Call of Duty is possibly one of the biggest names in the first person shooter genre.
Very few people will not have heard of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and there are many people out there extremely skilled in the online multiplayer.
Call of Duty: World at War has large boots to fill, and anticipation is high. Can the new title live up to the hype, and has Treyarch finally pulled a truly epic shooter out of their hat?
Call of Duty: World at War has taken the Call of Duty series back to World War Two once again. It's been several years since we had a decent WWII shooter (although Brothers in Arms caught our attention a few weeks back) so it's a real pleasure to go back to this time, particularly since Call of Duty: World at War takes the player across several combat theatres.
Battles take place in the Pacific, Eastern Europe, and of course Berlin, all the way into the Reichstag. This variation in scenery really spices up the title, as few games have given us a taste of what war in the Pacific entailed. Call of Duty: World at War puts you in the shoes of Soviet and US soldiers, and although it would be nice to have been able to play an ANZAC soldier or similar, the worldwide appeal is no doubt greater for the others.
Being based on a modified Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare engine, the game looks and plays fabulously, just as its predecessor did. The environments look stunning, and there were moments that truly filled us with awe, for example standing in the middle of the Reichstag in front of the Reichs Adler, or under its massive, partially destroyed glass roof . It certainly felt as though we were there. The destruction and devastation of WWII is shown all too well, with the annihilated cities you traverse, and the bombed-out countryside. The gritty graphics are sharp and dramatic, and look exceptional. The player models and the weapons all look authentic, and Treyarch have done an exceptional job of delivering a campaign which is as hard-hitting as that from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which is quite a feat considering the difficult task of working with actual historic events.
You will find yourself playing cat and mouse with German snipers in the East, and battling frenzied Japanese soldiers in the Pacific who yell “banzai” as they charge you down with their bayonets. This is another area where Treyarch have done a fantastic job, creating believable AI for both the German and the Japanese soldiers. Both react completely differently to one another, and both require different fighting styles to combat. With the Japanese, you will be watching trees and shrubs for hidden soldiers just waiting to pick you off. The Germans are more reserved and will rarely simply charge you, preferring to stay behind cover than expose themselves. It truly is refreshing for a WWII shooter to present the war in the Pacific so authentically. There are even flame-throwers, which you can use to light up fields where Japanese soldiers might be hiding. The flame-thrower is accurately modelled and it is a useful tool for burning out Japanese defences, although it is a shame that it isn’t available in the multiplayer as well.
Each level is woven with historic film footage to help introduce the player to the different campaigns and stages during the war. This helps bring the game into context, and gives it a sense of seriousness that previous titles in the series haven’t necessarily had. Several instances will show you the true dark side of the war, for example when a group of German soldiers surrender and beg for their lives, and the Soviet soldiers burn them with their Molotov cocktails.
This game shows brutality on all sides, and is quite intense at times. It unleashed some emotional moments that we certainly haven’t experienced in very many titles to date.
The single-player is a truly solid experience, with a compelling story told in an emotional and moving fashion, and our only real complaint is that it is a bit short, clocking in at around six to eight hours, similar to the single player for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Considering the massive multiplayer component however, we are willing to forgive. Treyarch have included a co-op mode where you can play through the main campaign either co-operatively or competitively with up to four friends.
The multiplayer is where Call of Duty: World at War truly shines. As it is based on the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare engine there is considerable similarity with the predecessor, on almost every level. A large number of multiplayer options are there for the player to enjoy, and these are unlocked as you progress through the online ranks, gaining experience as you complete challenges and use a range of weapons. The options mirror those available in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and include your normal team deathmatch, as well as capture the flag, capturing and holding strategic points, along with a number of others.
As you advance in the ranks perks are unlocked, which give you unique abilities such as being able to seek out enemy explosives, or being able to heal a downed enemy (provided they have the same perk). You can choose three perks for a game from a few categories, and choosing the right combination for your playing style can be tricky, but it certainly pays to try them out.
The range of game modes available is excellent, meaning there is diverse multiplayer fun to be had, particularly when you get a good group of friends together and can game with them all night. All these modes wouldn’t be worth the virtual media they are printed on without some decent maps to compliment them, and Treyarch have certainly delivered these. The maps are fantastic, and again span from the Pacific, to Eastern Europe, to Berlin. They range in sizes depending on the game modes you are playing, and it is great fun simply exploring them. As was the case with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, as you go on kill streaks you are rewarded, at three kills with a recon plane, at five kills with a bombardment, and at seven kills with attack dogs. These dogs are truly ferocious and will seek out the enemy soldiers with prompt efficiency. Too often have I been taken down by dogs in their volumes, and it is truly a clever way to adapt the Call of Duty 4 system to the WWII setting.
Treyarch have also included the ability for you to single out games in your locale, meaning the games you will join will have a far lower latency. This is an option that should be in every single game, but is rarely implemented. Thanks to this, all the games we had managed excellent connections, and as more local players come online it can only get better. But if it is so similar to the predecessor, is it worth it? Yes! The new environments and the tweaks have made it an even stronger showing, and the change of scenery will surely have most fans rejoice. Also the ability to jump into tanks on some of the levels adds a whole new element, with perks for vehicles as well increasing things like reload times, or turret spin speeds.
As a bonus in the single player, on completion you unlock a game mode called “Nacht der Untoten” which is Night of the Dead in German. In this mode you will be barricaded in a house, either on your own or in co-op mode with up to 3 friends. As the game progresses hordes of Nazi zombies will attempt to breach the barricades and make their way into the house. Your goal is to destroy them wave after wave, and as you do you collect money which can be used to reinforce the barricades and purchase more powerful weapons, as well as to retreat further into the house if your positions are compromised. This is an exciting mode with some exceptional atmospheric sounds, and manages to be a real treat without feeling even remotely tacked on.
The sound effects are spectacular, from the eerie whistling noise that incoming artillery shells make, or the whistle of bullets in the air and the sound of gunfire, they're all well implemented. The single player is accompanied by an excellent musical score that really adds to the experience, and makes Call of Duty: World at War an inspired effort.
One might well assume that Call of Duty: World at War is simply a new coat of paint over a Call of Duty 4 powerhouse, however that would be doing Treyarch a gross injustice, for their hard work has created an experience that is unique and different, although the saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” certainly does ring true here. The graphics and character models are sharp and impressive, the environments look great and the story plays very well with some dramatic and emotional moments. The multiplayer is up to par with the predecessor, if not even somewhat improved making this one of the best all-round gaming experiences of the year.
If Call of Duty 4 is anything to go by (and we’d say it is) people will be playing Call of Duty: World at War for some years to come, and it is definitely worth the investment.