One of the best new features of multiplayer for Call of Duty: WWII is War mode. It’s one of the features that makes WWII stand out from previous Call of Duty games, as it requires real teamwork.
Reminiscent of Battlefield video games, this mode has multiple objectives that you have to take in order to win. If you figure out the right role to play, you can dominate the battle and make dying very easy for your enemies. Each six-on-six match has two parts. One team starts out defending and the other is on the offensive. One is American, while the other German.
At a review event, I played three of the scenarios for War mode: Operation Breakout, Omaha Beach, and Operation Griffin. Each of them was exciting, with narrow victories and heroic moments. You can see Operation Breakout in the embedded video.
I trundled around with my big Lewis gun, a light machine gun that has a lot of killing power and a long range. But it slows you down and takes a long time to reload. It suits me because my reactions aren’t that fast. I can’t use a submachine gun and expect to land four bullets on a target to get a kill. The Lewis gun can kill with one or two hits. And I can hit targets accurately from a farther distance. I chose to let others fight with close-range weapons such as submachine guns or incendiary shotguns.
In Operation Breakout, I started out on the German side. I still used my World War I-era Lewis light machine gun, built by the U.S., but we’ll ignore that bit of historical inaccuracy. That’s one of the sacrifices on behalf of gameplay that I can’t fault Sledgehammer Games for.
Operation Breakout is set in a town in Normandy, where the Allies need to take out some antiaircraft guns with a tank. The Germans start out by defending a big mansion from attacking G.I.s. The windows and doors are entry points. My team boarded one of the big windows and made it harder for the Americans to rush the house. I manned a deadly MG-42 machine gun and got some early kills. But the enemy wised up and outflanked me. We lost control of the house and had to fall back to the bridge.
At the bridge, the Americans had the almost impossible task of building a bridge while under fire from the Germans on the other side. I camped out in one of the two-story buildings overlooking the river. I was able to hit the snipers on the right, as well as the engineers trying to build the bridge. But the enemy reacted by throwing smoke on the bridge. I tossed grenades and fired into the smoke.
After they built the bridge, we had to deal with the advancing tank and an attack on our ammo dump. And finally, we had to make a last-ditch attempt to save the AA guns. It was a pitched battle that went back and forth. When I switched to the American side, I found that I could defend the engineers on the bridge by shooting through the masonry walls of the two-story building overlooking the bridge. That made me feel happy to have my Lewis gun. Operation Breakout was my favorite War mode map.
I managed to do well in the match, getting 18 kills. Notably, the game doesn’t tell you how many deaths you had, as War mode isn’t about getting a good kill-death ratio, said Michael Condrey, cofounder of Sledgehammer, in an interview. Rather, it promotes teamwork over individual achievement.
Operation Neptune landings on Omaha Beach
In this case, it seems like the Allies have no chance. And that’s the way it was at the real D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. You get a sense of how hopeless it is to try to run up the beach, get to the barbed wire, ascend the bluffs, clear the bunkers, go into the trenches, and then blow up the enemy communications.
But that’s exactly what the American side has to do in this battle. Fortunately for the Americans, a bunch of non-player characters storm the beach with you during Operation Neptune, as the landing assault was called. The German machine gunners can shoot them in hopes of finding one of the six human players. Meanwhile, the American human players can hide among the anti-ship cross bars and try to snipe at the German machine gunners.
Once the Americans get close enough, they can blow up the barbed wire with Bangalore torpedoes. When they advance on the bunkers, they have to use demolition charges to blow the doors and then rush in, possibly under the cover of smoke. Once the battle moves into the bunkers, the battle is more even. It comes down to whoever can shoot around a corner more quickly and accurately.
Finally, the Americans have to assault a multi-level bunker and take out the communications, and then destroy some big guns. Since the bunker has many points of entry, the Germans have a much harder time defending the area, and it becomes easier for the Americans to seize a final victory.
The scene looked epic and spectacular, as far as the environmental animations go. But I didn’t enjoy this particular battle as much, as I had higher expectations for the epic D-Day battle. But I understood the challenge, as the Germans have the overwhelming advantage in pillboxes on bluffs overlooking the beach, just like in the real battle. It’s really hard to design this multiplayer battle so that it’s fair. Still, the way that Sledgehammer designed the battle made sense.
This battle depicts the opening of the Battle of the Bulge, when the Germans fought back in a counterattack in the Ardennes forest in the winter of 1944. The Germans have three tanks that can move along three paths into the Allied lines. The tanks have to be escorted by German infantry. If the Americans shoot the German infantry, then the tanks retreat. Griffin refers to a commando operation that was used to capture bridges over the Meuse river.
The Allies have the advantage of laying mines, obstacles, or manning fixed machine guns. The Germans can get atop the tanks and shoot the MG-42 heavy machine guns. The German infantry can get atop the tanks and be exposed, or trail behind the tanks and have cover against everything except flanking.
The best thing for the Americans to do is to charge the tanks and try to outflank the Germans. But once again, I found my role as a machine gunner sitting behind some sandbags.
Once the Germans take the first line, they have to obtain gasoline for the tanks. The Americans can defend locations like a barn against the enemy attacks, building defenses such as a wall for the barn. But if the Germans steal the gas, the Americans have to retreat back to the final bridge.
I had some of the most tense win-or-lose moments in this battle as escorting the tank through the final barrier is a monumental challenge in a hell of a bottleneck, where all the players come together at once in an intense firefight. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed War mode.
Call of Duty: WWII is available on November 3 for the PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a copy of PS4 edition of the game for this review, and I attended a review event.