War, as it has been said many times, never changes, sure weapons may get bigger and more powerful and tactics may improve, it's still about fear and chaos, and the feeling you get when all of your senses are overwhelmed by adrenaline pumping through your veins. That's a very hard experience to capture on a screen let alone a videogame.
Call of Duty series does this however, thanks to its constant re-defining and evolution, many say it is the benchmark for first person shooter intensity. The previous game Modern Warfare delivered an amazing and varied single player campaign and a phenomenal Multiplayer section has left very big shoes for World at War to follow.
To put it frankly you must have been living under a rock for the last year, with cotton wool stuffed your ears to not see or hear anything about this game. World at War returns to the series roots of World War 2, this has caused no end of arguing and moaning from fans of the previous game. Many wondered wjether the game would be able to top Modern Warfare’s contemporary setting. Also this game wasn’t made by Call of Duty regulars Infinity Ward but by its sister studio Treyarch, who are known for making the like it or leave it Call of Duty 3. However Treyarch seem to have atoned for this by delivering a game with a huge amount of content, a solid single player mode, a fun co-op mode a fantastic multiplayer mode and a fun easter egg mode that involves fighting the hordes of undead nazi zombies.
One fact that helps is the fact that World at War focuses on areas that are not frequently seen in World War 2 shooters. Instead of placing you in Normandy, France and D-day for the millionth time, this game puts you in the Pacific theatre of war. Where you play as an island hopping US Marine. There is also a Russian Campaign that focuses on the Red Army’s reversal of the German advance at Stalingrad and their fight all the way to Berlin and the capture of the Reichstag. This provides for some really amazing range of battlefield experiences, from fighting on sun bleached coral beaches, humid swamps, caves and huge Japanese Castles. Whilst the Russian campaign focuses on the ruined cityscapes of Stalingrad and Berlin, to more open farmlands and small villages along the eastern fronts.
One thing that is instantly noticeable is the fact that World at War is a much more savage and violent game. Much like the fighting was in the pacific and eastern theatre. In the game Japanese soldiers will swarm towards you from all angles or burst from spider holes in an attempt to quickly dispatch you with their bayonets, they’ll even climb trees sniping at you from afar until you take them out with a well placed round. They will even play dead and wait for you to walk right into the middle of a trap. This makes the gameplay feel very frenetic. Even though you are set in the wide outdoors it seems that you are hemmed in, always having to dispatch your enemy at close range. The Russian front is graphically brutal. There is plenty of gunning down injured or unarmed soldiers on both sides. There are even times when you are asked to pull the trigger yourself. This almost creates a real feel of ethics.
This is without doubt a quintessential Call of Duty game to the very core. That means the action is fast paced and fluidly moves from moment to moment. It also has some fantastic scripted moments. Enemy soldiers and your AI teammates endlessly respawn until you are able to advance far enough to stop them. This does lead however to one element that I don’t like about the level design. The spawn points are easily findable and are basically just dead end corridors. I felt that these could have been hidden better with a greater attempt to hide them. However this does not detract from the overall gameplay experience at all. You constantly advance from one firefight to the next. Your too busy ducking and diving out of the way of incoming bullets, grenades and whatever the enemy can throw at you to really notice these flaws. The immersion of the whole game is pretty much complete.
Another feature that returns to the game are huge large scale set battles. Yet Treyarch add variation to make sure that they change it up. For example take the PBY Catalina mission, where you man the guns of a Navy patrol aircraft. At first many people would think that this is simply a mirror to the gunship mission in Modern Warfare; sure in both missions the player rains down death from above. Yet in Modern Warfare there is a real sense of cold detachment to it, the only thing you see are little blips that run around in fear as they get torn to shreds. But the PBY mission puts you smack into the middle of a raging air and sea battle; taking damage from multiple directions and actually having to fight for your life. However this also works to the other way. There is a mission to kill a General that simply put does not have the same cat and mouse effect to it as Modern Warfare’s fantastic sniper mission.
I did find that the campaign did suffer thanks to this broad scope. At times it seems that the narrative skips what seems like months at a time, tending to only show major battles. This does unfortunately lead to a feeling that the story does not seem as strong as it did in the last title. Yes the Russian campaign had a real definitive ending the American campaign left me with a feeling of “is that it? Is it over?”. This is probably a result of the fact that Modern Warfare has the advantage of a fictionalized storylines. This is something that couldn’t be done for a historical storyline.
The single player mode is probably about the same length of that of Modern Warfare but it doesn’t drag on. Plus there is a lot of replayability thanks to the fact that the bulk of the single-player campaign is playable on co-op mode. Yes there are several levels that cannot be played such the sniper mission or the PBY mission. It wouldn’t have the same effect if four snipers were attempting to take out one general, also if four were in the Patrol aircraft there would be a man at every gun, making the level a lot easier and also making the level seem cramped. Another nice addition to co-op mode is the ‘death card’ system that allows you to unlock different attributes and capabilities by collecting the cards scattered around various levels. One mode is as ‘sticks & stones’ mode, which only gives you a knife and a load of non-functional grenades, strange I know but if you really want to challenge yourself.
