Call of Duty is as much a staple for E3 as my annual trip to the Shabu Shabu house in Little Tokyo — it’s a permanent part of the itinerary.  This year is no different, as Activision preps the latest iteration of its powerhouse property.  Using their leapfrog tactic between Treyarch and Sledgehammer, the latter gets this year’s opportunity to wow us.

Before we dove into our demonstration of the game in motion, Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield, co-founders of Sledgehammer Games gave us a quick re-introduction to the World War II setting, as well as speaking from the heart about what this title means to them, and what the sacrifices portrayed in the setting mean to the entire world.

All gave some, some gave all.

Taking place in the years 1944 and 1945, you play Private Red Daniels of the Army’s 1st Infantry.  A raw recruit, Daniels will see his first action during D-Day, fighting across Axis-occupied Europe through France, Belgium, and ultimately pushing into Germany.   To get a taste of the story, our demo jumped to 7 weeks after D-Day for Operation Cobra.

Sgt. Pierson, our NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge), has charged us with assaulting and seizing a church in the center of the town of Marigne.  Enemies are held up there, including a sniper and likely worse.  Before we could clear that church, we’d have to make our way through the town.

Seize the church!

House to house fighting is chaotic.  Enemies and friendlies often end up commingled as neither side is familiar with the town, meaning you may be surrounded at any time without warning.  It better approximates the fog of war than we’ve seen in a Call of Duty game to date.

Ascending to the top of a house we see a German soldier who, realizing his impending capture, slumps against a wall and shoots himself in the head.  As we come to grips with the horrors of war, Allied and Axis planes tear the buildings around us apart, sending shards of bricks and broken glass everywhere.  The house cleared, we drop down to the street reasonably close to our objective.  Popping smoke to cover our egress, we scoop up a wounded soldier behind the shoulders and drag him across the street, catching a bit of shrapnel in the process.  This unfortunate event lets us see the new health mechanic.

In previous Call of Duty games, if you stepped away from incoming fire and took cover, your health would recover after a brief period.  That mechanic has been replaced by a greater reliance on your brothers.  With a quick tap upwards on the D-Pad, Daniels shouts for the medic, Private Zussman, to throw us a medkit.  Taking a few moments to wrap up our arm, we top off our health and prepare to make the final push to reach the church.

Every inch, hard fought.

Patched up, we prepare to make our final push on the objective, but an armored troop carrier stands in our way.  Cooking a grenade and lobbing it into the open top of the vehicle, the Germans inside had no chance to escape.  Opening the rear doors and pulling a shrapnel-riddled soldier out of the back, we ascend into the back and man the mounted light machine gun to rip through the incoming German counter-offensive.

Kicking the front door of the church open, we move in.  The once beautiful building is eerily quiet.  As we spot a mounted machine gun emplacement on the second floor, the church erupts in an ambush, rounds and tracers ripping through the pews as we scramble for cover.  Locking a rifle-launched RPG onto the top of our carbine, the building shakes with the concussion of the blast.  The ambush teams flanking us upstairs are now dead, but the mission isn’t quite over.  Advancing on the stairs, a German soldier wielding a Flammenwerfer 35 (German backpack-mounted flamethrower) obliterates our flimsy wooden cover, bathing the room in flames and forcing us to crawl prone to flank him.  Tagging his tanks with a few rounds, gouts of flame erupt as he fights to remove the backpack-mounted weapon.  With a chest-rattling thud, the weapon explodes, taking its wielder with it.  The last few German Officers, seeing this horrific end, immediately drop to their knees in surrender, interlacing their hands behind their heads.

Purifying and deadly flame

Climbing the bell tower, we reach the top and snap up a KAR98K sniper rifle. Our objective is to protect Sgt. Zussman as he heads back through the buildings we used to get here to attempt to firebomb some strategic targets. Our spotter, Pierson, calls out “Too long!” as some of our wayward shots fall short of their intended target.  Unfortunately, the enemy has this position sighted, launching several volleys into the tower.  Running as the sounds of the bronze bells rip free of their mounts, snapping their suspension ropes as they go, Pierson and I scramble to the ground floor, narrowly escaping with our lives.

Call of Duty WWII represents a return to the purity of ground combat that Call of Duty was founded upon.  Close quarters battle, ambush tactics, and careful advancement through an unpredictable fog of war gives us just a glimpse of what’s in store for us.  We’ll keep you posted as we get hands-on with the multiplayer aspects of the game, but if the single player game is any indication, there’s a lot to be excited about this return to the second World War.

Call of Duty WWII will hit Xbox One, Xbox One X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, and PC on November 3rd, 2017.   Check out the video above for a multiplayer reveal, a livestream, a making-of, and much more.  Stay tuned as we bring you more about the revampled multiplayer in the near future.