Similar to its predecessors, Call of Duty: WWII is a first-person shooter game. It removes the advanced system of movement present in the two previous Call of Duty titles, which included double jumping and wall running. Instead, it features a return of traditional movement to the series, taking it back to an initial “boots on the ground”[clarification needed] gameplay style. The game features an unlimited sprint mechanic, seen in the previous two titles. Instead of a “slide” movement mechanic, which allowed players to slide quickly on the ground, WWII features a “hit-the-deck” mechanic that allows the player to leap forward and throw themselves on the ground in order to get to cover quickly, similarly to a previous mechanic known as “dolphin dive” in Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
WWII is the first title since the initial game and Call of Duty 2: Big Red One not to feature health regeneration in the campaign. Instead, players must find health packs scattered throughout levels, or rely on their medic squadmate to provide health packs. Other members of the player’s squad can provide ammunition, grenades, call in mortar strikes, or spot enemies and reveal their position in form of silhouettes. In certain sections of the game, enemy soldiers in the campaign can be captured, and wounded allies can be dragged to cover. In some parts of the campaign, players are able to control vehicles.
The multiplayer mode for Call of Duty: WWII was revealed on E3 2017, which took place from June 13–15. Sledgehammer Games announced features such as the new headquarters social space, divisions, war mode and the return to “boots-on-the-ground” gameplay. Players who pre-order the game were invited to a closed beta, which was released initially for the PlayStation 4, and later released on other platforms.
In online multiplayer matches, players are randomly assigned either to Allies or Axis side. On Allies side, players can play as soldiers in American, British, Soviet, or French Resistance armies. On the Axis side, players play exclusively as the Wehrmacht and not Waffen-SS in an effort to avoid “glorifying” Nazi extremists. When explaining this decision, Glen Schofield, co-founder and co-studio head at Sledgehammer, said “The big distinction that Germans still make today is that between the German military and the Nazis. We made sure we made that distinction in the game, that the Germans were doing their duty”.
Instead of the usual create-a-class system, WWII features Divisions. Players can choose one out of five (later eight) divisions, each with their own different basic combat training, division training and weapon skills. Players need to progress through ranks in divisions in order to use additional perks, in addition to a global perk system named Basic Training. The divisions featured in the game are:
Infantry: The most versatile division in the game, it is equipped for mid to long range combat. The special skill of this division is the bayonet charge, which can lead to brutal melee combat.
Airborne: This division makes players move fast while remaining quiet. Players in this division can attach suppressors to sub-machine guns at any time during combat which allows for more stealth based gameplay style.
Armored: This division has the heaviest firepower, being able to mount light machine guns while taking less fire and explosive damage.
Mountain: This division focuses on long range combat, making sniper rifles more precise with aim assist and improving the aim through scope by blocking out surroundings from player’s view.
Expeditionary: Shotguns used by players in this division have incendiary rounds that burn enemies to death. This division can also replenish their lethal and tactical grenades through killing enemies.
Resistance: Added in January 2018 as part of an update, this division allows players to use tactical knife in combination with their pistol, focusing on stealthy close-quarter combat. This division also can sense nearby enemies as well as scramble their radar in close proximity.
Cavalry: Added in June 2018 as part of an update, this division carries a specialized riot shield, which provides increased defensive capabilities in firefights. The Cavalry division can also charge at enemies with the shield, and also has improved objective skills.
Commando: Added August 2018 as part of an update. This division allows players to place a flare on the map which, after a death, respawns the player at the location of the flare via a parachute. The flare takes the place of all tactical equipment. Also allows other perks which focus mainly on health regeneration.
In April 6, Sledgehammer Games announced an overhaul to the Divisions system, which includes massive changes to the meta of the system: Division-specific weapon skills are selectable as attachments for the corresponding weapon classes rather than being tied to the Divisions (with LMG bipods and sniper sharpshooter abilities being available by default), and several Division trainings are switched out/adjusted to better promote their recommended playstyle, without imposing limitation of customization on the players. Other global changes include allowing suppressors on pistols, usage of rocket launchers without needing the Launched basic training, and infinite sprinting.
WWII also features Headquarters mode, which acts as a social space in the game. The hub is set on the Omaha Beach in Normandy, three days after the invasion when Allies retake the beach and turn it into a base. 48 players can be in the Headquarters at a time, and take part in various activities. For example, players can watch other players open loot boxes while in the Headquarters. There is a firing range in the hub, where all players can practice their shooting skills with all weapons, as well as a field where they can test scorestreaks. There are also areas where players can engage in “1v1” fights, as other players watch the duels.
The end-game “killcam” highlight shown at the end of multiplayer matches has been changed to “Bronze Star”, which show kills “deemed most impressive” (counted by most points gained in a row). The exception to this is the Search & Destroy game mode, which does not use Bronze Star killcam. Search & Destroy uses a final killcam, showing the last kill in the round.
A new game mode, War, is introduced as a “narrative-driven” multiplayer game mode, developed in partnership with Raven Software. In War, two teams of 6 players perform objectives as either the Allied or Axis faction, inspired by some of the iconic World War II battles, such as storming Normandy on D-Day as the Allied, or defending the Normandy bunker as the Axis in the map Operation Neptune. In addition to War, popular game modes such as Team Deathmatch, Domination and Hardpoint return, as well as Gridiron, a “boots on the ground” variation of Uplink, which was initially introduced by Sledgehammer Games in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Several fan-favorite modes, as well as new modes, are introduced in time-limited events throughout the season, such as Demolition or Infected.
WWII includes a zombies cooperative game mode, similar to previous entries by Treyarch and Infinity Ward, with its own initial storyline set in alternate history and separate from the campaign. The game mode, dubbed Nazi Zombies in reference to its first iteration in Treyarch’s Call of Duty: World at War, is also set in the events of World War II, as the Third Reich makes a desperate attempt to turn the tide of the war by creating an undead army in the final stages of the war. While the mode is based on science-fiction and is a fictional take on the war, Sledgehammer Games co-founder Michael Condrey said that the story of the mode is based on some “real events”. He also revealed that the experience is similar to Dead Space, a third person shooter horror video game directed by both Condrey and Schofield during their work time at EA Redwood Shores.
In regards to gameplay, Nazi Zombies retains the wave-based survival formula that have been used in all previous Zombies entries, with new additions. A class system is introduced, where players can opt for one of four combat roles: Offense, Control, Medic and Support, which provide different in-game abilities. Class loadouts are also included, with equippable Raven Mods, which are perks similar to the multiplayer mode. Sledgehammer Games also attempted to rationalize some of the popular mechanics, such as weapon wallbuys and currencies, with realistic explanation that fit within the lore of the game mode. Nazi Zombies includes a hint system, where portions of the main story quest are given directional hints for players to find and progress. In regards to the story quest, Sledgehammer’s creative director Cameron Dayton reveals that there is a “casual path” for new and casual players where they can progress with the story, while a “hardcore” path, which is considered the official canon, exists with hidden objectives, and expands more on the story beyond what the casual path contains