Death is inevitable in Call of Duty multiplayer. But you can always find ways to survive longer in a multiplayer round, and we caught up with the creators of Call of Duty: WWII to glean those tips for this year’s return to boots-on-the-ground combat.
The gameplay this year is far different from last year’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, where you could double-jump into the air and shoot down on unsuspecting noobs (new players). You move at a more deliberate pace through terrain with a lot of cover, and you have to use the right weapon at the right time. So far, with a couple of days of multiplayer combat behind me, I’m happy to report that I have a better kill-death ratio in multiplayer than I did with Infinite Warfare.
I attended a review event for Call of Duty and interviewed Michael Condrey, studio head and cofounder of developer Sledgehammer Games, and senior producer Mike Mejia. They gave me some good advice for navigating through the Headquarters social hub as well as staying alive longer in multiplayer.
The game has new modes like War, where you have to team up with your friends and accomplish a multi-part mission such as building a bridge and escorting a tank to destroy antiaircraft guns. It also has a unique Divisions system that segments players into different kinds of roles and weapons.
The game comes out on November 3 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. You can read our tips for survival in the edited transcript of our interview.
Editor’s note: This story has narrative spoilers.
GamesBeat: If you’re trying to figure out a role to play in multiplayer, what decisions do you make that will be in alignment with that role? For me, I’m not too fast or accurate. In that past that means I get a light machinegun and try to camp out playing fire support. Here, what sort of choices do you want to start making?
Mike Mejia: Everything starts with your division, enlisting in that division. That’s the core choice you have to make. Once you make that choice, based on the gameplay style you want to go into battle with, you start to look at your class and your loadout. If you’re an armored guy, when you’re making your choices in weaponry, you want to make sure that aligns with your division so you can get the most out of that weapon.
GamesBeat: That’s something that past players aren’t as familiar with, right? That a division is associated with a specialty.
Mejia: It’s a brand new feature. It redefines the create-a-class system for Call of Duty. Division drives your choice in how you want to play, and how that ties to your weapon.
Michael Condrey: Divisions are meant to encourage a particular type of role, more powerfully than in any create-a-class in the past. You can consider the flexibility you want in determining your soldier’s loadout with a play style. Each division is set up to have a role. You sound like an armored guy. In this case, armored is set up with an LMG. He’s a hold and suppress sort of role-player. His skill is built around taking less damage. It’s perfect for objective players.
GamesBeat: I didn’t realize I could use a light machine gun in the infantry, but then I didn’t have access to the stand I could use in armored.
Condrey: Exactly. Lots of times guys will run armored division for objective-based modes, because you can sit on a hardpoint or a dom point and take more flak damage, take more splash damage. You’re more heavily armed.
GamesBeat: Are you slower than you would be in infantry?
Condrey: You are, because you’re more armored and you’re carrying a heavier weapon. You contrast that to airborne, which is all about speed and stealth with the suppressor and increased sprint speed. That’s a great role player for people who are trying to get to the front lines fast.
Mejia: As you progress through your career in multiplayer, you start to make choices and build out for your division. Let’s say I really like LMGs, but I want to run a little faster and climb obstacles faster. I’ll take airborne division, but then take my LMG. I have to make that trade now. I won’t be able to use my bipod to get less recoil in that powerful stance. You start to make those tradeoffs. You want to use your division and the weapon that’s tailored to it so you can get the most out of your division.
GamesBeat: And you can make other decisions. If you want access to smoke, you have to trade something for that.
Mejia: Yeah. You through the basic training and as you rank up, you’ll get a lot of options. I believe the one we’re talking about now is Bang, which allows you to take smoke and lethal at the same time. Then, when you go down here, you’ll have both of those. You trade that for something you might like. Score streaks don’t reset. I usually run this class because it’s hard to get some of those score streaks. But again, it’s a tradeoff depending on how you’re going to play in that session. It’s all there for you to try new things and see what feels right for you.
Condrey: For us, the thought was to make the choices meaningful. Two meaningful choices: what’s your division, and what’s your basic training? In Advanced Warfare we had pick 13. Lots of choices. Sometimes those choices felt less intuitive than we wanted for a particular type of role. In this, you pick your division, your primary choice, and marry that to your basic training, your secondary choice. Those two choices define your play style.
If you’re a gun guy you pick infantry. That gives you three attachments on your gun. And you may take Primed as your basic training to give you a fourth. That means you’re all about your weapon. It’s the only division that can have four attachments. You’re definitely tip of the spear, if you will. If you’re about running silencer and moving fast, you’ll go airborne and marry that with a movement basic training.
Given that we’re talking about multiplayer in all the modes, you’ll want to set up each one of your divisions, because as you saw, you want to switch between them for different parts—you don’t want to run mountain division for all of Operation Breakout. There are points on the bridge defend where you’ll want to switch to something that’s more movement-based. Also, map and mode combinations—we talk about leveling up all your divisions because airborne is not particularly good on Cannon, a big open map. Mountain division, with the sniper rifle, is not very effective on Flak, a smaller map.
