Call of Duty: World at WarESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
System Link: 2-18
4MB to Save Game
Online Multiplayer: 2-18
Just when we thought we were all sick and tired of shooters, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came along and rejuvenated the whole experience. Both the single player and online experience were quite a thrill ride. Needless to say, the recently released follow up Call of Duty: World at War had some mighty big shoes to fill. Things looked promising for World at War starting with some slick looking gameplay footage unveiled at the Activision’s E3 press conference in Los Angeles this year. A few months later the World at War Multiplayer Beta arrived and I was fortunate enough to get a token from Activision for a chance to play the game online. The beta was a blast and the stage was set for a solid sequel. Well the wait is over, and the Call of Duty franchise is back with its fifth instalment. Claiming to be the most graphic and harrowing World War II experience to date, my expectations were unquestionably high. Does World at War live up to my hopes and give me that invigorating feeling I had when I played COD4? Let’s find out shall we.
The Call of Duty franchise has always raised the bar when it comes to visuals in a first person shooter and World at War is no different as the games graphics are outstanding. Using an enhanced version of the Call of Duty 4 engine, World at War is simply a stunning game and Activision has another Call of Duty title that they can be very proud of. Everything from the impressive worn torn coastlines of the Pacific theater to the gruesome looking blood effects, World at War is a game where your jaw will drop more than once.
From the moment you first give World at War a spin, everything is eye-popping and a lot of the animations are overwhelmingly good. The game runs at 60-frames per second and as a result plays silky smooth, and this includes when playing the game online in the cooperative mode. Not to mention that even during some of the most chaotic moments with enemies everywhere, bullets whizzing by, and explosions blasting from all angles, the game runs better than I could have imagined.
Similar to previous COD instalments the environments in World at War are incredibly detailed and look very good. The amount of detail that went into such things as war-torn buildings, water effects, coastlines, blades of grass, cracks on the pavement, bullet holes, blood splatter, broken down cars and so on and so on, is very impressive. For example, during the second level there was one particular moment where I was standing behind the wreckage of a burning tank in shallow waters along the shore of a beach and I noticed the reflection of the fire in the water moving with the waves. This caught me off guard and really shows the little things that they made sure include. Visually, World at War is par with COD4 and certainly rivals other triple A games such as Halo 3 and even the recently released Gears of War 2. As with the environments, the lighting effects in the game are also superb. From the opening stage where the moon is shining down on the beach at night to the use of aerial flares to light up the jungle areas, you will definitely notice the effective lighting effects in this game.
World at War features some realistic looking character models and even the enemy AI characters look great. Some of the scenes where the enemy is sprinting towards you as they are 'decked-out' in full jungle camouflage looks incredible and has your heart beating. My only concern with the characters is the lack of customizable options. I would have liked to have been able to modify the look of my player; however what you do get in World at War is impressive.
To say the battle combat is intense in World at War is an understatement. The explosions, planes flying overhead, kamikaze fighters, suicidal soldiers, tight quarters, and all the intensive battles around you, everything you have come to visually associate in Call of Duty games are in all their glory in World at War. Whether it is on a beach, in a jungle, or in a war torn city, the combat feels real and is comparable to something out of a Hollywood movie.
World at War’s sound is an excellent compliment to the fantastic visuals. The Call of Duty franchise as a whole has always been strong in the audio department and this latest release is no exception. From the solid soundtrack to the soldier chatter, World at War features terrific sounds which should only be experienced in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. The game features life-like weapons sounds and explosions which will give your subwoofer a great work-out. The character voices are also rock solid. The addition of Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman to the voice talent roster gives World at War instant credibility and a level of authenticity unlike any war game we have ever played before.
For starters, World at War features realistic weapons sounds. I know what you are thinking; this is nothing new to the franchise as COD4's weapons sound equally fantastic. Yet, every time I seem to fire up a new COD game the sounds of the weapons blow me away. The different shotguns, bazookas, flame throwers, pistols, machine guns and grenades all have very unique sound effects. I was playing a game of co-op with fellow staffers Kirby Y and Frank N when Kirby found the flame thrower. The ‘whoosh’ of the flame coming out of the nozzle and hitting the enemy was really impressive. This was only one example, as all the weapons pack a punch and sound phenomenal. Heck, even the sounds you hear when reloading your weapon with the bullet casings hitting the pavement are strikingly good.
The voice acting and battle chatter which takes place between you and your squadmates is once again bang-on. Kiefer Sutherland can sometimes sound a little over-the-top and his gruff voice can get to you on occasion. However, at the end of the day it was great to have him and Gary Oldman play the voices of Sgt. Roebuck and Sgt. Reznov. They were able to pull of some great emotion during key segments and it allowed for a more engrossing experience.
The music in World at War is good and manages to do the job. It’s not going to have you calling your local Best Buy store to see if there is an audio CD of the games soundtrack, nevertheless it matches very well with the scenarios which take place on screen. The music effectively ‘amps-up’ as the action becomes much more intense and nothing is more gratifying when the music settles down and you realize the action has subsided.
