Over the short (or average, for this series) five- to six-hour campaign, I slowly but surely found empathy for Daniels and his squad. The story is built mostly through excellently animated cutscenes and in narration after missions – the standard Call of Duty fare. I appreciate that while Daniels and his squad fought the obvious Nazi enemy, the tension between characters also developed as they found themselves deeper and deeper in the war, and that drove much of the drama. The squad isn’t trying to take down the biggest, baddest enemy they can find; they’re just trying to survive and do their best to make a difference as things get progressively worse. It’s a more human perspective than we’ve seen in recent years.
The 1944 European setting definitely provides for an interesting Call of Duty experience. Taking a step away from a long stint of futuristic shooters – including last year’s far-future Infinite Warfare – this Call of Duty understandably loses a lot of the past games’ verticality and speed, but that’s not to say that combat is slow. It does require a bit more patience in identifying targets, more accurate shooting without the assistance of a variety of high-tech scopes and sights, and it tacks on a campaign exclusive health bar for Daniels that requires constant attention, but enemies still drop fast and I still needed to keep constantly moving to stay alive.
It’s refreshing: it felt good to be a little grounded, vulnerable, and have a less flashy HUD. But WW2 doesn’t leave you high and dry when it comes to equipment and options. Instead of relying on exosuits and drones for assistance to turn you into a one-man army, you depend on a squad to behave like an actual army. Daniels’ teammates each have an item ability – ammo, grenades, enemy callouts, artillery strikes, first aid kits – that charges up as you kill enemies, and they certainly pulled their weight as I called on them to resupply me in battle. It’s a tradeoff, as I found I had to stay close to them to redeem their perks, limiting my movement a bit. Overall, teamwork is a nice substitution for technology.