RAID: WWII begins well enough. The opening movie captures the timeless appeal of a ragtag bunch of Allied soldiers casually and violently disrupting the march of the Nazi war machine. The cast of characters is familiar: a staunch British commander, a rugged American commando, the mysterious Russian soldier, and even a disgruntled Nazi defector. Bodies pile up as fire rains down, as throughout we are reminded of Hollywood hits like The Dirty Dozen and The Inglorious Basterds. It concludes with our four heroes facing off against a platoon of German soldiers, flanked by explosions and swelling music. As opening movies go, this one is slick and full of attitude.
Unfortunately, watching the opening cinematic was the high point of my experience with this squad-based co-op shooter in the vein of Payday. From its subpar graphics to its monotonous gameplay, RAID: WWII disappoints at nearly every turn.
My first clue that something was amiss was the character selection screen. Those stunningly animated WW2 archetypes morph into models you might expect to find in a good-looking PS3 game. Then it’s on to a cheesy, though oddly appealing, live-action introduction featuring Monty Python’s John Cleese. His proper English officer character proceeds explains Raid: WWII’s objectives over a spot of tea.
Said premise is simple: lead that foursome of misfit heroes through a variety of missions, each with the purpose of stalling the Nazi advance and/or stealing the Fuhrer’s gold. Whatever you steal is yours to keep and used to upgrade the group’s underground camp.
While this sounds fun, in practice it can be a bit of a slog. With names like “Gold Rush,” “Wiretap,” and “Bunker Buster,” the roughly 30-minute missions sound exciting and diverse. It’s easy to expect each level to capture the cinematic feel of a stealthy assassination or a destructive rampage through a German fortress. However, many of them devolve into finding a point of interest, defending it for a short period, and repeating that cycle multiple times. Occasionally this pattern is interrupted by having to flip switches, pick locks, or move crates of gold, but generally, each raid is pretty formulaic.
Many start out as stealth operations, but thanks to some spotty awareness system it’s a chore to maintain secrecy. Once, while in an isolated, empty room in a building, I was alerted to multiple enemies who could potentially see me. So I had to shoot everybody. Weird bugs, strange level design, and maddening enemy placement occasionally make securing objectives through firepower a necessity.
Issues with enemies aren’t limited to their X-ray vision, though. While it may fit into the trope of faceless Nazi simpletons, shooting waves of soldiers filing down a staircase isn’t that fun. Nor is unloading a full magazine into a Flamethrower soldier before he falls. The relentless waves of dumb, impenetrable soldiers coupled with a lack of true mission variety create a monotonous experience.
When I wasn’t flipping switches, picking locks, or looking for items, I was fending off large numbers of enemies that were artificially challenging due to their ability to soak up bullets. This sequence doesn’t provide a great canvas for the badassery RAID: WWII tries to present. What’s worse, it seems to reward combat over chasing the objective when dealing out XP, making each mission feel like a series of checkpoints designed to break up the endless supply of Nazi soldiers. This feeling is only enhanced by the many objectives that are time-based, such as defending a POW for a certain amount of time.
The intelligence of any AI teammates on your squad, should you be down a man, isn’t much better than the Nazi soldiers. They will adequately take down targets and resurrect you, but do little if anything to help achieve the objectives. This isn’t unexpected, but it does make offline/solo missions a miserable way to play, as you alone must complete objectives built for a team. There’s a radial command system, but it was hard to tell if the AI was actually doing anything in response to my orders. Teammates stick pretty close to you unless you are sneaking, so no one’s covering anyone’s flank.
In fact, I would probably suggest you stay away from this game entirely if you don’t plan on joining others online. Unfortunately, the community seems pretty dry as of this writing; during evening hours on the East Coast I was limited to about 10 ongoing PS4 games to join, many of which only had one other player. Try to bring your own squad mates–or don’t, because they might hold it against you.
Playing with other online users is significantly more fun, as it really lets the strengths of each character class shine. I can’t fault RAID for not having distinct classes: Assault, Recon, Demolitions, and Insurgent all begin with their own default stats, weapons, and a Warcry which can be activated for temporary boosts to your character and team. Each class also has a set of proficiencies that you can access as you level up. I found these to be rather unexciting and MMO-like in their reliance on pure, boring numbers: “Increase general interaction speed by 17%.” “Increase Bleed out timer by 4 seconds.” Not exactly something to build a playstyle around. They are effective, but do little to shape the class into something truly personalized.
The same can be said for the few cosmetic customization options available for characters. There are roughly 10 jackets and pants you can unlock and equip, but since they’re all very military in style they’re hardly enough to make one Russian Recon soldier look different from the next. Guns can be upgraded as well, but only by consistently using each individual weapon for a large amount of time.
Additionally, the amount of XP earned per mission seems minute compared to the 40 levels of available upgrades; and because your XP doesn’t transfer between classes, be prepared to spend large amounts of time upgrading each of them separately before they can be viable for high-level play. As mentioned, this is made worse by XP bonuses based on kills, accuracy and the like, not for achieving objectives. This artificially elongates missions as online teammates circle the map looking for kills, despite the Raid: WWII’s theme of in-and-out destruction. There is a thematic disconnect after you blow a gas plant, head for the exit, and then wait for a partner to finish clearing the map.
If there’s a highlight, it’s the maps, which are well designed and showcase the 1940s setting. Many have multiple levels and stories, creating a nice sense of vertical space. In a lot of ways, they remind me of older shooters like Golden eye in their structure and design – which isn’t a bad thing! They just don’t look very good. There are many poorly detailed and repetitive textures throughout, especially on outdoor vegetation.
Even so, load times can be frustratingly long, and I noticed a lot of slowdown on the PS4 as enemies piled into close quarters. Likewise for the flames spread by the predictable arrival of the elite Flammenwerfer. Enemy and teammate animations are stiff and artificial, and it doesn’t do the poor AI any favors to have its dumb decisions acted out with bad animations.
On the sound front, the stereotypical chatter between the four soldiers is occasionally humorous. While the dialogue can sometimes grow annoying, it furthers the unique tone the game is trying to achieve. Explosions and gunfire sound a little flat and tinny, while the music is pretty typical for the genre.
In regards to the actual gun play, it is serviceable. You definitely won’t be getting the same experience found in Counter-Strike or Call of Duty, but I never felt like the weapons or controls were hindering my ability to do well. Movement and aiming are adequately responsive when RAID: WWII is running smoothly. Looking down the sights seemed to deliver accurate results and I never had issues traversing the environment. My only complaint here, outside of the ongoing performance issues, is that climbing down ladders is touchy and fall damage seems a little unforgiving.
You will be challenged to manage your ammo, which is rather limited early on. Driving controls, on the other hand, leave a lot to be desired, though thankfully the need to drive is limited to only the two largest missions. I once got a Kubelwagon stuck in a small alley, Austin Powers-style, and my whole team had to leave on foot.