Much has been made of Sledgehammer Games' commitment to authenticity and a realistic depiction of war in Call of Duty: WWII. Actor Josh Duhamel said during the reveal livestream that "they spent so much time making this historically accurate, it's going to expose the whole WWII story to a whole new generation." For multiplayer action, however, Sledgehammer Games is taking a few liberties.
Sledgehammer told us during E3 that players will be able to wield Allied or Axis weaponry in multiplayer, regardless of which side of the fight they're on. But as studio co-founder Michael Condrey told Eurogamer, they'll also have the option of fighting as a black or white soldier, male or female, without restriction.
"Multiplayer is this gritty, immersive experience, but it's also about putting you—this is about you—in World War 2," Condrey said. "And so, that evolution of your character means it's important for us to allow you to choose to be you, and to have a hero that represents who you are, whomever you choose that to be."
Condrey acknowledged that the rampant racism of the era, and particularly that of the Nazi regime, meant that black soldiers wouldn't actually be found among the ranks of the German military. But that's not the point. "We want this to be about you," Condrey said. "We're not making a statement about the authenticity of the Axis force. We're making this about putting you in this social space and you into your soldier."
The decision to omit the swastika has a similar basis. In the campaign, Sledgehammer has to balance authenticity with "respect" for the millions who died during the war. But in multiplayer, well... there are zombies.
"We want the community to play together. We want to be respectful of local customs and laws around the world," Condrey said. "And frankly [the swastika] is a dark symbol with a lot of emotion behind it we don't feel matches our multiplayer experience."
Which sounds like a perfectly reasonable explanation to me. The WWII campaign may or may not live up to its billing, but CoD multiplayer doesn't carry any of that responsibility: It's a fun way for people to blast the crap out of each other online. In that context, the swastika is entirely unnecessary, and as Condrey said, simply does not fit.
We took a closer look at Call of Duty: WWII's new multi-stage attack-and-defend "War Mode" last week, and overall it sounds very promising: More linear that other modes, but also more focused and team-oriented. Call of Duty: WWII is scheduled to come out on November 3.