So far, the contents of Call of Duty: World War II’s season pass have been disappointing – to say the least. And while the second DLC was a definite upgrade upon the first, it was still miles off of the standard to which many were used to. And while some would commonly attribute the underwhelming map design and poor quality to Sledgehammer’s inexperience within the multiplayer field, most would agree that the content packs which have been released so far, were simply poor not because they were inherently bad, but because the industry has evolved beyond the season pass approach of the previous generation.
The United Front, which is the third and second to last content pack to be released for Call of Duty: World War II, is not reinventing the wheel in any way shape or form. As just like the previous two DLCs, or in fact all the additional content released for the Call of Duty series since the original Black Ops, United Front consists of four multiplayer maps – one of which is a War operation – and a single Zombie experience. And while at their core, all five of these are largely familiar to what we’ve seen already within World War II, and the franchise as a whole, they are not carbon copies unlike the maps of the previous two DLCs, as Sledgehammer has clearly had some fun with this downloadable content, and has in turn ramped up not just fun factor of the pack, but also the overall quality.
As always, first come the three maps which are available to be played within all of the Call of Duty: World War II’s multiplayer modes. And the first of those maps, and likely one of the best maps to feature within this particular title, is Market Garden. Market Garden is a small, fast paced map, which while allowing you to play objective based modes within it, is the best suited for standard deathmatch and team-deathmatch, and all their party-based spin-0ffs such as Gun Game, or Infected. And that’s because its small size, open-ended nature, and lack of three lane design, introduce a frantic form of fluidity, which will allow some to roll back the years to the days of Modern Warfare 2, and the famous Rust. As Market Garden, just like the aforementioned Rust, promotes Hit and Run gameplay, which many have grown to love over the years.
When you are dropped off into the fray of Market Garden’s dystopian-like landscape of a dilapidated, war-torn villa filled with precious art, and the aftermath of a large-scale battle, you don’t really have much time to wander around and spectate your surroundings, as the second the match starts – the war begins. And as much as you may try to take things slowly and tactically approach your opponents, then it has to be said, that you will be punished whenever you’ll decide to stop – even for a single second. As Market Garden, unlike the vast majority of Call of Duty: World War II’s maps favors those who draw first. And to top it all off, the update which as been made live on the eve of the DLCs launch has introduced a new basic training called Escalation, which further reinforces the run-and-gun nature of the map, as the basic training in question allows you to aim down the sight near-instantly, whenever you get a kill, for a short period of time, further pushing you to let yourself be swallowed by the map’s old-school, hit and run premise.
Second map in the running within the United Front’s package is Monte Cassino, which as the name suggests, takes place within the infamous battle of Monte Cassino – go figure. And it has to be said that visually, this particular map is the most impressive to date. And its not just because of its gameplay area, but also because of its direct surroundings, which possess more detail than the remainder of the title’s maps put together. And wherever you’ll lay your gaze upon, you will always find something new, something awe-inspiring, as Monte Cassino is not your average Call of Duty map. But just like all good things in life, this particular map should be experienced first hand, as it is really something, and it is clear that Sledgehammer has really stepped up its game, with this particular gem.
Obviously, multiplayer maps are not all about visuals, as if that was the case the original Dust 2, would now be regarded as one of the worst multiplayer maps of all time, and not one of the best. But thankfully, the outstanding level of detail is present throughout Monte Cassino, and its core design thankfully matches its visuals, and results in something truly special. Something, which really turns this otherwise standard content pack, into one which is really worth its weight in gold, as the sheer excellence of Monte Cassino’s three lane design, outclasses the vast majority of three lane maps, which we’ve seen to date within the franchise.
While the core three lanes of Monte Cassino are rather standard, then it has to be underlined that what’s outside of them is what makes the map shine. First of all, the map itself features a steady dose of vertical spaces, which gives a steady advantage to those who take them. However, unlike the high grounds of V2, those of Monte Cassino allow the enemy team to retake higher placed platforms, because such can be approach from multiple angles. In addition, Monte Cassino also features a plethora of additional flanking routes, such as the cliff-side, which allows you to get from one end of the map to the other within seconds. However, the said cliff-side, while allowing you to reach the enemy back-lines instantly, also puts you in direct danger of light machine-gun and sniper fire, as while running up or down the cliff, you are completely exposed, and free for the taking.
Without further elaborating all that has to be said about Monte Cassino, is that it is simply a great map, and one of the World War II’s greats. However, the third and final map of the United Front package, is far from being great, and in fact is far eclipsed by both the Monte Cassino, and Market Garden. As Stalingrad, the map in question, is par for the course for the World War II experience. And unfortunately, as most of you know, World War II’s par, is not exactly on the world series’ level.
Just like Gustav Cannon, Aachen, and USS Texas, Stalingrad is simply way too big for its own good. And while I understand why Sledgehammer has went overboard with this particular map, it has ultimately dropped the ball, because Stalingrad, just like the three prior described maps, feels like a barren and desolate wasteland, which takes the Call of Duty’s run-and-gun essence, and grinds it into a tasteless and indistinguishable pulp. And sure, snipers and fifty year old men, who hold an angle for minutes at a time, will love Stalingrad as it rewards slow and methodical gameplay – but those who have been here since day one, will see this particular map as yet another nuisance, which they’ll have to vote against, whenever it shows up in the veto.
