E3 2017: How Call of Duty: WWII and its campaign aim to return to the old days

It's hard to believe that a full decade has passed since the last time Call of Duty stepped into the trenches of World War II. It's how Infinity Ward and Treyarch made their names, well before they ever stepped into the modern day. Now Activision is giving Sledgehammer Games the chance to put its own stamp on the massive global conflict and it's an opportunity the studio is relishing.

As E3 2017 gets underway, Shacknews had the opportunity to check out closed-door footage of Call of Duty: WWII. More than a step into the future, it's starting to feel like a walk down memory lane.

The first thing to note is players are being returned to the European Theater, fighting on the side of the Allies during 1940 to 1945. The campaign goes back to the "band of brothers" tale of comradery, placing a focus on what it's like to be a part of a squad. Players take the role of Red Daniels, a bright-eyed First Infantry Division recruit with a desire to fight on the side of good. Sledgehammer notes that players will follow multiple characters over the course of the campaign, including members of the British forces and the French resistance. The idea is to convey the effects of the conflict on everyone embroiled in it, beyond the fighters, with Sledgehammer taking particular pride in using "a multinational cast of characters."

The campaign demo began in Marigny, one of the early stages. The presentation is like riding a bike, with gunfire and bombs dropping everywhere. The first objective is to capture a nearby church off in the distance, in order to provide cover fire. Red and his squadmates (each with their own health bar) inch their way towards the church, taking house by house. The enemy AI will exercise different tactics as they provide resistance. Some will hide behind doors and attempt an ambush. Others will knock over tables and use them for cover.

As the church comes closer into view, enemy backup will ride in on vehicles and provide suppressive fire. The idea becomes to slowly crawl towards the vehicle and clear it out before commandeering it to pick off any nearby Axis forces. Once the area is clear, it's time to head into the church. Prior to entering, a button press allows Red to ask one of his teammates for a first aid kit. A first aid kit is tossed his way, helpful because there is no regenerating health in this iteration of Call of Duty.

The church is in ruins, dilapidated and ravaged by the fighting. It also turns out that the church isn't clear, as enemy forces open fire from the distance. A different enemy type walks in wielding a flamethrower. Red and company take cover and take him out, but not before the flamethrower disrupts the environment, causing several structures to collapse and create dangerous hazards.

Then comes time to climb the bell tower and provide cover fire to allied troops below. Allies have their own health bars to supplement the objective. This sequence doesn't last long before the church gets bombed and it starts falling apart. This is also a solid display of just how violent WWII gets, as we get a good view of one of Red's squad mates, who gets his torso completely blown off. The demo ends with a harrowing escape from the collapsing church, complete with the shaky cam sequences that have become a staple of CoD campaigns.

Those looking to get a look at a different side of the WWII conflict can jump into multiplayer. Activision debuted the first footage of WWII's multiplayer during Monday night's PlayStation press conference, but beyond that, Sledgehammer is approaching things differently this time around. Create-A-Class is going out the window in favor of Divisions, which will place players in one of five different training divisions. Each division will offer a different play style and its own distinct weapons. This will pave the way for War, which will offer an asymmetrical approach to the conflict with team-based objectives. Look for more details on WWII's multiplayer over the course of the E3 week.

No details were offered on the upcoming Zombies mode. Look for more information in the coming months, though founders Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey did offer a single morsel of info, noting that they hope to combine the Treyarch Zombies experience with an atmosphere similar to the old Dead Space franchise.

Look for more on Call of Duty: WWII in the weeks ahead. Activision and Sledgehammer take the series back to its roots on November 3.

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