CoD WWII: Going Down in Flames

WWII may be long over in the real world, but for Activision it’s just beginning.

The CoD: WWII PC open beta debuted over the weekend, and to say that the reviews have been unkind would be a meaty euphemism. As of writing, the beta is sitting at a 26% approval rating on Steam, which in academic vernacular lands it at a solid F minus minus.

That’s even lower than the current approval rating for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the series’ last installment. For anything that can be said about Activision, at least the publisher is…. consistent.

The reasons that players have given for disliking CoD WWII’s open beta are many. A cursory glance at the Steam reviews reveals that most players are unimpressed with the beta’s system performance (some of those players described that issue with much harsher language).

To hear the players tell it, the WWII open beta is prone to object and texture pop-in, as well as lots of crashes. Unfortunately, those problems cropped up quite a bit in the run of the open beta used for this article; the WWII open beta is indeed prone to lots of crashing and lots of bugs.

Another item on players’ no-no list is hackers, which this beta allegedly has in spades. Make no mistake, reports of hackers have to be taken with a grain of salt in a community as prone to fits of uncontrollable rage as Call of Duty, but among all the wailing about hacking is one recurring warning: aimbots.

It’s a claim that’s proven difficult to independently verify, but enough players have parsed out that specific complaint as to drive down the beta’s ratings by quite a few notches. It’s an allegation that Activision should at least take a cursory glance at.

The final and most damning complaint about the beta is how samey and unimaginative the maps are. A significant number of players have bemoaned the CoD: WWII beta for having maps that are virtually identical to those of previous Call of Duty games.

From an excess of camping spots to nothing but tight, linear spaces, it appears that Call of Duty’s trademark design tricks are in the beta. This complaint is much harder to take seriously; what gamer in their right mind expects Call of Duty to actually do something different?

At the same time, though, it’s still disappointing that Call of Duty: WWII isn’t doing anything all that different. The gunplay feels pretty much identical to that of previous CoD titles, and the maps may be set in WWII Germany but are functionally congruent to the sci-fi maps from Infinite Warfare.

If this beta is any indication, Activision thought that simply returning to World War II would be enough to make Call of Duty feel different; it isn’t.

A bit of advice, Activision: a palette swap is not innovation. A homeowner can get a new color of curtain, but it’s going to drape the same window. The only way to make a true change is to change the shape of the window… but is that actually going to happen?

The jury is still out on whether Call of Duty: WWII will be a decent title; even with this beta, it’s still too early to call the game as a failure. However, things aren’t looking good for the chaps in Activision’s regiment.

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