Having recently revealed Call of Duty: WWII's campaign behind closed doors, Activision divulged lots of multiplayer details here at E3 2017. We played several matches against other members of the press, including the thrilling new War mode. These are our thoughts.
Upon joining a multiplayer game, players select their divisions, Call of Duty: WWII's replacement for the traditional class system. Multiplayer offers five basic divisions, with two variations of each for a total of ten divisions. All divisions are based on authentic World War II combat roles, such as Infantry and Airborne (paratroopers).
Divisions have one class-specific skill and two passive forms of training that provide multiple benefits. Skills can be activated at will, generally by hitting left on the D-Pad. As a few examples, Infantry 1 performs a bayonet charge that helps him close distances with deadly speed; Armored 2 mounts his machine gun against a ledge or on the ground to reduce its recoil; and Expeditionary 1 can swap out his shotgun shells for flaming rounds that cause enemies to burn to death.
As for training, these are the buffs that make each side feel like a member of his or her profession. I primarily played as Expeditionary 1 (the shotgunner), whose training perks include Sapper III (extra magazines, immunity to shell shock, and reduced explosive damage) and Ordnance (Scorestreaks cost less and add the ability to re-roll care packages). The two variations of each division vary in their Basic Training perks (and sometimes secondary weapons). Instead of Ordnance, Expeditionary 2 has the ability to dual wield pistols, for instance.
Divisions apparently can't be customized, a decision the developer, Sledgehammer, made to streamline the multiplayer existence and presumably, maintain balance. But, of course, you can still change your character model. As expected, you can even play as women in multiplayer.
We played three competitive multiplayer game types, including the traditional Team Deathmatch and Domination, in which teams fight to capture three points on the map. But the most exciting game type was easily the new one: War.
War is objective-based, with one team on offense and the other defending. The flow of the match has an actual progression to it that resembles Overwatch and certain Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 modes. The E3 War map is called Operation Breakout.
As the Allied attackers, our team's first objective is to capture the command post inside a picturesque three-story European house. Should we have encountered too much resistance at the front of the house, we had the option to build a gun nest outside of the neighboring building. I built the nest, but it proved unnecessary – our team captured the command post without trouble.
Next, we had to build a bridge to cross a trench between two sides of the town. The bridge must be built in two sections before you can cross it. Fall into the trench and there might not be a way to get out – at least, none that I could see. The whole time the attackers work on the bridge, the defenders can pick away at them from bombed-out houses on the other side. Still, we eventually made it across and on to the next objective.
Our third objective involved planting explosives to destroy an Axis ammunition depot. Having accomplished that, the next objective required the attackers to escort a tank towards a troublesome anti-aircraft gun. If the Allied soldiers got too far from the tank, it would stop moving and wait for its escort.
So the defenders could've stop the assault by killing off everyone around the tank, but by that point the odds were already stacked against them. We managed to protect the tank until it got to the anti-aircraft gun, at which point victory was ours. The match ended with a cinematic of the gun's destruction, which in turn allowed Allied planes to resume their flights over the city.
War mode capitalizes on the typical fun of objective-based multiplayer games but also brings in some of the perks of campaign-style gameplay. Fighting through a level and completing different objectives the whole way through made for an exciting time for the whole team.
Still to come: Headquarters
Call of Duty: WWII has another promising new multiplayer mode in store, although it wasn't playable at E3. Headquarters is an all-new gameplay experience that allows large groups of players to congregate in their headquarters, away from the battlefield. There players will be able to "compete, earn rewards, [and] show off their accomplishments."
It's tough to imagine exactly how all that will work without more information, but it certainly could give players new reasons to keep coming back to this installment in Activision's long-running first-person shooter series. The return to the World War II setting doesn't hurt either!
Call of Duty: WWII is expected to come to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows on November 3 for $59.99.
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