At E3, I got to play multiple rounds of Call of Duty: WWII's multiplayer. While the core experience feels similar to previous games, a focus on presentation and a new story-based mode made things much more interesting than recent entries in the series.
My main takeaway from my time playing Call of Duty: WWII is that I was totally engrossed in the matches I played even if the majority of the gameplay was standard for the series. My first two matches were a traditional Team Deathmatch and the zone capturing Hardpoint. They were familiar, allowing me to ease in and experience with the game's new class based system: Divisions.
With Divisions, players can select from a group of specialised battalions, each with a specific focus. Airborne soldiers functioned as scouts, with the ability to put suppressors on their guns and rush around the battlefield. The Infantry were standard grunts and used weapons familiar to anyone with World War Two including the M1 Garand.
A few classes were more specialised; Mountain Division soldiers were a class of snipers while the Armoured Division loaded up with heavy weapons like machine guns and bazookas. The most interesting of them all was the Expeditionary Division, a group of soldiers with access to more experimental weapons like shotguns that could load incendiary rounds. It was fun to mess around with all of these loadouts, even if I did eventually fall back on a reliable Infantry loadout that included the punchy BAR rifle.
If there's one word to describe the moment to moment experience of Call of Duty: WWII, it is loud. Lacking the clinical precision of Infinite Warfare's futuristic arsenal or the familiar sounds of modern weaponry found in Black Ops, WWII is a thunderous game with guns that roar hot lead and blech fire. Weapons feels powerful and the cumulative effect of so many shotguns, rifles, pistols, and grenades is a battlefield that is both terrifying and exhilarating.
"We had the good fortune to work with a military historian Marty Morgan," creative director Brett Robbins told me. "He helped us a lot in every way from dialogue and how weapons sound. Sound engineers went to firing ranges with him."
The largest change to the multiplayer comes from a new mode: War. Here, two sides face off in an objective-based game that attempts to integrate narrative into all the killstreaks and fragging. The mission we played tasked Allied forces with escorting a tank forward through a village so it could destroy an anti-air position. Objectives varied from protecting the tank to building a bridge. It was the only multiplayer mode that lived up to the idea that WWII is not a game about power armour-clad super warriors, but young grunts struggling to survive.
"We wanted to go boots on the ground," Robbins said. A term that came up at least three times in our conversation. "No wall running, boost jumping. Back to basics."
As a game mode, War delivered that 'boots on the grounds' experience with a focus on team play that made it stand out from the usual game modes and there's no denying the sense of purpose I felt during the match. Unfortunately, the battle ended far too quickly as the team I was on completely steamrolled through Axis lines to complete the mission.
It's easy to be blown away by WWII's powerful presentation but there's also no denying that the game itself doesn't play different than predecessors. The battlefield itself is terrifying and awesome, with more than enough bullets and bombs to captivate, but even so, WWII's far from a revolution for the franchise.