The multiplayer mode in World at War is simply put phenomenal. I simply put play it every day. Modern warfare had one of the most amazing multiplayer suites in recent history and simply put World at War beats it hands down. The create a class system still remains and the rank system allows you to unlock character perks, weapons and upgrades that allow you to mix and match to create a class that suits your playing style down to the ground. For example I love to sit back, quietly waiting for someone to wander across my line of sight and then blow their face off.
Basically all of the perks from Modern Warfare are included, yet they have been cleverly adjusted to make them fit with the earlier age setting. For example what used to be UAV jammer is now camouflage. It’s just a nice tough that adds some more depth to the game. There has also been a new range of perks added, in fact about a dozen in total. About half of these are associated with a new feature, vehicles. This adds an amazing new level of depth to the game. Tanks allow for the user to deal out huge amounts of punishment, however they are extremely vunerable to anti-tank weaponry. Driving round in a tank is incredibly cool. But you do realise how slow World War 2 era tanks are. Just like in real life, you’ll soon realise that you have to coordinate your teams infantry and tanks together for maximum effectiveness. This is helped by the fact that the PC version has a built in voice chat system. People who played Modern Warfare on the PC had to set up third party voice systems out of game to talk to one another.
The reward mechanic in World at War is also very similar to Modern Warfare, yet does have a nice twist to it. Three kills get you a recon plane rather than a UAV, five kills no longer call in an airstrike, but now unleash an artillery barrage and seven kills no longer call in an attack gunship, but they call in something much different. Dogs... That’s right; man best friend will come to your aid… However, these dogs aren’t so much mans best friend, as his worst enemy. These dogs are simply put pure evil and will make a beeline to the enemy and rip his throat out. They are also ridiculously hard to kill as anyone with voice chat will undoubtedly scream. And even if you do manage to kill these hell hounds, you’re often left with your opponent lining you up in his sights.
Finally there is the icing on the cake. A fun little bonus co-op mode called Nacht der Untoten, or Night of the Undead. It is also called ‘Nazi Zombies’ a name that really gives away what is to come. The whole premise of the piece is that you and up to three others are trapped inside a bunker. Where you must fight your way through waves and waves of zombies that try to break down the barricades at the doors and windows. Each wave become progressively harder, this may be due to more zombies or harder and faster zombies. You gain points for killing these zombies, these points can be used to purchase weapons, ammo and access to different parts of the building. One really nice feature that made me smile was the so called “Mystery Box” which, if you’re very lucky, will give you a ray gun that looks like it could be straight out of flash Gordon. Eventually the Zombies will get you, no matter how good you are. This is no Left4Dead, but it’s a good addition that s fun to play from a break from team deathmatch.
World at War Uses the Modern Warfare engine, so the game looks amazing. It also looks every bit as good on PC and Xbox 360. I have two versions of this game, PC and PS3. I did find that the PS3 version suffers from slight aliasing, but its not much and its not bad enough to effect the gameplay. I must say that I am extremely impressed with the level of detail that this game brings. If you play the game, walk up to a soldier. You can see everything, every seam on the clothing every bloodstain. One real visual moment that you will find is the blood spray that occurs when a body gets blown to pieces by explosions and gunfire. The dark crimson is a huge contrast compared to the dust and the smoke that is thrown in to the air
The frame rate in Call of Duty stays pretty constant and smooth on both of the platforms that I have played (For comparison purposes, the PC I used had a Core 2 Quad processor with an 8800 and 2GB of RAM. All detail settings were set to maximum at 1920x1200 resolution.).
One thing that did impress me no end was the talent of the voice acting used within the game. Activision managed to get some serious Hollywood top talent for the voice acting. Keifer Sutherland plays a Marine whilst Gary Oldman is the main voice actor for the Russian campaign. I can honestly say that I had no clue that either of these actors were involved in the game until the credits. Which says something about the level o the acting. The rest of the sound effects are amazingly authentic. Every time you here a metallic clunk of a machine gun you cannot help but wonder how long the sound guys must have taken recording and mastering these sounds. Yet it’s the mixture of all of these audio elements that make Call of Duty. The deep rumbling eruptions of explosions, gunfire, characters yelling out commands and warnings, the whistle of falling artillery shells and the rumbling of distant vehicles. One thing that I did find brilliant was the addition of ‘ghost sounds’. For example on the multiplayer map asylum if you go to the bathroom section, you can on occasionally hear a crying woman and a whispering man. This absolutely petrified me when I first heard it. All the sounds combine to make a truly rich audioscape that could easily be comparable to those in movies.
It is easy to be bored or become jaded with World War 2 shooter, yet Treyarch have been able to present a convincing argument to stick with it. The game is absolutely packed with an amazing amount of gameplay that I believe appeals to a wide range of players. From those who want a gritty, dark and immersive single player campaign to those who want to play with their friends
My only grief with this game is the fact that I almost feel like there is no major wow factor like those in Modern Warfare. There is nothing like when the nuclear weapon goes off or northing like the final mission when everything goes into slow motion. That was the only thing that disappointed me and I’m sure that people will disagree with me.
However this small fact does not stop me loving this game. I play it literally every day it is that good. I can honestly say that I would suggest this game to anyone.