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While Call of Duty WWII doesn't officially launch until Nov. 3, a war is already raging in the game's private beta. This test run has been what you might call "a successful operation," and folks who want to get in on the action still have another opportunity just over the horizon.
The team at Sledgehammer kicked off the WWII private beta at midnight on Friday, Aug. 25, and it'll continue to run into Monday. You needed to pre-order the game on PlayStation 4 to participate but, if you missed out, there's still time to kick the tires before the November release. Another beta will run from Sept. 1-4, this time on both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. There's no word yet on whether or not the offerings will change between the two beta periods but, even if we're looking at the same maps and modes, I doubt many players will complain considering how well this weekend's firefights panned out. It wasn't the most robust beta, but there was plenty on offer to help players get a feel for the game. I think it's safe to say that anyone who has been wishing to see the Call of Duty series return to its roots is going to be pleased with what the developers have cooked up.
This is a beta, so you should probably know by now what to expect before going in. Players were given access to a trio of maps and a quartet of modes, as well as every player class and a selection of gear to unlock while working your way through the initial 25 ranks of progression.
Not on display was the Headquarters hub Sledgehammer has been touting as the game's social space/matchmaking arena. Instead, you simply pick your loadout, pick your mode and get straight into battle. Matchmaking was fast and, through my hours of play, I never experienced connection issues or any major bugs. That was a little surprising but, again, their servers are only dealing with the load from PS4 pre-orders right now, so we'll see how next weekend's WWII beta goes once more people are invited in.
Also missing from the beta were things like the eSports support, loot, and those Supply Drops players will supposedly earn for cosmetic items. Obviously, we didn't have a full roster of gear and weaponry, but what was provided in the beta was a nice mix.
There were a few modes on offer including Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Hardpoint. I jumped into Moshpit most of the time, as it simply cycled through these modes to help keep things fresh. If you're not familiar with Call of Duty or every other shooter on the planet with similar modes, Domination tasks teams with locking down a trio of stationary points on the map while Hardpoint has a single area you're fighting over that moves from time to time.
The maps for these modes were Ardennes and Gibraltar. The former is a snowy forest burg with more open spaces and fewer bottlenecks, while the latter is a beachside wasps nest of pillboxes and shelled out houses connected by a network of trenches. Ardennes is the kind of map that would have felt at home in just about any Call of Duty while Gibraltar was a stark reminder of the warfare of the era that you just don't see much of in modern shooters. They were a good selection for the beta, demonstrating the variety of skills you'll need to survive.
Where I spent most of my time, though, was the Pointe Du Hoc map for the War Mode. This is Call of Duty's answer to more mission-oriented competitive play. I definitely prefer objectives over the "shoot anything that moves" mentality of most online modes in shooters, and War did a good job of forcing me to reconsider how I could best help my team to victory.
The defending team in War is tasked with preventing their opponents from pushing through a series of objectives. A solid defense means the game could end after the first objective is failed. A good offense, though, will push the gameplay further and further into the map.
On this map, the attacking team had to overtake a strategic position, build a bridge into the city, destroy a weapons cache and then escort a tank to the final destination. Both sides can build defenses and turrets at key points, adding some extra strategy to the mix. Given the variety that comes from shifting objectives and moving from key point to key point on the map, no two trips through War felt the same, so I'm really hoping the final game will include a nice selection of maps and objectives for this new mode.
The point of a beta is to help the developers put on one final coat of polish and help the players get a feel for the type of gameplay they can expect. At this stage, WWII is performing super well, even if some of the weapons do feel a bit overpowered and deaths can come a bit too quickly. I also spawned a couple of times directly in front of an oncoming opponent, an issue that has plagued online shooters for as long as I can remember.
But those are exactly the types of issues Sledgehammer is expected to iron out in these remaining months before launch. I'm looking forward to seeing what this next beta phase offers and, for now at least, Call of Duty WWII remains a steady blip on my radar.