Call of Duty®: WWII

Sledgehammer Games is opening a studio in Australia, according to the company's "first official hire". Melbourne developer Alayna Cole announced the news on Twitter yesterday, confirming she will start work this coming Monday in her role as a producer.

While it's the first public mention of the studio's existence, listings on LinkedIn suggest recruitment started as far back as three years ago. This advertisement for a software engineer dates that far back, while the Sledgehammer Games website currently lists five vacancies for the Melbourne branch.

Australia used to be home to several big studios belonging to major publishers, including the likes of 2K Australia and THQ. While the indie scene flourishes, Sledgehammer joins EA's Firemonkeys as one of the two sole operating entities connected to the big end of town. 

Sledgehammer is responsible for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Advanced Warfare and WWII. No word yet on what Sledgehammer will be working on locally, but I've reached out to Activision for comment.

Call of Duty®: WWII

Got some time to kill this weekend, and an urge to dive into an existential struggle for the future of Europe, and indeed the entire world? Then I have good news for you, my warmongering friend, because Activision is once again making Call of Duty: WWII multiplayer free to play for everyone. 

The free-to-play period is already underway, and will run until 1 pm PT/4 pm ET on May 6. To take part, just hit the "Play Game" button under the Call of Duty: WWII Multiplayer listing on Steam, wait for the download to complete (it's a big one, about 57GB in size), and then have at it. 

Character progression, inventory items, and unlockables will all carry over to the full game if you decide to buy it. To that end, it's also on sale, for 33 percent off—$39/£29/€39—until May 7. 

Call of Duty®: WWII

When it comes to obvious places to host Call of Duty tournaments, an RSL club probably wouldn't place highly on the list. The Returned and Services League of Australia is, after all, an organisation which supports those who have served in the Australian Defence Force, and the RSL club a place (by design, at least) for them to gather. Call of Duty is a video game about war, yes, but that's precisely why the venue choice might not be in good taste.

But that didn't stop one such tournament being organised at the Castle Hill RSL Club, Set to take place on the 7th and 8th of May, it boasted a $300 prize pool, was free to enter, and was hosted by Video Gamers League. But according to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, a complaint filed to Liberal MP David Elliot – who passed it on to the gaming minister – has resulted in the tournament being cancelled.

"I am trying not to be politically correct but widows of World War II will look at this and think there is no entertainment in WWII and question its use in an RSL club to enable people to win cash," the MP said.

Meanwhile, the Castle Hill RSL president Warren Glenny said he hadn't heard any complaints directly. "The Castle Hill RSL commitment to honouring the service of our veteran community is well known," he told SMH. "We continue to organise, sponsor and support two of the largest community Anzac Day services in the country at Castle Hill and Parramatta.

"If any member does have concerns about eSports tournaments held at the club, they are urged to contact the club directly."

RSL Clubs are available to anyone for a small annual fee, with the larger ones containing all manner of attractions: bars, gyms, restaurants, stages... and gambling. Lots, and lots, and lots of gambling.

Call of Duty®: WWII

The latest Superdata report says the worldwide digital videogames market grew six percent year-over-year in February 2018, hitting $9.1 billion in total. Interestingly, social, pay-to-play (subscription-based), and free-to-play markets on PC are actually all down slightly, but the premium PC market—that is, games that you actually have to buy if you want to play them—is up by 33 percent.   

Overall digital spending in the US is actually up by 21 percent overall, according to the report, thanks to major games (Call of Duty: WWII was the top-earning console game for the month) and—surprise—the power of Fortnite: Battle Royale. PC free-to-play slipped by four percent, but Superdata said the free-to-play console market increased by 359 percent (that's not a typo, that's 359 percent) year-over-year, due to the popularity of Fortnite. 

"Epic’s Battle Royale title showed no signs of losing steam," Superdata said. "Fortnite earned more additional content revenue on console than any game other than Call of Duty: WWII and now has more monthly active users than Grand Theft Auto V." 

PUBG continues to be a major player, selling more than 2.5 million units on the month; PC sales are actually declining, but Xbox One sales are helping to compensate. Overwatch is also holding up well despite the pressure from the battle royale genre, thanks in large part to ongoing support through cosmetic updates and special events like the Lunar New Year celebration in February. 

