I have the best metaphor for this game. Are you listening? Are you listening? Well, listen:
Although I wanted to blast COD:WaW into oblivion, break it’s morale and take it prisoner, its bravery and overall competency was enough to warrant a surrender.
I JUST BLEW YOUR MIND. Not really, but still, here we go. For those of you who have lives, Call of Duty: World at War is the next game in the Call of Duty series. Call of Duty games are normally noted for their World War 2 setting, linear but rewarding gameplay and an often grim portrayl of warfare. Then came along Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a radical new imagining of the franchise, now offering… err… a linear but rewarding gameplay experience… and a… grim portrayl of warfare. Ah, yes, but this one was in a Modern Setting, which really made all the difference. As everybody knows, World War II happened a long time ago, and there’s only so many years worth of material you can scrounge up. So it was good to see a war game finally make a modern bent that ended up paying off. It appears the Call of Duty franchise has learnt from experience and… gone back to World War II. Riiiiiight. Don’t fret though, this isn’t permanent. Modern Warfare 2 is in production, and this game is made by Treyarch, who you may know as making the gawdawful Call of Duty 3. So their life was on the line here, as some friends of mine already made judgement simply because of this. Oh well. It can’t be that bad… right?
In short, no. In long, no game’s perfect. So let’s get right down to it, I suppose. Let’s start with the bad. The first, most obviously glaring point, is the World War 2 setting. Though something should probably be pointed out to you, the uninformed, that this particular World War 2 setting hasn’t really been seen before. World at War, amongst Russians holding back German forces, also features the rarely-before-seen Pacific Battleground, focusing on Americans turning the tide of the war against the steely Japanese (or Empire of the Rising Sun) warriors. Does it work? Yeah, it does. The pacific location is very effective even solely from the novelty, but it excels in instilling a different mindset of warfare in the player. I’m used to sniping Nazis whilst hiding in a church, or sniping Spetsnaz whilst hiding in an apartment block. In World or War, sniping’s never really come up. There’s trees everywhere (well, everywhere that hasn’t been bombed), and you never know where the enemy’s going to come from. Which brings us to the new enemy. I was always sort of scared of hearing about the Imperial Japanese troops. The dedication, often bordering on psychosis, these guys exhibited is something to be seen. Walking through the rainforest, you can never be entirely certain when there’s going to be an ambush. And then, suddenly: “BANZAI!”, and the soldier comes dashing towards you with a katana. Holy fucking shit. Okay, the life ’round they come out at exactly the same spot, but the first time around I have trouble aiming right. Oh, and then there’s the lesser-known “retard squad” of the Japanese forces. Yeah, the AI’s occaisonally comparable to a rock. Many times I’ve been standing right next to a Jap, whilst he focuses primarily on sniping the Marine four million miles away. Still, its’ nothing game breaking – just turn the difficulty up, I guess – and it still ends up with the feeling intact. Oh, now let’s move on to the depiction of war. This is probably the most brutal COD game I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. It’s definitely not for the faint-of-heart, though I suppose that’s only a good thing when it comes to war. Single player is a relatively standard affair, following the two radically different stories of two radically different soliders. The differences between the two campaigns are more than purely cosmetic, too. As the Americans you’ll be fighting in an unconventional battlefield, varying from wide open fields to tight-knit jungles. It’s unpredictable, which works well for the setting and ambience of the levels. The Russian campaign sees a great deal more emotional involvement, fighting a war of revenge as the Soviet Army pushes back the nasty old Nazis out of the USSR. It’s literally a war of revenge, too: the very first level of the campaign sees you bleeding to death whilst German soldiers put down your comrades permanently. A lucky break means you get a new lease on life, however, and your squad leader (also part of the massacre) takes a particular hate to the Nazi swine. Both of your commanding officers in both of the campaigns are well-realised characters, each with their own motivation behind the military orders. Roebuck, your C.O. in the Pacific campaign, just wants peace and the end of the war to finally come. Reznov, your Ruskie leader, wants to kill every single German for everything they ever did. The guns feel sturdy throughout the game, and veterans of CoD 4 will have to change their tactics to keep up (?) with the guns of World War 2. Rifles are out in force, which means battle often feels slower and clunkier, but to a historical effect as opposed to bad design. The graphics utilise the same engine as its predecessor, so the game often feels like a full conversion of Modern Warfare. There has been, by the looks of things, some tweaking though, as flames and other environmental effects appear with more clarity and general prettiness-of-ugliness in the harshest of places.
So that’s single player. Though when Modern Warfare was released, the game’s multiplayer seemed to be better received than the singleplayer. It’s hard to say exactly why, but the unlockable weapons system based on rank seemed to have something to do with it. So now Treyarch not only has to release a good World War 2 game (which is getting increasinly harder these days), they have to deliver the alread rabid fans more of the great multiplayer that is becoming synonymous with the CoD franchise. Let’s start with a word of warning. You can’t expect everything to be fair in WaW‘s multiplayer. The fact that different weapons are unlocked depending on your level of XP (gained by kills, headshots, capturing the flag, et cetera, et cetera) means there will be players better off than you are to begin with. Or at least, players that have stuck by the game. There’s a fair amount of grinding involved with the multiplayer, as you’ll find yourself searching for 50 more XP so you can unlock the next weapon. Also a main feature of the game’s multiplayer is the Perks system. Perks (also unlocked by increasing in rank) bestow different advantages to the player, but only a few can be used in one loadout. Although it helps the diversity of players, you’ll find a few perks are… shall we say… Overpowered? True, they each offer different things, but a few perks, in the right hands, can be nigh on unstoppable. Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself the entire time throughout the experience, simply because the options included are so damn liberating. Whatever mode you play, WaW will (probably) cater to it. The CoD games of late have also started to include new modes that put a spin on classic FPS fodder. Take “Hardcore” mode, for instance. In Hardcore, the HUD is completely removed, friendly fire is always on, and bullets do considerably more damage. It helps the overall realism, if that’s what you’re after, and is definitely for players with a bit more experience. I’m pleased to say World at War‘s multiplayer carrys on the grand tradition of fine multiplayer from a well-renowned series.
I wasn’t expecting too much from World at War, to be honest. Another World War 2 shooter, from a developer with a slightly dodgy history, using the same engine as the last game from last year. And it a lot of respects, World at War isn’t exactly revolutionary. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s a solid game that gets by from the success of the game before it, and I can say it is the best WW2 game to date. Hopefully, then, it’ll be the last.