I received quite a shock last night, browsing the trending videos on Youtube when one title immediately caught by eye: Call of Duty: WWII trailer reveal. You’re immediately greeted by Roosevelt’s metallic tones and a close-up of some rather damp-looking blokes in massive bathtubs, drifting lazily towards the beach. This delightful summer holiday is quickly cut short by swelling brass and booming artillery as we realise that we aren’t in fact approaching Cleethorpes, but the beaches of Normandy.
It’s a dramatic stride back into the Second World War, a setting untouched by the series for nearly a decade. Many have accused Sledgehammer of following DICE’s lead in turning back the clock, but it seems that both developers were unaware of their competitor’s project. Besides the rampant success of Battlefield 1 and an audience more than a little fatigued by the ‘near but ever so slightly distant future’ of recent Call of Duty outings means that 2017 might just be right time to return to the series’ roots.
I quickly begin to feel that I’m watching a History channel documentary cut together by somebody with the attention span of a particularly jumpy frog
The trailer shifts from the landings to a montage of chaos and confusion, an ominous voiceover reminding us that the Allies are “all that separates the world from darkness”. Darkness seems a strangely vague way to say Nazis, but it does suggest far greater stakes than previous instalments. Our focus soon tightens and we’re treated to a look at some of our American buddies-in-arms before German armour blows them away. I quickly begin to feel that I’m watching a History channel documentary cut together by somebody with the attention span of a particularly jumpy frog: a bombing run, some sweaty guys, a church exploding, pretty run of the mill stuff.
The writing follows suit: “How many?” “We had orders!” Fists follow and I’m assured that – just like war – Call of Duty will never change. Same shameless insubordination, same sacrifices made ‘for the mission; no doubt we’ll end up with our steely squad leader dying in our arms as he confesses just as how wrong about us he was, how we’re the best darn soldier he’s ever seen.
More History channel fare follows interspersed by some exposition about “the bloody First,” our buddies-in-arms. A little digging turns up that the 1st Infantry Division saw action during Operation Torch and Husky as well as the D-Day landings. With all their talk of “the mission,” I’m sure the campaign will see players on reconnaissance missions not dissimilar in tone or gameplay to those of the series’ more contemporary settings.
I’ve never been the biggest Call of Duty fan or played a great deal of the series’ older outings, but WWII looks to be a breath of fresh air for the series – even as it returns to the Western Front.