But it's not VR, so it just comes off as lazy and tedious.

Almost all the missions boil down to moving from one narrow shooting gallery to another.

Even when the game tries to do something a little different, it usually still finds a way to make it uninteresting, or to outright get it wrong. There are some stealth mechanics shoe-horned into the game -- because of course there's stealth mechanics. They are rudimentary and very unforgiving. It's clear that certain segments are intended to be played stealthily, but you just don't have the tools necessary to make it work, and the levels aren't designed very well for stealth. Your limited field of view makes environmental and situational awareness very difficult. It's hard to tell where enemies are, and it's also hard to tell if your'e hidden behind cover. Even if you are effectively hidden, you can't peek out of cover to monitor the enemy's position or movements.

After stealth killing one or two enemies, I almost always got caught and was forced into more shoot-outs. Many of these scenarios involve the player being isolated and usually disarmed, so that you don't have the firepower to easily deal with a shootout when it inevitably happens. Put simply, the stealth is only barely functional and might as well not even have been included.

The undercover "Liberation" mission is the only level that is actually built around stealth.

The only stealth level that worked was the undercover "Liberation" mission with the Marquis (which you mostly play as a different character). ...

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This review was originally published 09/14/2010 on Game Observer (now defunct as of 5/13/2014). It has been republished here for archival purposes.

The Saboteur

The Saboteur cover art

An artistically inspired, very fun, but rough-around-the-edges game.

The Saboteur is a very novel game. For one thing, it is a fresh and appealing take on the stagnant genre of World War II-themed games. Essentially GTA in Nazi-occupied France, this game is pretty to look at and a lot of fun to play, even though its features aren’t as fleshed-out as one would like. The game is also surprisingly risqué by EA standards, offering actual nudity, plenty of F-bombs, and loads of gratuitous violence. While I don’t mind seeing more adult content in a game, it is disappointing that Pandemic didn’t find interesting gameplay functions for it. Instead, it’s all just for show.

The Producers - Franz Liebkind
Franz Liebkind disapproves!

The big draw for this game is going to be its unique art style. Areas of Paris that are under the control of the Nazis are rendered in black and white, with yellow, red, and occasionally blue highlights and complete with rain clouds and thunder and lightning. Areas that are under the control of the Resistance are rendered in full pastel color, in full sunlight and with birds singing. It’s a cool effect, and adds a bit of variety to the game’s otherwise uninteresting visuals. However, the colored areas of the city don’t look nearly as interesting as the black-and-white areas, and it’s almost a shame you have to free the city from the Nazis. On the other side of the spectrum, the black-and-white areas are just too dark at the recommended brightness level, and make it hard to see where you are going. But it’s nothing some tweaks to the game’s or TV’s settings can’t fix.

The Saboteur - strip club hideout
Your base of operations is in a secret room in the back of a strip club, complete with peep-hole.
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