Each one of these is meant to define a type of role. Expeditionary force, great for firepower and close quarters combat, great for Pointe du Hoc in the trenches.
GamesBeat: You can use the shotgun in other areas, but expeditionary is where….
Mejia: –you get the incendiary shells, exactly. Same thing with the mountain division.
GamesBeat: That seems very popular. I’ve seen in the incendiaries in every match so far.
Mejia: That’s a tradeoff too, because you’ll have only eight shells. Then you have to reload. Okay, I know I’m going to have a pretty good run with eight shells, but then I have to find a spot to reload and go back out. You’re always making choices to make sure that when you go into battle, your play style is defined. I was showing you the infantry yesterday. If you want to take the StG 44 you’ll get the bayonet. But if you take the StG 44 and you’re the airborne division, you won’t have it.
GamesBeat: In an ideal match, do you see one of every kind of player on a team?
Condrey: I don’t think we’re in a place where it has to be one of each division. What we do know is that you can’t have everybody running one division. It needs to be a mix. Especially in War mode, but even in your standard game modes. That mix of role players is super important to the success of your team.
GamesBeat: Would you go as far as to say certain maps were designed with a particular division in mind?
Condrey: Absolutely. Divisions, for us, reinforce a particular play style. We want to encourage people to explore and have fun in different levels. We know that fans who try more of the game have more fun with the game. Longer sight line maps, more open maps — Aachen has some great engagements that are built around snipers, the mountain division, as does Cannon. Maps like the USS Texas and Gibraltar are all-purpose maps. And then some of our smaller maps — London, Flak — are meant to be fast-paced, shotguns, SMGs.
Mejia: Expeditionary and airborne are really good there.
Condrey: The hope would be that as you’re playing and enjoying leveling up and getting rewards and unlocking new ways to play, you’ll tailor your play style to the map, mode, and objective you’re playing. That’s more meaningful than what we had in Advanced Warfare. Because you had ultimate customization in Advanced Warfare, you really built your soldier once and then stuck with it. If you level up all of your divisions, prestige all your divisions, you can imagine maybe there are some rewards for doing that.
GamesBeat: I saw prestige yesterday. It has a lot more ceremony to it. It’s more social. Everyone gets to see it. For the Headquarters, what’s specifically built in there for multiplayer? The score streak practice was something we never got to do before. That really helps with multiplayer training. What else can we find?
Condrey: Headquarters is a social space. It’s also meant to give you new opportunities to master MP. The firing range is really important. It’s where you can get new weapons, unlock new weapons, and master them in a non-combat space. 1v1 of course is social and competitive, but it’s a place for you to test — we call it ultimate skill, individual skill. Score streak training, of course, it seems so intuitive. How often do you get a score streak the first time and you don’t know how to use it? Come in here, train on it, and you can unlock one of these great score streaks and know what to do.
There’s a lot of different ways to master the game during Headquarters. There are also ways to learn, like in the theater channel. You go in there and we have a bunch of tutorials and curated content. Here’s how you play. Here’s tips of the week. We’ll have a lot of user-generated content in the theater. Picking up your login bonus and your contracts and your challenges will help move you through the experience.
GamesBeat: What are you picking up as you get more of the supply drops?
Condrey: Two big things for us that we learned from Advanced Warfare. One, fans love cosmetic customization. But they didn’t want to feel like they were losing gunfights to someone who just had a better weapon. All of our loot is cosmetic only. We have a brand new category of pistol grips. You get these exclusive pistol grips that are very visually interesting. You can customize your character, customize your weapons, customize your calling card and emblems, but you’re never going to lose a head-to-head gunfight over someone having a stat on a weapon. That’s not happening.
GamesBeat: Do the supply drops come in at random, or are you earning them as you go up a ladder?
Condrey: Tons of ways to earn them. You get them through playtime. You get them through challenges. You get them through orders. You get them through increasing your social score in the hub. The other thing that’s important in our loot system is giving players agency to get the thing they want. In Advanced Warfare everything was a random roll on a loot box. Now we have collections. If there’s an emote or a card or a weapon cosmetic you really want, something that speaks to you, you can go to the quartermaster and buy it directly. No more waiting for a random roll. You actually have collections to drive yourself toward the thing you want.
Between cosmetic only, new types of loot, and these collections where you can make direct purchases, I think fans are going to be pretty happy with this system.
GamesBeat: You’re rewarded for being the most social, then?
Condrey: Yeah, there are tiers to your social score. It’s meant to go toward your collections. This is how you would purchase your way up. Every one of these collections represents a series of things you can buy. As you buy your way up to the thing you want, it unlocks an interesting—this is pretty cool, right? You have the regular gray SMG, and then you can get this beautiful black and gold one.