Last year the COD franchise took a different approach putting aside the traditional World War II combat which has been re-hashed to death. COD4: Modern Warfare was set in fictional near-future and came as a breath of fresh air for many. COD4 was well received and many gamers absolutely loved the modern twist to a franchise which had always been about WWII. After a two year hiatus, Call of Duty has returned to its WWII roots. But this time with yet another twist. World at War focuses on the final battles in the Pacific theater and Eastern Europe fronts involving the United States, the Empire of Japan, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany. The games story mode features two main campaigns. The initial campaign features the American Marine Corps battling the Japanese Army in the Pacific. After the first three levels are completed you begin the second campaign which follows the Soviet Red Army advancing on Berlin. Upon completing the first part of the Red Army story you switch back and forth between the two campaigns.
The story in World at War is pretty straightforward and plays similar to previous games in the franchise where you play with multiple characters. This time around you play along side Sgt. Roebuck (Kiefer Sutherland) in the US campaign and Sgt. Reznov (Gary Oldman) in the Russian one. The narrative provides a solid backdrop for the game however I found there was not much flow to the storyline. Several missions take place years after others and I found there was some disconnect. Although the story for each campaign is good, I was much more impressed with the visuals, sound, and overall gameplay, then I was with World at War's storyline.
The single player experience will take anywhere from 7-10 hours to complete depending on your skill level and the difficulty you play the game on. Additionally it may take you some extra time to complete if you want to search out all of the game’s hidden death cards. These secret death cards can be found on certain levels and are usually found on helmets propped up by rifles stuck in the ground. Overall, the single player experience is a great ride and the combat and different types of weaponry you utilize throughout the game is impressive. World at War features a much publicized flamethrower and the sheer power of the weapon is deadly. The satisfaction you get from burning an enemy sniper out of a tree is scary good and also nets you an Xbox Achievement.
It is not all roses for World at War’s single player experience. My main issue with the game is the regenerating enemies. There are certain points in many of the levels where if you don’t push forward and risk getting killed the enemies will continually reappear. I can’t count how many times I would be stuck behind a bunker and I would seemingly take out every enemy in sight thinking I was safe. Moments later a new set of enemies would magically start to appear and I was back to square one. It was a very frustrating experience indeed as enemies just kept respawning over and over again. If Treyarch wanted to give a level of realism here, the enemies would eventually die in these moments instead of just respawning until you move up to a magical checkpoint.
Even if the game is a little on the short side, World at War features an all new co-op mode where you can play all the chapters of the game with up to four players online, or you can play two-player split screen. The addition of the co-op mode is fantastic and I have to say it has been highly enjoyable playing through the game again with some online friends. Playing with another player(s) adds a whole new element of strategy to the game as well. Not to mention the co-op mode runs smooth as silk. Yet, it does not end there. The co-op mode is further enhanced in a number of ways you can play with each other. You can play with competitive scoring on, search for the aforementioned death cards, and complete co-op specific challenges. The latter allows you the ability to rank up by earning XP. The XP allows you to unlock perks for multiplayer matches. No longer do you have to jump into a multiplayer match with no perks unlocked. A great addition indeed and it was nice to see the developers add a new dimension to the online XP ranking system.
As far as the competitive multiplayer game is concerned, I am left with some mixed feelings. On one hand, the game plays and looks great. The visuals are fantastic and the game runs very smoothly. The innovative rank-up system is back and many COD4 fans will likely be pleased that the developers did not tinker much with the online gameplay as it still holds true to the previous instalment in the franchise. On the other hand, I do not see many changes or drastic enhancements this time around enticing those who want something new. Granted, some would argue, "Why mess with a good thing?" and I understand the argument and believe me, there is huge part of me that is relieved there was not a drastic overhaul of the online gameplay. Nevertheless, I really question whether the online aspect of World at War will provide a lasting and sustained experience as COD4's online gameplay did.
World at War’s online gameplay has taking on the role of the U.S. Marines, German Wehrmacht, Japanese Imperial Army or Russian Red Army. This is randomly chosen when you enter a multiplayer match. There are several different game types available such as Team Death Match, Free-For-All, Capture the Flag and War to name a few. The list of different game types is impressive. Fans of online shooters will be familiar with all the game types; therefore I believe they need no further explanation. Bottomline, all your favorite game types are included and all play just as they did in COD4.
The best part of the online play in World at War is the fact that the upgrade and rank system is back. The rank and class system will have you playing for hours on end as the more you play the more you rank up. Obviously the more players you ‘mow down’ the more experience points you gain which all count towards your rank. With each rank you achieve new weapons, attachments, challenges, and/or perks become available. The challenges are small tasks you complete when playing online. Half of the challenges are specific to the different weapon classes, while the other half are just random tasks.
The ranking system in World at War has a slightly new look and the signature COD4 heavy metal guitar sound is gone when you do rank up. There are new weapons available including bolt action rifles and new machine guns. All of these pack a punch and once again stand as a strong point for the franchise. There are no helicopter kills this year either, instead, when you kill the enemy seven times in a row you can literally "release the dogs". It may sound silly but it actually proves to be even deadlier than the helicopter in some instances. It is quite satisfying if you are the one releasing the dogs but can be a nightmare if you are on the receiving end. Nevertheless, the dogs are a great little addition indeed. Oh, and did I mention the tanks. Yes, World at War features tanks. Players can earn and operate tanks in some of the games maps. These are nicely balanced as well as they do not dominate the battle field as one would think as there are many ways to take them out. Overall, I like the addition of the tanks as they add yet another element to the online experience.
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