Sunday 18 August 2019

Call of Duty World War II review: Heeding the call of the past

Call of Duty: World War II (XO/PS4/PC) ★★★★ Age: 18+

Call of Duty: World War II
Call of Duty: World War II
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

THERE’S no future in the future. The Call of Duty juggernaut has finally tired of its sci-fi leanings and pulled back from the faintly ridiculous laser-shooting, rocket-jumping cul-de-sac the franchise had wandered down.

Returning to the World War II theatre puts us in overfamiliar territory, perhaps, but it has a solidity and relatability not present in last year’s underperforming Infinite Warfare. Yet Call of Duty still has an identity crisis. Cramming three diverse games into one bumper package will do that.

Is it about a callow band of brothers hard-scrabbling to push back the Germans inch by inch in a series of painstaking set-pieces? Or a frenetic free-for-all multiplayer in which the time between deaths can be measured in a handful of seconds? Or the celebrity-voiced zombie mode defined by its gore and waves of ravenous undead?

The paradox is that it’s all three and they sit as uneasily together as always.

Still, developer Sledgehammer hasn’t merely rolled back the clock to 1944 for another D-Day landing (though it does exactly that) but also built an intense single-player campaign rendered in sumptuous detail. It leans a little heavily on a greatest-hits style of encounter but a shift away from automatically recharging health means you’re always kept on your toes.

Multiplayer remains as polarising as ever, assembled around a fresh collection of interesting maps where line of sight and reaction times are paramount. Great if you have the reflexes of an Olympian, not so much if you resent being shot by a pixel a mile away. Sledgehammer also imitates the Tower social space in Destiny with a multiplayer lobby based at an army camp filled with little distractions. Now that the launch-week server hiccups have eased, it looks far more useful than staring at a static waiting screen.

And Zombies? Less camp and self-consciously wacky despite the voice talents of ex-Dr Who David Tennant and Mission Impossible sidekick Ving Rhames, Zombies mode feels like the weakest of the three pillars this year.

Super Lucky’s Tale

(XO) ★★★★ Age: 3+

A MASCOT for the launch of the Oculus Rift VR headset becomes an odd mascot for the super-resolution of the new Xbox One X. It ticks the family-friendly box for marketing but does little to entice gamers to upgrade to Microsoft’s latest console.

A 3D platformer in the mould of, well, everything really, SLT pinches a bit of Crash Bandicoot here, a dab of Super Mario there, and comes up with a perfectly pleasant if unoriginal confection. It will offend no one and possibly entertain quite a few.

Nonetheless, compared to the giants of the genre, an unwieldy camera and twitchy controls dent Lucky’s hopes of challenging the likes of Mario.

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