Call of Duty: WWII and Star Wars: Battlefront II are two giant games that have somehow both managed to spawn clusterfucks surrounding their release. It’s only natural that we try to do a thorough accounting of which one fucked up more.
Activision’s WWII had massive server issues at launch leading the series’ most diehard fans to bang away on their keyboards in disgust. By the time the scandal over the game’s online management began to reach a fever pitch it quickly became overshadowed by EA’s annual holiday roasting. Battlefront II has loot boxes. Did you know that? I bet you did because thanks to a mass outrage campaign on Reddit and other places everyone and their dog knows the new Star Wars game has loot boxes. Also, you apparently have to cut off your right hand in order to unlock Darth Vader’s holiday skin. 2017’s been a weird year.
To help put it all in perspective and figure out which game is the one true violator of gamers’ rights, here’s our helpful head-to-head comparison.
Call of Duty: WWII: Betas have become standard for major AAA releases, a time to test server loads and calibrate gameplay. Since Call of Duty is one of the biggest game series in the world, it’s maybe not surprising WWII had one of the longer and more confusing beta periods. First was the private beta, which ran August 25-28 for PS4 and September 1-4 for both PS4 and Xbox One. Sony’s ran twice for some reason, and also while the beta was exclusive to people who preordered the game, the internet was flooded with codes, plus there was some hack you could do where you pretended to be from Hong Kong. It was pretty wild, even if the game itself suffered from match disconnects, hit detection issues, and wonky spawn points. WWII then got another, separate beta for PC users which ran September 29 to October 2 although Sledgehammer actually started it a day early (surprise!).
Battlefront II: EA’s shooter hosted a beta as well, but that one only ran October 4-11. Battlefront II drew attention for some questionable design choices like its star card system. People started talking about the new Star Wars game being pay-to-win. EA tried to counteract this sentiment by taking Epic Star Cards out of loot boxes and putting more emphasis on earning new weapons and class-specific items through normal multiplayer progression. Plus the beta ran during the week as opposed to just weekends, making it harder to get the most out of it.
Edge: While server issues and jenky shootouts are frustrating and loot boxes that affect gameplay are obnoxious, WWII clearly had the more byzantine beta process. Battlefront II’s might have only ran for eight days instead of 13, but at least everyone knew what the fuck was going on. Aren’t we beyond asking players to sneak into private betas using fake PSN accounts? Apparently not. Score one for WWII.
Call of Duty: WWII: It’s hard not to notice when you log on to play a game and it simply won’t work. Black screens, infinite loading screens, disconnect screens, the launch day carnage was all over social media and Reddit once the game released. Some people still managed to get on and play though. It wasn’t until Activision began doing server maintenance over the weekend that the most concise symbol of the game’s ongoing woes rose up: pictures of empty Headquarter social spaces. Players shared their empty encampments on social media, but the Reddit one was by far the best. “50,000 people used to live here... Now it’s a ghost town,” it read. 10 words, 344 comments, 4804 upvotes, and one picture.
Battlefront II: For EA the moment when everything went to shit was when it publish the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. Somehow it wasn’t the pay-to-win loot box mechanics that had still managed to carry over into the game’s EA Access trial period or even the discovery of just how long it would take to unlock characters like Vader and Luke. Instead, it was a response by the company that enflamed the situation, simply by virtue of its anodyne explanation of how the company had arrived at the game’s present state. “We appreciate the candid feedback, and the passion the community has put forth around the current topics here on Reddit,” it said. That comment got -676,000 points. If you ever got that score doing something in real life they would lock you up and make doing that thing illegal. The misstep proved that silence can be golden, at least compared to poking a hornets’ nest with empty rhetoric. With that much downvoting, possibly helped along by bots, I’m surprised there’s not a Congressional investigation into Lootgate.
Edge: As much as I love the desolate quiet of a struggling game’s empty social hub, it’s hard to argue with history. EA attracts an unfathomable amount of bad will. We all remember 2013 and the online poll that crowned it the worst company in America and shutting down Visceral didn’t earn any extra good will. At the end of the day life is math though, and -676,000 points plus zero subpoenas issued will beat 50,000 people every time. Battlefront II wins this round.
Call of Duty: WWII: Throughout the weekend of its launch, players were kept abreast of developments with server maintenance and bug fixes through the series’ Twitter account. That’s where word of the first update came from after a series of tweets with more replies than likes. one which didn’t do much to appease players. “At launch, we experienced an extremely high volume of players connecting to our servers in a very short window,” is not much of a get out of jail card when you’re one of the biggest multiplayer series of all time. Similarly, remarking on lost player progress due to bugs and connectivity issues by saying “Thankfully, the vast majority lost 5 or fewer levels,” isn’t likely to win many fans. A post on the subreddit the subsequent day was met with eyerolls by people still suffering from disconnects and post-match experience points that never correctly added to their total. However, the Call of Duty Twitter account did tweet about servers 16 times since the game was released.
Battlefront II: EA’s initial response to fury about the game during the beta briefly calmed fans, but by the early access period, the company’s Reddit engagement was only escalating things. The company tried to toe the line on its existing design choices around hero unlocks because, surely people wouldn’t stay mad forever. “The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes,” the notoriously downvoted comment began. The EA spokesperson apparently had no idea how to read an online room. More importantly, the Battlefront II Twitter account hasn’t tweeted about loot boxes a single time since the controversy began. It also only mention Darth Vader once. Everyone knows that Twitter is the only place that matters so if you don’t talk about something there it’s basically like it never happened.