Mejia: But you would have to get all these. You can wait to get them in supply drops, or if you want to spend your armory credits as you play the game, you can just buy these to get to this guy. While they don’t offer stat changes that will make it more powerful, there are some that give you a bonus to XP or a bonus in Zombies. This one here has the perk for Headhunter, but it only works in Zombies. You can use it in MP to get that 10 percent soldier XP bonus, or take it to Zombies and benefit from it.
Condrey: With Headquarters being this truly social space where you can show off—all these cosmetics are a new way to do that. Previously it was really great to see things in the virtual lobby. Maybe you’d get the final kill cam. But now you get to show off in front of 48 other players in Headquarters.
But back to what you asked about social rank, there are tiers. As you rank up and move through the tiers, you get better and better rewards. Those rewards could be everything from armory credits to exclusive loot to supply drops themselves. With the hope that—as you can imagine, we want your social score to be as important as your K/D. We want people to engage and be contributing members of the community. You commend a player, he gets a social score. You open a supply drop around your friends, you get a social score. You use the emblem editor and upload your stuff so people can use it, your social score goes up. Ultimately we hope that there will be a prestige, a bragging right around being in the top tier of social score.
GamesBeat: And prestige will change the more your prestige up? The ceremony becomes more colorful, more fireworks and so on.
Condrey: That’s right. We think prestiging is the one of the most important things people do in their soldier career, and yet up to this point there hasn’t been the fanfare it deserves. Headquarters allows you to prestige in front of the community, and so you’re allowed access to this exclusive space, the overlook where you meet the general, and the very ceremonial aspect. The entire community gets to watch you celebrate that moment. Fireworks go off. Planes go by. The more you prestige, the greater than fanfare becomes. You can imagine that max prestige guys, in front of a group of 48 players—it’s a significant event.
Mejia: Another tip for Headquarters, when you come in for your sessions you get your payroll. We give you armory credits. You might have some cool reward in your inbox as well, part of the onboarding experience.
GamesBeat: Do you think Headquarters will change over time, with new DLC coming out?
Mejia: We see it as an ever-evolving space, yeah. Things will come online. Depending on what’s happening with the seasons, we might have something for Christmas, for example.
Condrey: Headquarters at launch is just a springboard. It’s just the beginning of what we envision as a long-evolving innovative space. New events, new activities, new changes, new rewards—we have a long list of things we’re excited to bring over the season ahead.
GamesBeat: The leaderboards are more elaborate here. You have leaderboards within the HQ, but you also have them for the entire universe of Call of Duty.
Mejia: We went pretty big with leaderboards. We wanted to represent anyone that’s in your Headquarters section. You can see how they stack up against you, how everyone’s contributing to War or Domination. But if you want to see your global ranking, you can go to your dossier and see worldwide leaderboards. You can sort them by your friends, by all time, monthly, weekly. We still have all that, but then you get the virtual representation of it in the Headquarters space. If you’re the top player you get your emblem on the chalkboard, which is pretty cool.
One thing that happens in the studio, someone will get a top score, and they’ll just stand right here to show off. “Oh, that’s the guy with the top score.” There are a lot of cool ways to show off and connect with other people in the community.
Condrey: That’s part of the community, right? A lot of it is bragging rights. Being top of the global leaderboard is important to a lot of people, but now you know where you stand in each lobby. Each one of these leaderboards is for this instance of Headquarters. You can show off to all the people around you. Hey, I’m top in 1v1, bring it on. Every Headquarters out there will have the local leaderboards in addition our global ones.
GamesBeat: The R&R where you get access to classic Activision games, is that a first as well?
Condrey: We wanted to give players a reason to spend time — we view Headquarters as that place. Maybe you’re waiting for your friends. You call your buddies to jump online and maybe one of them is 10 minutes out. You can come in here and play and be social. You can open your supply drops. You can get ready to jump into a Zombies match, whatever you’re doing, and in the meantime maybe you head down and get a little R&R with some of our classics.
Of course, this is just the beginning. We’ll continue to add more to the R&R space. There’s a lot of discoverability in here. We’ve seen some really cool things happen when the community is just hanging out. There are little Easter eggs that we’ll let the community find.
Mejia: We’ve put these things all around the Headquarters space. This is what we call the easy one.
GamesBeat: Jumping spots.
Mejia: Yeah, there we go. There are hidden challenges like this. You can show off, pass it around, throw the ball around, have a good time. There are some harder ones where you have to climb up here, jump to this thing, jump there, and then hit this little thing there. Hopefully people are going to explore and have a good time making YouTube videos.
Condrey: We know that gamers want best-in-class gameplay, but they also want a social space where they can hang out and be creative. We see that in lots of other games. This is meant to really elevate where you go between matches — maybe at the beginning of your evening, or at the end. There are lots of secrets in here for people to find.
Call of Duty: WWII is available on November 3 for the PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a copy of PS4 edition of the game for this review, and I attended a review event.