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‘Call of Duty: WWII’ tells a soldier’s story, drawing inspiration from ‘Band of Brothers’

It’s official. Call of Duty: WWII has been revealed.

Sledgehammer Games’ first look at 2017’s Call of Duty focused primarily on the story. We know it’s a World War II setting. We know it’s focused on the European theater and you join the fighting at France’s Normandy beach on D-Day.

It’s okay if you’re feeling déjà vu. It’s unavoidable, even after mainstream games spent most of the past decade avoiding the World War II setting. This isn’t necessarily bad news for Call of Duty, however.

The community has been clamoring for the series to return to the "boots on the ground" dynamic that it was founded upon. The most recent string of games introduced new game mechanics that pushed Call of Duty multiplayer closer to an experience like Titanfall.

WWII strips away all of that. There are no more exoskeletons, no more booster packs. This is the same kind of ground warfare that Call of Duty was originally known for… it’s just a whole lot prettier, thanks to the power of today’s gaming hardware.

Image: sledgehammer games

While WWII is every bit the action-driven experience that past Call of Duty games offered, Sledgehammer is giving particular attention to the story. There’s no more fancy future-tech to lean on and the setting is one that’s familiar to many gamers.

The team realizes: this is a campaign that will have to be carried by the characters. Senior creative director Bret Robbins and narrative director Scott Whitney shared some of what they’ve cooked up in a recent interview.

"This is the story of Private "Red" Daniels, a 19-year-old kid from Texas who joins the war at the most critical time: right on the eve of [D-Day]," Robbins said.

"It’s the story of his squad — his best friend, Private Zussman; his commanding officers, Sgt. Pierson and Lt. Turner; and various other squad members — as they’re moving through Europe."

Daniels is a member of the U.S. "Fighting 1st" Infantry Division, a "legendary, storied" units, according to Whitney.

"Their journey takes us to all of these iconic locations — basically all of the places you’d want to go — and some other places that you might not be familiar with," he said.

Image: sledgehammer games

"But then, against that backdrop of the larger war is this smaller, more intimate story about a young kid … with certain naïve impressions of what war means. He’s a little bit more glory-seeking and externally focused, but he comes to a deeper understanding over the course of his journey."

Robbins and Whitney both describe WWII as an ensemble piece — you play as Red, but everyone is important. As the Fighting 1st moves from Normandy beach on into France, then Belgium, and finally Germany, they form the sort of bonds that only soldiers at war can.

"Whether it was Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan, we really drew a lot of inspiration from the power of that connection with a squad of guys that you go on a journey with," Whitney said.

Robbins added: "A lot of the drama of the conflict is what happens within the squad and [stems from you] caring about the characters. Hopefully loving some of them. You’re gonna hate some of them too."

He smiled. "We are taking great pains on this game to tell a story where you really have memorable, strong characters."

Call of Duty: WWII also features some new twists on multiplayer and an all-new, still-completely-mysterious cooperative mode. Expect more details on both of these at E3 in June, still months and months ahead of the game’s now-confirmed Nov. 3, 2017 launch.