I never liked Call of Duty. There, I said it, every Call of Duty game I had ever played was boring, frustrating and annoying to control, every Call of Duty until Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out. That game is by far my all time favourite first person shooter title, my all time favourite war game! So when I was given Call of Duty: World at War to review for the Xbox 360 (which I didn’t pick up earlier because I had so many other games to get through first), I was a little nervous. Add on top that this one was made by Treyarch instead of Modern Warfare’s Infinity Ward and my tension grew. While my first Call of Duty (Modern Warfare) review was one of the longest I had written, I will be saving time and sanity (hey, there’s a lot of games to get through this holiday season!) and not repeating everything that was similar between the two, if your curious, feel free to check out my review for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
Yes, it’s true, Call of Duty has gone back to World War II, back to their original roots after a hiatus in present times but with their travel back in time, they seemed to take everything that made Modern Warfare great and bring it with them. This version of WWII battle takes you across two campaigns, one as an American soldier captured and tortured by the Japanese (with an intense near death intro into the game), and the other as a Russian defending his home country against the Nazis. While The scale of battle is grand and this was indeed a war of the worlds, I found it revitalizing to play a war game that doesn’t focus solely on the German invasion, not enough games take Japan as an enemy during WWII.
The graphics in World at War are fantastic, as you begin the game you’re soldier buddies rescue you, give you a gun and as you step out of the tent you’re immersed in what I can only imagine what war would feel like, loud, overwhelming, and confusing. Burst of small explosions everywhere, people falling over blood spurts everywhere and fire on EVERYTHING. The model animations are smooth and pretty realistic as was Modern Warfare’s but utilizing the scenery and not having all the high tech gadgets (such as night vision), World at War uses their detail to put tones of enemy soldiers hiding everywhere, in grass, in trees, playing dead, the possibility of hordes of enemies coming from anywhere is endless… and frightening. I think the biggest graphical improvement comes from the new flamethrower, which just looks beautiful (although with no ammo and a single tap to kill any enemy in campaign mode, it seems a little too useful compared to other flamethrower equipped games). Another point to mention is the scale, while modern Warfare had maybe one or two tanks and a helicopter going at the same time in campaign mode, early on in this one, there is a battle between tanks, I think I counted maybe 6 tanks on the screen at the same time as all the friends and enemies.
Sound is fantastic, sound has been fantastic in Modern Warfare and is just as good now; I don’t think there was even a way to improve the audio quality except for the increase in hearing opposing team voices during close combat. As well, the controls have remained exactly the same.
Now, my biggest gripe with World War II games are the weapons, don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect laser cannons in a WWII game (although that would be a cool concept), I just don’t like the slowness and inaccuracies of this time’s weaponry, all the guns look the same, they all feel the same and they all in the end… do the same thing. That being said, there were a few improvements I particularly was fond of this time through. You have a bayonet on some of your rifles, I’m not sure if this is stronger or has a longer reach than your knife, but it is pretty gruesome to see an enemy run at you only to get the sharp end of your gun in their chest. Secondly is the introduction of the flame thrower, which, the first time you pick it up in campaign mode, must use it to torch a barricade with badass music playing temporarily in the background making you feel very… badass. The final update that I felt was well warranted were the special grenades, smoke screen, mustard gas (similar to stun grenade in Modern Warfare) and the flare which can light up areas and temporarily blind players. I don’t think I’ve seen these types of options in any other WWII game in the past.
So now that the game explanation is out of the way, time to discuss what I thought of the campaign mode. First off, CO-OP!!! For those that know me or have been reading these reviews long enough, you know I adore any type of co-operative game play! Sitting down with a friend or three to fight against each other is great and all, but sitting down with friends to unite against a common enemy always has a warm spot in my heart and I think by far, the inclusion of 2 player split-screen co-op and 4 player online co-op are the biggest improvements between Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: World at War.
Next I’m going to have to sadden your hearts a little, The story here is a little weak, don’t get me wrong, it is historical and intense, but the game just feels too scripted. The worst instance of this scripting comes near the beginning of the game, your sergeant is standing beside a closed door debriefing his troops, you hear a yell from behind the door so I automatically point my shotgun to the door, it swings open and an enemy lunges towards the sergeant. Before he can get to your commanding officer, I release 3 shots at point blank into the enemy who doesn’t even seem to notice me, kills the sarge then gets blasted by the other NPCs. He (the enemy) was supposed to get the drop on us surprise and kill the sarge but even if you’re expecting it, the script must play through. Another issue I had with the campaign was that you were the last survivor after being tortured and interrogated by the Japanese, you are half dead and just saw your friends murdered in front of you. You’re rescued by this infiltration platoon, and then they get you to do all the dirty work, like send a truck down a hill to blow up, planting explosives and oh I don’t know, taking out an entire tank platoon on your own. You just went through hell, why can’t these fresh soldiers do anything themselves? Finally my last issue with campaign mode is the problem of invisible walls. In Modern Warfare any door that was open was fair game to walk inside, however, in World at War your surrounded by invisible walls. See an open hut beside you with a fully rendered interior and windows? Nope, can’t go in and snipe because there’s an invisible wall blocking your entrance. Want to crawl under a dock and sneak up on the enemies? Nope, invisible wall there too (however, your enemies can do just that to flank your platoon). The game is plagued with more invisible walls than a Mime’s arsenal!
Another point that I’m still debating a pro or con is the introduction to the Russian private you control for half your missions. If you’ve seen the movie Enemy at the Gates, you might recognize the entire introduction to sniping as it is exactly like the introduction in that film, while I’m a little disappointed at the lack of originality… I really liked the beginning of that movie and thought it was amazing and totally badass to be able to play that scene using Call of Duty controls. All in all however, Call of Duty: World at War is an intense, gritty past war title, if you’re a fan of band of brothers or saving private Ryan as well as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, this is the title for you. If however, you only enjoyed the gameplay of Modern Warfare and already own that title, you might be disappointed by the lack of upgrades from the two.
All this being said, the game is still a blast to play online. For the most part, World at War’s online layout is set up exactly like Modern Warfare with a few tweaks. The more you play, the more experience points you get giving you access to more weapons, modes of play and challenges, perfect for those addicted to games as it is! Some new aspects include a fourth perk (specific for mounted weapons and such), new perks (like gas masks). The introduction of these new weapons grenades and perks make this feel more like an expansion to Modern Warfare than anything else, but my favourite new addition is the pack of dogs you get after a 7 kill streak over the attack helicopter from Modern Warfare. They have also manipulated the types of gameplay and what is unlocked when (you must be level 4 before you can create a custom setup for example) and as well, new maps and challenges. My favourite mode of play is only unlockable after you beat the campaign mode however, so for spoilers sake, I won’t divulge too much information about it, lets just say it involves zombies.
All in All Call of Duty: World at War seems like a small stumble back instead of a leap forward as the next Call of Duty title, in my opinion, I enjoyed Modern Warfare a little more than World at War but only because World at War’s weapons annoy me. That being said, I felt that World at War was a lot darker, a lot grittier, and a lot more intense (there’s A LOT more blood and profanity in this one). The main frustration I had while playing through this game though were that every time I died, it was due to enemy grenades, which happened often, while my own grenades did very little damage to the opposition. Final verdict, if you have Modern Warfare stick with it, if you’re a fan of WWII games, pick this one up, and if you’re in both camps, why not pick this one up anyways, it’s always fun to shoot Nazis!
Graphics: 4.5 / 5.0
Gameplay 4.5 / 5.0
Sound 5.0 / 5.0
Replay value 5.0 / 5.0