The top-ten earning games for the month, worldwide: 

  • League of Legends
  • Dungeon Fighter Online
  • Fantasy Westward Journey Online 2
  • Crossfire
  • Playerunknown's Battlegrounds
  • Fortnite: Battle Royale
  • World of Warcraft
  • World of Tanks
  • Hearthstone
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Call of Duty®: WWII

Call of Duty: WWII multiplayer action is free for everyone this weekend—in fact, the free weekend is live as we speak. To take part, just pop over to Steam, find the "multiplayer free weekend" link (it's a little hard to see, but you can find it sitting just above the topmost "Buy Call of Duty: WWII" link), and give it a little click. 

Then be prepared for a wait, because it's about a 57GB download. But once that's done you can play your face off until 1 pm ET on February 25. Any progression, items, and unlockables earned during the free weekend will carry over if and when you spring for the full game. 

It's hard to go wrong at the price, but Call of Duty: WWII's multiplayer is really quite good: We said in our review that the single-player campaign is largely "rote," but the multiplayer "recalls the glory days of Modern Warfare." That's quite a compliment, although doesn't seem to have done much good for the player count: CoD may be more of a console-focused pursuit but even so, today's peak concurrent player count on Steam of just 796 is not great for a game that's been out for less than four months.   

Call of Duty®: Advanced Warfare - Gold Edition

Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey, both formerly of the now-defunct EA outfit Visceral Games, co-founded Sledgehammer Games in 2009. The studio quickly built a name for itself working in Activision's Call of Duty universe, first as co-developer (with Infinity Ward) on Modern Warfare 3, and then in the lead on Advanced Warfare and WWII. But now they've both moved on to other things: Activision confirmed with Kotaku today that they have left the studio, although they will remain with the publisher in new roles. 

"Following the incredible success of Call of Duty: WWII, Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey have decided to transition from their duties at Sledgehammer Games to new executive duties inside Activision. We thank Glen and Michael for their tremendous body of work on Call of Duty and look forward to continuing to collaborate with them in their new roles," Activision said.   

"These changes have created an opportunity to elevate one of the key leaders at the studio, Aaron Halon, to lead Sledgehammer Games. Aaron is a founding member of Sledgehammer Games and the natural fit to lead the team. He has over 20 years of industry experience and has played an instrumental role throughout the studio’s history. We congratulate Aaron and are thrilled about the future of Sledgehammer Games, which we believe has even bigger days ahead." 

It's a move that might spark hazy memories of Vince Zampella and Jason West's split from Infinity Ward in 2010, but this breakup, while obviously representing a dramatic change for Sledgehammer, is my all appearances perfectly amicable. In fact, Schofield and Condrey both thanked Activision in separate statements for the opportunity to found and lead Sledgehammer, and referenced new projects they're involved with at the company. 

"Activision has offered me the opportunity to focus my energy on something I’m very passionate about, exploring new game ideas for the company," Schofield said. "It’s something I just couldn’t pass up." 

"I’m proud of what we accomplished together, it has been the greatest experience of my professional life. I am looking forward to starting a new chapter of my career with Activision," Condrey said.

Alas, what the next chapter and new ideas will entail remains a mystery for now.

Call of Duty®: WWII

Call of Duty: WW2's free community event ahead of the release of its Resistance DLC map pack hands players new weapons, a new division and plenty of XP boosts, but two time-limited game modes are the most interesting additions. For just over a month from Tuesday (January 23), you'll be able to log on and play silly party game Prop Hunt, where one team has to hide from the other by disguising themselves as background items in a map, like a table or a battered chair. I've had a lot of fun with it in other games, and I can't see why this would be any different.

For the same period, you can also play Demolition, the classic Call of Duty game mode that didn't make the cut for WW2. One team has to blow up bomb sites while the other defends and diffuses any explosives the attackers manage to stick down. It's a bit like Search and Destroy, except you can respawn. You'll be able to jump into a Demolition 24/7 server for the duration of the event.

The new Resistance division (divisions are basically WW2's version of classes) comes with a new pistol, a tactical knife skill and the ability to scramble enemy maps. You can see everything that's happening during the event here, including lots of new contracts and both daily and weekly orders.

Again, this is all free. The Resistance DLC, which you'll have to buy, is coming to PS4 on January 30, bringing three new multiplayer maps, a new War Mode scenario and the next chapter of its Nazi zombies offshoot, named The Darkest Shore. We still haven't got a PC release date yet, but I presume it will be some time in February.

