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Recreating World War II according to COD:WWII’s art director

Michaela Nadine Pacis
Recreating World War II according to COD:WWII’s art director
Joseph Salud talks about bringing World War II to life, with the hope of reminding a new generation of players about the horrors of war


It’s been awhile since we’ve seen something bleak and gritty from the Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty has always had a forward pattern in terms of their war timelines. Last year, it was Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, which featured impressive combat both in zero gravity and in different planets. It was a game that had a realistic story and realistic characters but all the same it was purely fiction and fantasy.

This year, however, Call of Duty not only goes back to its roots of “boots on the ground” combat, it also goes back in time to give players not just a taste of what real war looks like, but also give them a chance to reflect on those horrific times.

If you haven’t played the game yet, which was released on November 3, the trailers itself show that Call of Duty: World War II aims to get you on an emotional rollercoaster ride, with a story that is based from the harrowing tales of the actual destruction that inspired this game, and visuals meant to immerse you in this brutal, bloody, and unfortunately, very real war. (READ: New ‘Call of Duty’ does away with health regen in campaign mode)

From the first trailer of the latest game to the news articles that followed, publisher Activision and developer Sledgehammer games emphasized that Call of Duty: World War II is grounded on realism and the commitment to show something that’s “emotionally dark and visually beautiful.”  

At the most recent Esports and Gaming Summit, Sledgehammer director Joe Salud shared with us how his team was able to achieve the desired look and feel of Call of Duty: World War II.

According to Salud, he didn’t want to make the visual contrast of dark and beautiful for the sake of being pretty. “I didn’t want to contrast it just to be pretty, for the sake of being pretty. There’s a lot of research and intent to that.”

Sledgehammer team did extensive research in order to get the environment in the game right. “Everything that we do, it always starts with a reference.” Salud shared that not only did the Sledgehammer team go to Germany and France to collect ideas for the game, they also consulted with renowned World War II historian Marty Morgan. 

“He’s (Morgan) spent his whole life studying World War II not just from history books but he’s travelled all over the world and collected stories from families and kind of from a very granular level put all the puzzle pieces together and now has this really big tapestry kind of understanding of the war, and he was able to share that with us and help us through the process of making this game as authentic as possible.”

Functional aesthetics

While the Sledgehammer team is committed to keeping the visuals authentic, Salud also shared that they designed the sets of the game to create a stronger impact.

“You want to maximize the messages, you don’t just want to copy history. You want to take the history, all the stories, and you want to center them around a function and a goal. And that function and goal is to tell a compelling and strong story about World War II based off of real events.”

An example Salud gave is a destroyed house that serves as a set piece for the game. The wrecked house is meant to send a subconscious message that builds up the more the player sees it. “What this concept is showing basically is that this is somebody’s house, and it’s more than that. This is somebody’s life that’s destroyed. It’s almost like a backdrop metaphor. And that is all to service a story,” Salud reveals.

That being said, Salud shared that the idea of the game is not to send a political message, but rather a message to remind players of the horrors of World War II. Salud hopes that their creation would inspire gamers to do reflect and do their own research and study history themselves.

“I’m not going to be here and say hey this game is has a political statement or anything. No, what I really hope that you get out of this game is that it sparks the interest to go online and start learning about it, and then you’ll see. You’ll see. There’s a lot of rich stories and I don’t mean that in an entertaining way, I mean like in a self reflective way.”

Call of Duty: World War II was released for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and the PC on November 3. –

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