For quite some time now, the Call of Duty series hasn’t done anything too drastic with its multiplayer. Sure, we’ve seen variations on the Class system, some loot box-style systems offering up more swag, and a few new game modes, but none of it ever felt dramatically different from the multiplayer we’d been playing for years. The gameplay itself was always fast-paced, thanks in part to the game’s relatively small and congested maps. Sledgehammer Games is still bringing the tight, fast-paced gunplay you’ve come to know and love from the series, with the likes of Domination and Team Deathmatch making a return. However, they’re also doing something a little ambitious this year to really mix up the tried and tested formula. It’s a gamble for sure, but one that has me confident has most definitely paid off from my hands-on time with the mode.
War mode is a narrative-driven, progressive multiplayer mode spread across a larger map than we’re accustomed to seeing in a Call of Duty title. As always, players are divided up into two teams. On the map we were playing on, Operation Breakout, the Allied forces had to complete a number of objectives while the Axis forces were trying to push them back. Starting things off, as part of the Allies, my team and I had to capture a European house from the Axis forces. It worked the same as any other capture point-based game mode you’ve seen in Call of Duty before, but the map, even at this early part, felt well thought-out. The Axis had the upper hand, just as they would in a real-life scenario where they’d dug themselves firmly into the town. Sandbags provided ample cover for the Axis, while Allied forces had to fight against the odds to really push through. We eventually managed it, making our way inside the house where the real battle for the capture point then began.
Once we’d pushed the Axis back from there, we then needed to repair a damaged bridge to allow our tanks to push through. The Operation Breakout War mode map again made this a perfect miniature battle in and of itself. Two crumbling buildings on the other side of the bridge provided ample opportunity for Axis forces to rain down fire on the bridge and any opponent brave enough to try and repair the bridge. From an Allied player’s perspective, this certainly felt like it had a more strategic focus than just running around aimlessly. The Allies had to divide themselves up between trying to repair the bridge and completing the objective, and trying to stop the enemy from simply picking these bridge repairers off as soon as they got to work.
After the bridge had been taken care of and we got our armor across, it was time to start bringing the fight to the Axis. This time around, players had to destroy an Axis ammunition depot. This worked very much like a game of Sabotage, with the Allies having to successfully plant a bomb and then defend it for a short period of time. Once the ammo cache was taken care of, Allies had to escort a tank through the rest of the town to take care of some pesky anti-aircraft guns. This final section of the game felt incredibly similar to escorting the payload in Overwatch. If Allied forces weren’t close enough to the tank, it’d start moving backwards, while having plenty of support surrounding the tank meant it could advance forward with little resistance (as long as you were landing your shots).
In premise, War mode sounds basically like a culmination of both capture-style game modes that we’ve seen before in the Call of Duty series, with some external inspiration from the likes of Overwatch’s payload escorting and Battlefield’s epic scale Conquest matches. With a relatively short timer counting down to the Allied forces impending failure at each turn, War mode’s objectives always have a sense of urgency, forcing players to actually concentrate on these rather than just going after kills. It also adds a level of tension and suspense that the ticket system and much longer time limits of Battlefield’s Conquest lacks.
With longer matches and larger maps, Call of Duty: WWII’s War is a refreshing take on the familiar multiplayer of the series. Yet, by breaking it down into a number of smaller and varied objectives, it manages to keep the fast-paced, hectic action at the heart of the experience.
Playing War mode in Call of Duty: WWII for just one match had me confident it’ll be my go-to mode when the game launches in November. It feels like a true evolution of the series’ multiplayer, drawing inspiration not only from actual historical events, but from the successes of its competition. While the success of the game mode will ultimately depend on whether or not Sledgehammer can make every map feel as great as Operation Breakout, this was certainly a promising sign for the future of Call of Duty multiplayer.