Read James' review of the game here: he was a big fan of the multiplayer.

Correction: I originally wrote that the event lasts two weeks. It actually lasts just over a month, but the event calendar is only available for the first two weeks.

Call of Duty®: WWII

Call of Duty: WW2 has announced The Resistance, the shooter's first portion of DLC that promises three new multiplayer maps, a new War Mode and the next chapter of its Nazi zombies offshoot, named The Darkest Shore. 

From front to back, the three incoming maps include Anthropoid, Occupation and Valkyrie. Set in Prague, Anthropoid depicts the titular Operation Anthropoid assassination attempt of two high-ranking Nazi officers in 1942. This map includes a central dividing river with long-flanking paths, perfect for ranged sniper attacks. 

Valkyrie, on the other hand, is inspired by Hitler's Eastern Front HQ, otherwise known as The Wolf's Lair. Here, expect a medium-sized map with a "dangerous centre lane" targeted by mounted machine guns. Lastly, Occupation is a remake of the classic Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Resistance multiplayer map—complete with long, winding streets and storefronts fit for hiding out in.

The Resistance DLC's War Mode, Operation Intercept, tasks players with rescuing resistance members being transported by train. Here, you'll free the fighters, take down communications equipment, and, ultimately, halt the train. 

More on that is detailed here: 

As explained above, The Darkest Shore zombie mode kicks off in Mittelburg wherein your crew learns that Doktor Straub is operating on an island north of Germany. "Blanketed in fog, this island is surrounded by Nazi air and sea power," so reads this post, "and crawling with the Undead." Good luck with that. 

Call of Duty: WW2's The Resistance DLC is without a concrete PC launch date, however is expected to follow its PS4 debut on January 30. The base game also rolled out a PC update yesterday, targeting ranked play and multiplayer, among other things. Check out its patch notes in full over here

Call of Duty®: WWII

Despite its launch issues, Call of Duty: WW2 has spent the last few weeks getting its trenches in order. Now, developer Sledgehammer Games has announced its Thanksgiving double XP weekend will launch a day early, and that the previously delayed PC emblem editor will land on December 8. 

When it does it'll launch alongside the new Winter Carentan Map, within which the game's first Seasonal Community Event—named 'Winter Siege'—will take place. 

"One of the most beloved maps in Call of Duty history is now set in the cold and snowy winter of 1944 and will be free to all players for a limited time during the event and will be added to all MP game modes," says the developer. "Be sure to check out Domination and Hardpoint, they’re two of our studio favorites for Winter Carentan. We can’t wait to play online with you. Also, we have weekly Winter Siege rewards for players that join us throughout the event, and we’ll have more to share in the coming weeks."

WW2's Thanksgiving double XP weekend has also been brought forward—now set to kick off at 10am PT/6pm GMT today, and wrap up at the same time on Monday, November 27. 

Sledgehammer also notes a new update is due next week that will address map exploits and UI improvements among other things. 

Call of Duty®: WWII

Earlier this week, Call of Duty: WW2 developer Sledgehammer Games pledged its commitment to PC players amid ongoing server troubles. Now, global dedicated servers have been reinstated, and the war shooter's much-anticipated PC update is now live. 

Announced via Twitter overnight, XP has now been returned to normal progression and global dedicated servers are go—with the devs "monitoring results" for the time being. 

In a separate Steam community post, Sledgehammer announced that the WW2's long-awaited PC update is also live—and that it's clamping down on cheaters and hackers. 

"Cheaters and hackers create a plethora of issues in-game and ruin the overall experience for everyone," reads the post. "We are committed to banning those who exploit the game to gain advantage over other players. However, you all are integral to our process, and we appreciate your help. Please utilize the in-game reporting feature for suspected cheating."

The dev then lists a series of bug and general fixes the update targets which extends to the game's zombie mode, as well as buffing and nerfing a number of the game's guns. Speaking to the latter, expect the Walther Toggle Action Shotgun to deal more damage at "extremely" close range, while the BAR Rifle now has a decreased fire rate and widened hip fire spread. 

Full details on Call of Duty: WW2's PC update can be found in this direction. The latest on COD Points and Emblems can be read here

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