Call of Duty: WW2 takes us to the beaches of Normandy and follows a soldier during the 1st Infantry Division's push to Berlin. This isn’t the first time we’ve undertaken this journey, and the gaming writers at Mic discussed whether we really needed another trip through Nazi-occupied Europe, what we hoped to see in Call of Duty: WW2 and the inherent issues in war games.
Call of Duty: WW2: Setting and subject matter
Jason Faulkner: Kinda disappointed it's just the 1st Infantry heading from Normandy to Berlin. Again.
Alex Perry: Yeah, there are other stories to tell in World War II. Hence the whole "world war" part.
JF: I was hoping they'd just rip off the vignette concept from Battlefield 1.
AP: Unless you’re gonna let me storm the cliffs of Normandy with rocket boots or something. Well, old CoD games kinda did that. I wonder if this follows one character all the way through or not.
Ryan Khosravi: Haha, I can’t. I’ll never understand imperialist nostalgia, to be honest.
AP: Thing is, I think DICE got it mostly right with the campaign in Battlefield 1. [They told] stories that normally aren’t in popular fiction, like the Bedouin campaign. Unless there’s something I’m missing, this looks like a prettier version of a game that’s been made many times before. I’d love to see a really good Soviet-focused campaign, for instance.
JF: I'm not sure WWII was very imperialistic. The U.S. peaked as far as direct geographical political and military control in 1946.
AP: That’s extremely complicated. I’m going to guess it does that by completely ignoring the Pacific theater.
Call of Duty: WW2: Why Normandy again?
JF: Is there something about Operation Overlord that makes it so attractive for game developers? I mean, there's the "finest hour" train of thought, but what about that particular theater makes it so iconic?
AP: The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan was iconic and people love to recreate it. The Nazis are very easy villains. I don’t think there’s any question it was for the best that the Allies won the war, but to Ryan’s point, there is a tendency to ignore some of the very, very bad things the Allies did during the war.
Alex Borkowski: This. It’s much harder to do something in the Pacific Theater with regard to American involvement, because then you also have to tacitly acknowledge that it ends with the United States detonating two atomic bombs over civilian population centers.
AP: Not to mention firebombing Tokyo.
JF: Maybe a "How gaming whitewashes war" article would be a good take. I’ve never seen Dresden in a game myself.
AP: Nobody will eeeeever do that.
AB: Have we ever seen a Stalingrad? I was never super up on the WW2 games myself.
AP: Call of Duty: World at War had a short Stalingrad level.
JF: Yeah, CoD had it in a couple of games.
Call of Duty: WW2: Do we really need another story about American exceptionalism?
AP: Getting back to the imperialism part. The war ended and suddenly you had the formation of Israel, the Warsaw Pact, everything that happened in Korea, etc.
JF: You know, I don't think I can recall a game set during the Korean War.
AP: It’s not easy to make a Korean War game that’s sympathetic to America, lol. That’s why there aren’t many Vietnam games, either. The Modern Warfare games were smart enough to be about fictional conflicts rather than real military actions in the Middle East.
JF: Well, that's kind of the issue, isn't it? Why does a war game have to be sympathetic to America? Apocalypse Now certainly wasn't and people love that movie, though Vietnam has its own baggage.
AP: It doesn’t have to be, but it's hard for a company like Activision or EA to green-light a game that isn't, for business reasons.
RK: Well, this also brings us to a larger point. As someone who isn't completely American, I really want to [point out] how the amount of American media focusing on war in general is terrifying to the rest of the world.
AP: I don't think it's inherently bad to make something about war, and especially now, I think WWII has stories worth telling. I just don't think "Check it out, we made Band of Brothers in video-game form again" is all that compelling.
RK: Both World Wars — and beyond — have resulted in the dismantling of pretty much every Middle Eastern nation, so to focus so much energy on that time period is super unsettling.
AP: Haha, anyway, this is all a very meandering way for me to say the victors of WWII had explicitly imperialistic ends, even though I don't think anyone here would argue [against the idea that] it was better for the world that the Allies won.
RK: Haha, yes, I can agree with that. I just think that's often said as a blanket statement to dismissed the fucked-up shit this country has done in the name of "repairing democracy."
AP: Like, you could tell a really good story about the Yugoslavian resistance. It was the only one of those Eastern European states that fought off the Nazis without Soviet help, and the resulting clashes between communist Yugoslavia and the USSR are really interesting.
While we can all agree we're happy the Allies won WWII, it seems like the consensus is Activision might have missed a good chance to tell new stories in WWII locales that don't get much coverage. We’ll get a chance to see where the upcoming title takes us when Call of Duty: WW2 drops Nov. 3.
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