Edge: EA has an unparalleled knack for the whole foot in mouth on the internet thing. If you think you’re good at pissing off hardcore gaming fans, rest assured EA will be out there somewhere dutifully handing its beer off to the nearest bystander while it proceeds to perform Olympic levels of pissing fans off. Plus Call of Duty had 16 divided by zero times more tweets trying to placate its fanbase, so Battlefront II wins again.
Call of Duty: WWII: Sledgehammer has rolled multiple patches for the game at this point. Each subsequent update has been slowly making the game more stable, although players still report issues with hit rate detection and general lag. In an effort to lessen the number of times players shot someone in the head only to find themselves the ones staring at a respawn timer, the studio took down its dedicated WWII servers to work out the kinks. It began rolling them back out starting Tuesday. So while the game was still a mess as of Monday, things have been on the mend. The relief has been felt too with responses getting less negative. This whole situation has also delayed the rollout of microtransactions in WWII. Call of Duty points were supposed to be available to purchase as of November 14, but with everything going on, they’ve been pushed back until November 21. That’s a whole negative seven days of microtransactions.
Battlefront II: Battlefront II’s problem isn’t as binary (working/not working) and the way out of its mess is more subjective: Should they make more than 20% of the credits earned in a multiplayer match based on performance or continue running afoul of the Geneva conventions in the interest of greed. The company’s first move was to announce a 75% reduction in the cost of unlocking Battlefront II’s heroes. Its next was to suggest it would continue to monitor feedback and player data to tweak other aspects of the game. Instead of simply disappearing back into the void of Reddit this time, however, developers from EA DICE did an AMA on the subject on Wednesday promising to keep looking at player feedback as Battlefront II evolves. None of that changes the fact that the game has already had microtransactions live for eight whole days.
Edge: By rooting out the majority of connectivity issues more than a week after launch, WWII has achieved something around the bare minimum that was expected of it. Battlefront II, on the other hand, actually walked back the thing that had pissed the most people off. On the other hand, WWII’s multiplayer has spent 12 days recovering from limbo, only to get back to a place where it was only moderately frustrating to play online. Those 12 days plus the negative days of microtransactions comes out to five days which is still less than eight. Another point for Battlefront II.
Call of Duty: WWII: The first round of mea culpas isn’t the whole story it turns out. Yes, WWII’s multiplayer has been improving, but lo and behold just as the end seemed in sight a new controversy got in the way. It turns out the amount of XP players had been getting from matches, when they weren’t being kicked or having their progress erased, was actually double what it was supposed to be. Once the official 2XP kicked off, players were actually getting 3X what they were supposed to be earning. That meant that when the event finally ended, and Sledgehammer Games realized its error, the rate of additional XP earned plummeted. Players have taken to calling the corrected bug a nerf, with new outrage already fomenting across various comment threads. This new debacle means not only will it take people longer to earn all of their favorite WWII submachine gun attachments, but players who expected to have prestiged 100 times by the start of 2018 will not need to play that much harder.
Battlefront II: Being able to now unlock Darth Vader for a mere 15,000 credits was supposed to fix everything. Unfortunately, EA, because it’s EA, decided to add a wrinkle to the concession. Players’ rewards from completing the single player campaign would also be reduced. Instead of netting enough to actually buy Vader, those completion rewards were reduced by 75% as well. It also came to light that rewards for completing challenges in Arcade Mode, a cooperative player-vs-AI setup, would be on a cool down with players needing to wait a certain number of hours after maxing out on credits before they could start earning again. As a result, EA stepped in it again, inviting a revived scandal that already has some angry internet people circulating a photoshopped poster aimed at getting random moms and dads to not by their poor kid a Star Wars game.
Edge: The resounding winner in this category has to be WWII. Just when it seemed like the tides might turn and the game’s troubles were behind it, the XP generators inside each video game console were chewed to bits by gremlins. Battlefield 2 tried to snap the spotlight back in its direction thanks to a cryptic labyrinth of credits and loot boxes it seems intent on keeping as confusing as possible. In the end though, XP trumps credits every time. Give someone a loot crate and they might celebrate for a second, but teach them how to grind levels and they’ll stop.
Call of Duty: WWII: Last but not least we have to compare the swirl of good natured humor surrounding both games. Everyone fucks up, but not every fuck up is as funny as the next. WWII hasn’t been well served in this regard by how much of the spotlight was stolen by Battlefront II. People who might have spent more time making funny highlight reels of WWII glitches or photoshops of the WWII box art dude sitting down for tea with the house-is-burning dog have sadly all been distracted. That said, there were plenty of jokes about trying to socialize in a game whose social hub was nerfed for the majority of its early release period. And who doesn’t like to laugh at the nihilistic hell that is accomplishing stuff in games only for internet issues to wipe away all record of having done it.
Battlefront II: The controversy around Battlefront II provided low hanging fruit for all sorts of amateur internet comedians as well. Most memorably, the game even got owned by the social media account of another game. We will all remember where we were standing and what loved one we called next when StarCraft tweeted “Number of hours before you can play ANY Co-op Commander in StarCraft II: 0.” It made the Death Star exploding for a second time seem like a firecracker going off under a mattress.
Edge: If it wasn’t already clear then, Battlefront II comes out ahead in this all-important category. Reddit clap backs are one thing, but getting smoked by the social media account of a nearly two decade old series that’s owned and operated by the partner company of your biggest rival? That’s next level. There are no questions who shot first in that exchange.
There are a thousand other ways I could compare these fuck-ups but we’ve nailed all of the big ones. At least this far. WWII could somehow erase everyone’s player profiles and Battlefront II might get caught trying to traffic Ewoks in loot crates. If you have any further thoughts or points of comparison—which, of course you do—don’t hesitate to blow up the comments section below (which I’m sure you won’t).