* Awarded Extreme Gamer's Best Multiplayer Game of '08, Best Sound in a Game '08
Revitalizing WWII warfare, Activision and Treyarch return with Call of Duty: World at War. Equipped with the Call of Duty 4 graphics engine, World at War makes the bold statement of referencing itself as “War like you’ve never experienced before.” While that statement might not be 100% accurate, World at War is impressive, and quite possibly the best Call of Duty game of the series.
Taking the helm off of Infinity Ward, Treyarch brings as more hectic and intense look into war. For those who are not aware Treyarch has handled Call of Duty in the past with Big Red One (2005) and Call of Duty 3 (2006). It might seem odd that Call of Duty franchise would abandon the modern setting to rewind back into WWII given how successful Call of Duty 4 was last year, however once you get into the game you can see the impact that the new gaming engine had. Call of Duty: World at War feels more alive then ever with the battles playing out like more of a struggle, rather than trigger points. More than a general facelift, World at War has a lot to offer.
Split between two campaigns, one being the U.S. Marines fighting the Japanese and the Soviet Red’s invading into German territory you will be involved in the brutality of the second world war. The single player campaign constantly pings you back and forth between each keeping the action fresh. This is a switch up from the old Call of Duty formula, which compliments the more mature and open-ended direction of World at War. The unpredictability of the next mission keeps you interested as you prepare to walk into battle.
On the American side you will lace up the boots of Private Miller who is recued from a brutal torture scene in the introduction of the game. You’re first mission is to clear the island of Makin from the Japanese Imperial Army which cumulates in the battle of Shuri Castle on Okinawa. The fight against the Japanese army are distinctly different from the typical warfare seen by the German army. The desperate tactics from the Japanese through unfamiliar terrain employ a number of different tactics including ambushing their enemies, booby trapping friendly soldiers and straight out kamikaze attacks. The diversity when battling the Japanese army was far more interesting then anything I have seen in the WWII Call of Duty games and I am glad to see Treyarch view the war from the Pacific side of the war.
The Soviet campaign puts a spotlight on Red Army and Private Dimitri Petrenko. Reusing the save the soldier routine you start the war against the German’s in Stalingrad. Wading through piles of fallen comrades you team up with Sergeant Reznov who is Dimitri’s supporting character through the Soviet campaign. The battles between the Soviet Army and German’s feel like familiar territory with its classic over-the-top, big-budget feel. This is exactly what we have learned to love from Call of Duty franchise making World at War feel right at home. Even though the American’s raid against the Japanese feels more fresh and innovative, the Russian’s story is equally fun and showcases the dynamics of war when seen through a different pair of eyes.
One criticism that might not have any weight anymore is the scripting of events which have been a staple in the Call of Duty franchise since the get go. In World at War these checkpoints to stop respwaning enemies and triggered events feel a little more camouflaged, but they still exist. I am not a huge fan of this style of game, however I felt more accepting of this feature in World at War because the action feels more grounded then before. Plus, Treyarch modified the gameplay so it doesn’t feel as directional as past efforts. It really helps to draw you into the action when you can use your own judgements to complete objectives in any order you wish. From taking out tanks to fighting in the trenches and swamps, Call of Duty keeps the twists coming while staying in the parameters from the past.
Leaping ahead World at War introduces co-op multiplayer to the solo campaign with support for two player’s split-screen and four players online. Playing through the campaign with friends is welcomed additions that will help World at War compete with the recent support other games have shown for co-op gameplay. The staggering realism of war seems to fade when you laughing your way through each level which can lighten up World at War's sobering reality. With multiple players the challenge doesn't dwindle with the help of the auto adjusting difficulty levels. World at War automatically shifts gears to accomidate the amount of players in the game, along with adding a competitive edge that allows you to compete against each others with its built in point system.
For the straight ahead multiplayer World at War borrows the exact system introduced in Call of Duty 4. This is a good thing. No gamer who has played Call of Duty 4, or World at War could ever go back to the old Call of Duty multiplayer. Gaining experience and unlocking new abilities is a rewarding and addictive approach to multiplayer gaming. The maps are new, the perks help keep that competitive edge to the game that can keep your connection active for hours on end. Like COD4, World at War multiplayer component is flawlessly executed and a part of the game that will keep you playing World at War long after you have marched through the solo campaign.
You might have heard about World of War having zombies, and it is true. Nazi Zombies is a fun little mini-game in World at War th at can be played solo, or with up to three friends. This mini-game is unlocked after you finish the campaign mode in any difficulty and is a straight ahead survival game with the goal of killing as many zombies as possible. The set up for the zombie slaughter puts the player in a downed bomber in the middle of nowhere where you will fight off the zombies eventually held up inside of an old country house. It is all very 1940s with a nod to Evil Dead. Points are distributed to the player for different type of hits on zombies, as well as making repairs to the house.
Aside from getting a high score you can spend the points on new weapons, or to unlock new areas on the map which include the cellar, balcony and stairwell. I’m glad to see Treyarch did a little bit of work on this mode rather than just slapping it in like Saints Row 2 did in their zombie mini-game. Plus, it’s a great idea to make you finish the game so you have more of an incentive for all the non-multiplayer fans to keep your game instead of trading it in right away. Really, what is better than a horde of Nazi Zombies? This mini-game might not be a game seller, but added up with the rest of the value in World at War and you have a no-brainer (ouch, bad pun).
It has been heavily publicized that World at War was built upon the Call of Duty 4 engine, one of last years biggest hits. The COD4 is a major jump ahead for the franchise and it really shows what the engine is capable of when applied to their old source material. The graphics are simply impressive with all the bells and whistles you would expect out of the explosions of war. The only negative point to the graphics could be that it has a smoothed over look, rather than being ultra-gritty and too realistic. This is a picky observation when compared to how well World at War performes. Compared to all the Call of Duty games in the past, World at War is easily the best looking game of the franchise, and one of the year’s best.
The sound is equally amazing, surrounding the player in a whirlwind of noise. Not a single inch of ground isn’t produced adding a perfect touch to the atmosphere of war. The chatter from the different nations participating in the war, along with the battlefield sounds of gunfire, explosions and death only add to the epic presentation values in World at War. One thing to keep in mind is that you might have to adjust the volume with the sliders. As soon as I started the Russian campagin, I couldn’t really understand some of the dialog during the action packed scenes. Leaving the voices slider all the way up while reducing the other sliders is a simple fix to this problem. Adding the already superb music and effects are the celebrity talents of Kiefer Sutherland (24, Lost Boys, Young Guns) and returning to Call of Duty, Gary Oldman (Dark Knight, Fifth Element). Both Kiefer, Oldman and the rest of the talent really pull this project together making the images seem like a reality.
In all its blazing glory, Call of Duty: World at War powers up with the Call of Duty 4 engine to push the boundaries of the franchise. Treyarch has fully redeemed themselves for all the doubters with what could be considered the best Call of Duty of all time. The ultra-smooth controls, immersive story elements and distinct differences from mission to mission keep World at War feeling fresh and always fun. Even if you’re not going to jump online, World at War is worth a look. Of course you would have to be a fool not to want to investigate the flawless online capabilities of World at War which build upon the foundation of Call of Duty 4, one of last years best online shooters. Tack on support for co-op multiplayer in campaigns and the deadly zombie mini-game and you have enough action to keep you busy for some time. Call of Duty: World at War is an outstanding game and one of the years best shooter experiences.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 12.01.08