Normandy Beach has been abandoned for almost a week in my copy of Call of Duty: WW2. What's supposed to be a Destiny 2-like social hub is instead something akin to a ghost town. I can't even complete one of the initial social missions in which I'm supposed to commend a fellow soldier.
It's only the most visible symptom of what has ailed Call of Duty: WW2 since it launched this time last week. Over the past week, players have reported many problems with glitchy servers, games going unrecorded, bugs, and weapon balance.
One particularly nasty bug is the so-called "Prestige Bug," which triggers after you max out your level and enter Prestige Mode. The bug resets the initial Welcome to Headquarters quest while preventing you from obtaining new orders from Major Howard—a huge problem given that they are an excellent source of supply drops.
Late last night, developer Sledgehammer Games released a rather large patch meant to address many of the issues highlighted by fans. But server issues seem just as bad as before, and some players are reporting that well-known issues like the Prestige Bug persist.
"Double XP is broken, disconnects are non-stop, orders are still broken, seven days without any major fixes," one fan complained on Reddit following the update.
Another wrote, "Latest update broke matchmaking for me. Been searching for a match for the last 20 minutes, constantly saying 40+ potential games found yet nothing."
Sledgehammer Games has been periodically posting updates on Twitter.
#CODWWII MP connectivity improved from earlier, but dedicated servers are currently off-line. Expect normal P2P performance including host migrations. We'll be sharing updates throughout the day on current status. If you have a support request, please reach out to @ATVIAssist.— Sledgehammer Games (@SHGames) November 10, 2017
#CODWWII Game Update: While we restore dedicated server support, we're taking Gamebattles integration offline until functionality is restored. Look for another server status update soon.— Sledgehammer Games (@SHGames) November 10, 2017
Call of Duty: WW2's issues have no doubt put a damper on what is in some ways an interesting and ambitious game.
The new "War Mode" in particular is being lauded by many as one of Call of Duty's best additions in a long time. A multi-stage multiplayer mode in the vein of Battlefield 1's Operations, it includes a full-blown multiplayer Battle of Normandy, with one side assaulting the beaches while the other defends. It's a mode that feels true to the subject matter while freshening up the main gameplay.
You know, when it works.
Server issues and bugs have led to unfounded accusations that Sledgehammer Games doesn't care, where the reality is that they were actually probably too ambitious for their own good.
Consider the Headquarters: A Destiny-style multiplayer hub that has been bolted on top of Call of Duty's traditional multiplayer. On paper, it must have seemed amazing—a full-blown hub where you could walk around Omaha Beach, receive orders, and interact with other players.
But in practice, it's a very complex environment with heavier gameplay hooks than you might normally find even in Destiny. It includes minigames, lots of shops, and the ability to receive supply drops. There are so many systems in play that it's no wonder that it's so broken.
This is not to excuse Sledgehammer Games: If you're going to introduce an ambitious social hub, you'd better make sure it works. But it does highlight how easily even a big-budget game like Call of Duty can go badly wrong.
Unfortunately, these problems have been all too common this year, and it's only apt to get worse.
Call of Duty and the Price of Running a Service Game
Call of Duty: WW2 is just the latest "service game" to struggle out of the gate in 2017.
Sport games in particular have had a hard time of it. MLB The Show 17's server issues were so bad that early online events had to be canceled. NBA 2K18 had major problems with disappearing Virtual Currency.
As more and more data is stored on remote servers, the infrastructure is becoming more fragile. Server outages and glitches are breaking whole games.
This is what is fueling the anger behind the problems bedeviling games like Call of Duty: WW2. Not only are fans having to deal with an influx of microtransaction-heavy mechanics, now their preferred game isn't running properly as a result of their inclusion.
Online games are getting more ambitious by the year, but the accompanying increase in backend problems is hugely frustrating. It's getting to the point where it's not even worth picking up a game at launch given how much the inevitable mega patches will ultimately change things.
I have no doubt that Sledgehammer Games will eventually get things under control, especially as the initial surge of players move on to greener pastures. But being barely functional at launch shouldn't be the price of creating an evergreen "service game."
Unfortunately, if 2017 is any indication, we're really through the looking glass when it comes to these sorts of online platforms. And I doubt the accompanying tech problems are going to get better any time soon.