|Call of Duty: World at War|
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1, 2 split screen co-op, 1-4 online co-op, 2-18 online multiplayer
Call of Duty: World at War is not a subtle game. It’s as if Saving Private Ryan had one-night-stand with Guns N’ Roses and the game was their illegitimate love-child.
You know what you’re getting from pretty much the opening montage of the solo campaign. High-res maps of Russia and Japan are spliced with genuine footage of WWII executions and combat. Make no mistake, this title wants you to embrace and revel in the horror and violence of war. Quite early in the game, as you attack German bunkers, attacking soldiers with heavy machine guns and tanks with rocket propelled grenades, the action and graphic subsequent carnage is accompanied by a strangely out-of-place guitar backing music. Animal Crossing this is not.
Heading back to WWII puts many a gamer back in familiar (and some would say over-familiar) territory. As is becoming the norm for the franchise, you’ll find yourself taking on two roles in two different conflicts. The first as a Private Miller, a US marine, who having been freed from a Japanese POW camp must rejoin his squad and help launch the US offensive on the Japanese-held Philippine Islands after the attack on Pearl Harbour. The second is as a Russian private named Petrenko who joins his comrades to repel the Nazi invasion of Stalingrad, and eventually chase them back to Berlin for the battle that ended the war in Europe. Both conflicts provide fitting source material for a series of tense and adrenaline-fuelled set pieces that require you to negotiate through wave after wave of Japanese and Nazi regiments.
World at War is all about the set-pieces. This isn’t a game that encourages exploration or gives you the time to enjoy the surroundings, instead it’s heavily scripted, requiring you to push ever onwards in order to prompt the next event. There are invisible (and sometimes real) walls all around, acting as a virtual funnel to ensure you hit the requisite check points. Obviously this isn’t going to appeal to those who like to be masters of their own destiny, but in a game that’s all about speed of response, it’s feels like the right approach.
And while we’re on the negatives, merging rock guitar with the on screen action in one of the levels just feels wrong and insensitive especially after the haunting strings found in the Medal of Honor titles. I think some people will have a real issue with Treyarch’s decision here even if they are playing the game as ‘entertainment’. There’s clearly a line you shouldn’t cross when dealing with such emotive material and we’re right on the edge here.
After COD4, multiplayer is as familiar as a well-worn pair of slippers. There’s a good selection of maps (13) taken from various parts of the campaign mode that provide a nice contrast between intimate battle zones and wide open spaces. There are even tanks to rumble around in on some. World at War also provides 8 game modes and the same rank and perk based system seen in CoD4, including the opportunity to level-up your weaponry. The presentation in terms of the lobby and barracks is pretty much a carbon copy of Infinity Ward’s effort. Many will welcome this approach, but I found it a tad lazy and uninspiring, wishing I was being offered a fresh perspective to the genre. The campaign co-op for up to 4 players is almost identical to the full game as you’d play it solo, this plays extremely well, and as you can play medic to a downed buddy close teamwork is the name of the day. This is likely to be more attractive to many than the same old adversarial deathmatch or CTF modes.
As a bonus for those who see it through to the end of the campaign mode in standard difficulty is a small curiosity called Nazi Zombies. Imagine being holed-up in a building with thousands of un-dead Nazi soldiers trying to break their way in and you have an idea of what you’re getting. It’s a fun diversion to see how long you can last before being overrun, but again you have to question whether it belongs here. Like the soundtrack, it feels awkward and clumsy to be trivializing such an important and emotive part of our history.
Call of Duty: World at War is a mesmerising attempt at giving us armchair heroes a taste of what WWII was really like. It’s failings are that while you get plenty of remarkable moments (like when an enemy soldier tries to toss a grenade back at you and it goes off in his hand, with all the gory results you’d expect, or when an ammo crate “cooks off” and spits bullets everywhere), they are too frequently wiped from your memory by recurring failings; when every other level ends in an Alamo or Custer’s Last Stand-style defensive shoot out, or invisible walls, sticky scenery and grenades that appear out of thin air. It’s a shame, because these annoying, inveterate flaws rob this game of greatness.
- At times, amazing to look at
- Brutal, bloody and intense battles
- Tried and tested multiplayer modes and new co-op
- Vocal talent from Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman
- That rock guitar
- It’s a WWII FPS again
- Damn grenades