What ‘WWII’ Means for Competitive ‘Call of Duty’

Jeremy Ray
Call of Duty
Call of Duty

With every new Call of Duty, there’s a host of talking points for the competitive community. Despite serious challenges from Overwatch and CS:GO, it remains one of the most popular competitive shooters, especially on console.

While the hype before every release includes some noise about “esports features”, there are also typically features that competitive gamers roll their eyes at. “I hope they give us the opportunity to remove that”, they’ll say.

Things like the most powerful perks or killstreaks might be fun in public Team Deathmatch, but have no place in a balanced esport.

In some cases, the very business model works against the best efforts of Activision to make the game an esport. Paid map packs inherently split the community into the haves and have-nots.

So we’ve put together a list of notable points for those wanting to spend the thousands of hours necessary in Call of Duty: WWII to get up to league level. Here’s what you need to know.

There’s No Turning Back

One thing’s for certain: The community will follow the franchise on this one.

While new versions of other games are typically accompanied by discussion about which version the community will support, that’s no longer the case in Call of Duty.

Activision controls the biggest competitions, and the biggest cash prizes. It promotes console play, and withholds the features on PC that would allow for an organic, community-controlled competitive scene. Things like server features, LAN play and modding.

As a result, the Call of Duty World League is guaranteed to feature the latest version for any given year. Player movements have already started based on what we know about the game, and one is even launching his own brand.

For Call of Duty pros, the consistent money doesn’t actually come from prizes. These days, it’s more about building a personal brand on Youtube and Twitch. But you can’t do that without being relevant — and even if you don’t win, at least placing respectfully in the current competitions is a must. That means playing the latest version.

Spray It, Don’t Say It

One thing we noticed in the multiplayer beta was that in-game soldiers will occasionally call out enemy positions.

What’s wrong with that? The enemy team can actually hear these callouts, being alerted to your own position.

As a player, you have no control over when this happens. It’s meant to automate teamwork, saving you the trouble of a few key taps or a voicecom message, but it might end up giving away your beautifully sneaky flank.

There’s still time for this to be removed, or at least to make it only heard by teammates. But for esports, even that latter option is undesirable.

By automating team communication, you’re removing a skill differentiator. A well-practiced team can win on the basis of communication and teamwork, even if it has lesser aim. There’s no reason to turn that variable into a constant — especially since esports streams are now dipping into team communications mid-match to enhance the spectator experience.

Speaking of the spectator experience…

Hammer Cam

Sledgehammer Games has been showcasing a cute new feature for camera operators called Hammer Cam.

Most noticeable was the ability to zoom out from an individual’s POV to a birds-eye view of the battlefield, with coloured triangles showing the position of each player.

It’s a small “whoosh” effect for the camera, but it has a big effect. The lack of jerky camera switching makes it easy to understand what the hell is going on — something team-based FPS games with multiple points of view to track have been struggling with for years.

Boots on the Ground

No more jetpacks. No more jumping around and changing directions mid-air. No more wall running, no more ground sliding. No more mech suits, and no more techno-magic.

Mind you, I wouldn’t exactly call this version a 100% historically accurate shooter in terms of weapons, but this is a slower pace than what we’ve become used to in the last few years.

This has actually been met with a positive response from the competitive community though.

From our time with the game, I wouldn’t exactly call it slow. You won’t have to worry about the pace being boring, although movement is different. Horizontal acceleration is still fast — it’s just that you won’t see people doing Titanfall-esque runs on the outside of rooftop maps, or jumping to the left and then bursting to the right.

If there’s any kind of burnout or boredom, it’s far more likely to be due to a feeling of “same ol’ same ol’”.

War Mode Has a Lot of Potential

Up until now, a competitive CoD match has consisted of rotating modes and maps. It’s a good system that keeps things interesting.

Teams can weigh up their strengths vs the opposing teams’, and pick accordingly across modes like Uplink, Hardpoint, etc.

This probably won’t change, but War mode offers an intriguing alternative.

Too big to fit into the current system as a smaller game mode, it would have to be a match all its own — and such a match would be very fun. With its own progression of objectives, it’s like combining the existing competitive format into one string. It certainly proved popular for the competitive games that used the idea before Call of Duty WWII.

Esports communities move slowly, so my money is on Activision and the tournament organisers sticking with the current format for now. They’ll test the waters with smaller War mode competitions to see how it plays out.

This is a win/win for the community though, as both options are going to have great results.

Uplink and Capture the Flag

Much has been made of the Gridiron mode that leaked during the recent beta, which looks like a version of Uplink made to fit the antiquitous pre-jetpack era. Players will now throw a round leather ball through a grounded portal.

As Michael Condrey, the Studio Head of Development, told the Daily Star:

The Uplink that we brought to life in Advanced Warfare was about fast movement, boost jump and clearly we don’t have those here.

So we’re looking to make that thematically appropriate for WWII. It’s something we’re still working on. There will be a much broader suite of modes.

It makes sense that Sledgehammer wouldn’t want to let go of the mode, since it originally introduced it. It looks like the original images have been taken down, but it’s good news for fans of Uplink, which has been a competitive mainstay.

We’ll also see the return of Capture the Flag. While Gridiron would still be a fast-paced mode about putting together quick plays to confound opponents and score goals, Capture the Flag could join Search & Destroy as another slower game mode.

When the brain hears “Capture the Flag”, it might conjure images of frantic sprints through trenches to grab a flag and escape with the enemies hot on your tail. Certainly that’s more like it was back in the old Quake days.

But in practice, Call of Duty spawn points have been so close to the flag that teams have had to get more clever. Using positioning to manipulate enemy spawns is necessary, while locking down specific lines of sight to make a flag grab possible. Everything has to be in place before moving.

More than the game’s WWII theme, the introduction of Capture the Flag as a competitive staple has the potential to slow down esports matches. It’ll require a bit more cohesion as well as aim, and that’s not a bad thing.

Hackers Are Already a Thing

Yep — and it’s not even out yet.

The PC version of Call of Duty WWII‘s multiplayer beta had a hacking problem. In very short time, players were able to dive into the gooey innards of WWII‘s engine and come out with the ability to see through walls.

While PC is undoubtedly the home of serious competitive FPS (I’ll fight ya), it hasn’t been the home for competitive Call of Duty for quite some time. But just because the big money competitions don’t include PC doesn’t mean it completely disappears.

In a blog post put up yesterday, Sledgehammer addressed the issue:

We have yet to deploy the suite of anti-cheat/hacking technology we will use when the full PC game is live. We take a level playing field extremely serious and will monitor and react to this as a top priority on an ongoing basis.

That’s consistent with the way Sledgehammer has been talking throughout development. It’s maintained lip service to the competitive PC community. We might not get everything we want from them (don’t hold your breath on a server browser or LAN play) but we’ll get more than usual. Here’s hoping it really can beat the hackers.

All up, the Hammer Cam and War mode are by far the more promising features for competitive play. There are a few worries in the mix too, but these are things that could potentially be scrubbed out for custom matches.

One thing’s for sure: Die-hard Call of Duty fans will make lots of noise about their avatars going audible without their consent. Fingers crossed Sledgehammer will listen.

Jeremy Ray
Managing Editor at FANDOM. Decade-long games critic and esports aficionado. Started in competitive Counter-Strike, then moved into broadcast, online, print and interpretative pantomime. You merely adopted the lag. I was born in it.
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