This week Call of Duty: WW2 saw the release of its first DLC pack, dubbed, The Resistance, for the PlayStation 4 version of the game. I've put time into the three new multiplayer maps, the new War map and the new Zombies chapter, and can happily report that they're all pretty great, and I had a blast getting to grips with all the new gubbins on offer.
However, playing the DLC, I couldn't help but wish - and not for the first time - that Activision would ditch its premium map model and give new maps to all players for free. There are a few reasons for this.
It's 2018 and Call of Duty still splits its userbase by selling maps. I can't help but feel this is an archaic approach. Obviously selling maps still does the business for Activision otherwise the mega publisher wouldn't do it, and Sony no doubt forks out a pretty penny for 30 day exclusivity on the DLC packs (don't get me started on timed exclusivity on DLC!), but dividing Call of Duty players up into the "haves" and the "have-nots" feels like the wrong thing to do for the community and for the game.
We are now in the age of engagement, so the big publishers tell us. It's not all about video game sales anymore. It's about getting as many people playing as possible, keeping those people playing for longer and, the publishers hope, spending more. Concurrents is king. So why not give out all new maps to all players for free, thus maximising your audience? Activision would miss out on a revenue boost it gets from the sale of season passes, but Call of Duty, and its players, would benefit in the long run. And it's not like there aren't money-making loot boxes in the game. They fall out of the sky onto Normandy beach and spit out their random innards in front of other players, for goodness sake!
Other games, such as Respawn's Titanfall 2, have already ditched premium DLC map packs. Star Wars Battlefront 2 dumped the season pass employed by its predecessor (although the microtransactions that replaced it were risible). If you look at two of the most popular games in the world right now, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Epic's Fortnite, neither would fathom charging for new maps. It feels like premium maps have had their day. Call of Duty should move with the times.
It's a real shame so many Call of Duty: WW2 players won't get to play The Resistance maps, because they're vibrant, energetic and well designed. Anthropoid, a map based in Prague, is on the large size for a Call of Duty map, so it's a great shout for snipers. On the downside, it's packed with annoying quick scopers. Usefully, the map includes a center lane divided by a river you can actually swim in to creep up on enemies. And there are little fish to see below the surface. A playful nod to Call of Duty: Ghosts' much-maligned "advanced fish AI"? I reckon so.
Valkyrie is inspired by Hitler's Eastern-front headquarters during Operation Barbarosa, otherwise known as The Wolf's Lair. The space is dominated by an imposing machine building, with a center lane covered by mounted machine guns. I love to jump on these things and obliterate enemy players as they run out into the open like Lemmings blindly falling off a cliff. The mounted machine guns turn Call of Duty: WW2 into my own little shooting gallery, and it's lovely indeed.
Rounding out the standard multiplayer maps is perhaps the best of the new maps. Occupation is a remake of Modern Warfare 3's superb Resistance map, and flows just as well. This impressively-detailed recreation of Nazi-occupied Paris is a little fiddly to get to grips with, but fans of nooks and crannies will love the homes and storefronts, which make for good ambush spots.
I'm a huge War fan, so it's great to see the mode get a brand new map. Operation Intercept, set outside of St. Lo, France, replicates the three-pronged objective-based gameplay of previous War mode maps, but shakes things up with the addition of Resistance prisoners that must be rescued. And don't forget that, when on the Axis side, you can repair the communication equipment, which makes for a nice back and forth between the two sides. And it wouldn't be a War map without a slow-moving tank to escort - or halt - would it?
Call of Duty: WW2 has been crying out for new maps since launch. Indeed, one of the biggest complaints about the game is it launched with too few maps - just nine for standard modes and three for War (the fact the superb Carentan map, which is based on the much-loved map of the same name from the first Call of Duty game, was locked behind a season pass purchase summed it all up, really) and those that did come with the base game weren't memorable. For me, The Resistance maps are among the best in the game, which is both good and bad for Call of Duty's image problem. If The Resistance maps feel like they should have been a part of Call of Duty: WW2 from the start, then perhaps they should have been made free for all. Truth be told, the whole Resistance aesthetic DLC pack one and the current limited-time event it ties into is a superb fit for Call of Duty: WW2, so much so that it's hard to imagine how the game got away without it for so long.
It's important to point out that Activision is not the only publisher stubbornly sticking with the sale of premium DLC maps. EA did it with Battlefield 1 - although given its stance with Titanfall 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront 2, I wonder if Battlefield has seen the last of the season pass. Activision's own Destiny games lock new competitive multiplayer maps behind costly expansions, too. This is not a Call of Duty problem. This is a video game industry problem.
But I really do hope the executives in charge of the dreaded Call of Duty business model have a rethink. Call of Duty: WW2 got off to a shaky start, but developer Sledgehammer has continued to update the game, and it's now in a good place. WW2 is, for me, the best Call of Duty game in years, and reaffirmed my belief that there's life in the old dog yet. But in order for Call of Duty to not just survive but thrive, it really does need to get rid of those depressing premium maps and make them all free.