Last year, Call of Duty 4 took a well established franchise and changed it all around. It traveled into the future to a modern day world war leaving its World War II roots behind. With the WWII setting practically a sub-genre in the gaming world, few fans minded the change and when it came to the end result, pretty much all were incredibly pleased, including myself. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was not just a massive critical success, but also one of the best selling titles Activision has ever had. With Grand Theft Auto IV's delay, COD4 was the talk of the whole industry with both gamers and press alike. So when rumors began to swirl that the franchise would head back to World War II and Treyarch would be taking over, the reactions were less than positive. But promises made by both Activision and Treyarch assured us that Call of Duty: World At War would live up to its legacy…does it?
Well, I'll say this much, I don't hate World at War. In fact, it'd have been perfect had it been Call of Duty 3. My personal take on COD: World at War is as Call of Duty 3 the "We're Sorry Edition". Okay, so COD3 wasn't that terrible, but it was really bland and boring. World at War changes the pace and cranks it up a few notches. Now, there's a flurry of fire all around, tons and tons of enemies will make themselves present during heated battles. Thankfully, unlike COD4, enemies don't just respawn endlessly, so if you take out MG gunners in a bunker from a distance, they will stay dead.
The story of the game throws you into the shoes of an American marine and a Russian militant, so much like COD4, you experience the game from two alternating perspectives and two separate locations (with the exception of one mission). The presentation is well done, as it progresses the story through a sequence of actual archived World War II footage with a good dose of stylistic flare added to make it all stand out. The game's campaign will take you through various countries, including Japan, Germany, and Russia, all spanning different events.
But I did find the actual progression of the storyline to be fragmented, as the game tends to skip years between events without really filling in the blanks. So you'll often find yourself confused at the beginning of a number of stages, wondering what the hell happened and how you ended up in a very vulnerable position. A more fleshed out experience that led up to those vulnerable states would've certainly been nice to see.
As far as weaponry goes, much of it will be familiar to the old COD faithful, so there isn't a whole lot to be excited about. Nevertheless, shooting feels satisfying as every bullet pops with force and sounds the part too. Recoil issues aren't present, but you can't run and gun here as you can in other FPS games; your reticule will expand when you're on the move, worsening your aim considerably. Mission structure remains similar to past games, and objectives are fairly straightforward. Mission variety won't impress long time fans of the genre, but the excitement of battles is still enough to keep the game feeling enjoyable.
The flamethrower coupled with the game's flammable environment make for some good fun, as I found myself using the weapon for nearly an entire mission just because it was a blast to use. But beyond that, this Call of Duty doesn't feel a whole lot different than past ones, and once again, the multiplayer facet is what most of you will be looking to get in on. With a four-player online co-op option, or two-player offline co-op, you can now enjoy the all new WWII campaign with your friends in tow. If the campaign battlefield just isn't where you want to be, then take it to the online battlegrounds filled with rounds of Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination, Free For All, Search and Destroy, and more. And feel free to take the reins of a tank if one is available. After all, what good is a WWII shooter if you can't wreck havoc behind the wheel (is there a wheel?) of a tank?
Unfortunately, in comparison to the likes of Resistance 2, or even the upcoming Killzone 2, COD's 18 player limit seems almost paltry in respect to Sony's 60 and 32 player behemoths. Nonetheless, gamers will still get one of the most refined online systems, as much of what made COD4's online component so great transfers over, with new enhancements made. So as far as value is concerned, you're getting your money's worth, if only for the multiplayer. The campaign is also a bit longer than that of COD4's which should excite fans who felt last year's game was too short.
Visually, one can argue that World at War is a technically better game than Modern Warfare, as it runs on an improved version of the COD4 engine. Unlike COD4: Modern Warfare, which ran at an obscure resolution below 720p, World at War runs at a proper 720p, and is capable of upscaling to 1080i and 1080p without taking a toll on visual fidelity. While the gritty art direction of this one is a welcome feature, the overall tone is still World War II, and so there just isn't much in terms of visual design that'll impress you. On the other hand, if World War II is still your thing, then there isn't a whole lot to complain about.
Assuming COD4 doesn't exist, COD: World at War is still a well designed FPS game. The game engine runs briskly at 30 frames per second, never missing a beat, not even during the most hectic of moments. Additionally, texture detail ranges from good to great, and other details such as lighting, character detail, and image quality are all superb. So make no mistakes about it, this is still a great looking game with a plethora of action and great detail on screen.
Audio is yet another strong suit here. Once again, the newest Call of Duty game boasts fantastic voice acting and utterly incredible sound effects. Voice acting is very frequent and you'll hear a lot of it during your missions. Thanks to Gary Oldman and Kiefer Sutherland for lending their voices, you should also enjoy every bit of dialogue you hear. Moreover, when the battlefield is hot with fire, the bullets and explosions will come to life if you've got an audio setup that can cause earthquakes. The intensity of COD: World at War is really magnified by the audio, so play this one loud.
To wrap up, Call of Duty fans should still enjoy what Call of Duty: World at War has to offer. Fans of Call of Duty 2 who found themselves utterly disappointed by COD3 should absolutely love everything that World at War offers. Even though the game throws you back into a familiar setting, and the story isn't super polished, it's still an exciting FPS with great visuals, superb audio, and epic multiplayer gameplay. If you're looking for a great WWII shooter, this is it.