Whether you’ll find the above three maps enjoyable or not, is largely subjective, as there will surely be some who will favor Stalingrad over Market Garden and vice versa. However, while some may argue which core map is better and which is worse, most will agree that United Front’s operation Super Charge, is one of the best one to date. As unlike the previous two newly added War operations, Super Charge introduces a plethora of new mechanics, and while it doesn’t explore and experiment with them in full, it does ultimately add some variety to the now stagnating war formula.
The operation begins with the allied forces parachuting onto the battleground, and the axis, setting up adequate defenses. And the first objective while revolving around capturing objectives, requires you to capture three arms crates, which are parachuted onto random locations, within the first zone. And while you only have to capture three crates, which are not much different to zones – which you had to take control of within previous maps – they do introduce new mechanics such as the crate decay. As each and every crate has to be captured before the timer expires. And once you have captured the crate, or it has vanished, a new one will dropped onto the battleground, and this will be repeated until the round timer expires, or until you’ve captured three separate crates.
The following two steps past the crate capture are not as unique, as the require you to first destroy five ammo caches by simply planting bombs on them, and third and final step requires you to raise multiple flags, on-by-one. And while the flag raising may seem as something new, then it has to be said that it is not much different to bridge, or even MG nest-building, as all you have to do is hold square while your avatar hammers away at the flag pole. And yes, hammers away, as Sledgehammer hasn’t introduced a new flag raising animation, and simply has you hit the pole with a hammer, in order to achieve the objective.
The lack of appropriate animations seems quite lazy, but perhaps Sledgehammer has run out of time while developing operation Super Charge, as the first step seems really profound and fleshed out, whereas the next two, feel rather underwhelming. And while Super Charge is on par with the remainder of the title’s war operations, then it has to be said that it is fairly disappointing that Sledgehammer has opted against experimenting further with this particular operation. As the three stage archetype of war operations is getting a little repetitive now, and operation Super Charge in particular would be much more enjoyable, if it had you complete all the three stages within a single step. And if it began with you capturing the drop, continued with you blowing up the section of the bridge, in order to raise a flag, in quick succession – within a single, longer step, then I feel like it would be much more impact-full and entertaining. And it still could be repeated three times – if needed – but it wouldn’t force players to grind the same objective over and over again, until X amount of caches has been demolished, or X amount of flags has been raised.
All in all, while improving upon its predecessors, operation Super Charge feels like a missed opportunity, but instead of blindly rehashing what we’ve already seen, it has tried to introduce new and improved mechanics to the slowly stagnating war mode. And experimentation seems to be the theme of this particular DLC, as the Zombie centric portion of the DLC, has been largely reworked, and may I say for the better. As The Tortured Path takes the Call of Duty Zombie experience into a brand new direction.
The Tortured path, unlike all the Zombie maps which came before it, is not an overarching, Easter-egg based experience with multiple quests, and a boss fight. Instead, it is a best of compilation, stored within an Arcade driven package, which delivers zombies to the player in the brand new form. Tortured Path, unlike other zombie DLC, features three smaller maps, which poses one core objective – and it is to survive ten rounds. And while doing so doesn’t sound difficult, as the first ten rounds are usually a walking in the park, then it has to be underlined that the Tortured Path ramps things up to 11, as it features literal hordes of zombies right from the get go. In addition, every two rounds, you are faced with a challenge, which has to be completed in order for you to be able to continue. And those range from killing special enemies, to combating the Zeppelin from the Final Reich.
In addition to the re-imagining of the core formula, Sledgehammer, has also reworked the core systems of the Zombie mode, as now you can no longer buy predetermined weapons off of the wall, and you can only buy random starting weapons, smgs, rifles, and so on and so forth from boxes. And those, unlike perks, unlock every few rounds, meaning that while you may have 4500 jolts for an LMG as early as round two, it doesn’t mean that you can purchase it, as LMGs are unavailable until round six.
While Sledgehammer has reworked and added a lot to the reimagined Zombie experience, it has also taken a fair bit away, as throughout all three maps, you will not find a single door which needs unlocking, as all three maps, or rather mini-maps, are open right from the get go. And this means that while being largely entertaining, The Tortured Path will not allow you to complete some of your daily or weekly challenges, which revolve around team play and opening doors. But that’s completely fine, as this particular addition to World War II Zombie saga has not been introduced to continue the story, but the give the fans of the undead a mode which they can go back to over and over again, without getting bored.
Zombie purists out there are likely to dislike the direction in which Sledgehammer has taken World War II’s zombies, as ultimately, Zombies and the Zombie community was built on the back of the mystery which each and every map provided with its Easter eggs. But at the end of the day, this The Tortured Path has been created for all, and not just the old timers, who still leave in the past. And objectively speaking, this is a change for the good, as in the long run, having not one, but three Zombie maps with randomly generated elements, adds level of replay-ability which not just Zombies, but World War II desperately needed.
As a complete package, The United Front content pack, is the best one to date. And with no sarcasm or cynicism, it can be said that it tops both the previously released content packs put together. And while it is not perfect, as the Stalingrad map leaves a lot to be desired, and operation Super Charge seems a little incomplete, it is still a great package. As the two primary maps, and The Tortured Path alone put in enough work in order to carry the United Front across the proverbial finish line. And while they purists may initially disagree in direction in which Sledgehammer is taking Call of Duty, then it has to be said that in the end even they will agree, that United Front is pushing the stagnating franchise forwards, instead of letting it slip.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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