Call of Duty: World at War
Genre: First Person Shooter
ESRB: M for Mature
Developer: ACTIVISION/Treyarch Studios
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date: November 11, 2008
Just another WWII shooter right? Well, in this case, yes and no. The name Call of Duty has become synonymous with quality first-person shooters and sequels continue to improve upon their predecessors. That was until now, as the fifth installment seems to have hit a few bumps along the way and fails to really improve on some of more innovative aspects introduced in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It is worth noting that this game was produced by Treyarch Studios, who were responsible for part 3, but not part 4, which was produced by Infinity Ward. Even ignoring the WWII/Modern aspects, the contrast in styles is obvious, with some aspects not really helping the new version.
The story mode is entertaining, though at this point you have to wonder how creative people can get with yet another WWII first-person shooter. Even though Call of Duty: World at War lives up to its name by showing both the Asian and European fronts, I think the game could have done fine on its own focusing on the U.S.-Japanese conflict. The game jumps back and forth between the two fronts every two missions, which can be a bit annoying as it breaks the storyline for the sake of breaking it. Supporting this notion is the fact that a majority of the Asian front levels take place nearly a year after the fall of Berlin. You will play two levels in the spring of 1945 only to be sent back to the battle of Stalingrad immediately after. It seems unnecessary. While the Japanese campaign story would have been fine on its own, I have to admit some of the Russian/German levels were my favorite ones to play. Though it seems like a direct rip-off of Enemy at the Gate, one level has you taking over for a wounded sniper in Stalingrad, stalking your prey throughout a ravaged city. There is plenty to enjoy from the solo gameplay here, even if it isn’t all that original.
This time around, the game features standard and competitive co-op modes, allowing you to play the story mode with friends online on through split-screen action. You can work together for the greater good or play a competitive match much like Legolas and Gimli, trying to see who can off the most enemies before the level is complete. Fun if you have friends with the game but I don’t like the full-blown online deathmatches.
I have to admit there are some perks I found really enjoyable from this game. For instance, having Jack Bauer as my commanding officer… sort of. Kiefer Sutherland lent his voice to the game as a U.S. Sergeant, not as Bauer obviously, but it’s close enough since he’s yelling the same kind of things he does on 24. “GET DOWN! DAMNIT!” It never gets old. The game also includes a special zombie modem which can be unlocked by beating the game on any challenge level. It’s only a single level, but the replay value is phenomenal. You and up to three friends are held up in an old house as undead zombies try to break in and devour you in progressively hard waves. It’s a relatively simple concept, but addictive nonetheless. How many waves can you survive? I’ve made it into the teens.
Graphics and controls-wise the game is similar to its PS3 predecessor. This is not surprising considering it was built on the same game engine, but with only minor tweaks and no major improvements to speak of. Running at full 1080p it’s hard to find anything to complain about visually and a proper sound setup could have you feeling like you are in the middle of the combat. For the most part the controls are smooth. Aiming can be a bit frustrating at times with bolt-action weaponry but I never once found myself blaming faulty controlling for getting blown up.
The game also takes advantage of the PS3 trophy system which, if nothing else, adds some unique mini-goals to the game for added replay value. For example, you can earn a silver trophy by taking out a German general from across an open courtyard… with a pistol. No sniper rifle allowed. Good luck with that. Some of the trophies are incredibly easy to earn and should happen without any added effort along the way to completing the story. Others are so hard you may want to strap your controller to your hand to prevent damage to your TV. Try beating every level on the hardest difficulty setting. You get a bronze trophy for every level you beat, a gold for beating all of them. This would seem great if it wasn’t insanely frustrating to beat certain levels, such as the storming of Berlin where the Nazis have the luxury of infinite respawning. Personally, I think the later levels warrant silver trophies, especially since you can earn an extra silver trophy for beating certain levels on any challenge level. That doesn’t make any sense to me, but I didn’t complain when I was earning two trophies for beating a single level.
Unfortunately, I, like many people I am sure, play Call of Duty for the online games. And when it comes to online gaming, World at War falls far short of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The primary reason is simple: cheating. I’ll never understand why, but there a large number of people out there who enjoy finding ways to cheat and ruin any competitive spirit a game might have. Such is the case with World at War, where “glitching,” the exploiting of clipping errors to hide in places where you cannot be seen or shot, is running rampant. When people glitch, they end up hiding “under” or “outside” a map and get as many kills as they want without worrying about being shot in return. Is it the fault of Activision or Treyarch that people abuse glitches? No, but it is their fault the glitches are so widespread and have not been patched. The previous game had a few glitches to be sure, but few were ones that could be exploited for invisibility and the ones that were not in high traffic areas, thus they could be avoided altogether if need be. So far, that has not been case with World of War.
Secondly, Treyarch seems to like vehicles. Unfortunately, vehicles get abused to no end in online play and sometimes end up overshadowing the original purpose of many games. Sure, tanks were really a part of WWII warfare, but they’re a part of modern warfare too and the previous game was named Game of the Year without them. In many multiplayer levels in World at War, regardless of what game type you are playing, the matches turn into races to grab the respawning tanks, and if you lose, to blow them up.
Overall, World at War is a fun addition to the Call of Duty series even if it fails to advance the gameplay any further. While not breaking any new ground, this is the only Call of Duty game I have enjoyed playing the entire solo campaign, which almost makes up for the severe weaknesses in the online gameplay. A few patches may fix things, but they don’t have much time to capitalize before people get sick of it and go back to Modern Warefare while awaiting Infinity Ward’s follow up to it (due out later this year).
Call of Duty: World at War is available on the following platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PC, Nintendo DS, PS2