In Call of Duty: World at War, the series makes a jump back to World War 2 and development was handled by the folks at Treyarch. Call of Duty originated with Infinity Ward, who handled the first, second, and fourth games. Treyarch developed the Xbox/PS2 exclusive titles a few years back, along with Call of Duty 3. In other words, Treyarch are the filler studio who produce the less than stellar games between Infinity Ward releases. At least, that’s how I viewed them before I played World at War. I feel that I owe them an apology for all of the shit talking I did in the months leading up to the game’s release, as they deliver a fully competent COD sequel built on top of the critically acclaimed Modern Warfare. While it might feel a little too familiar at times, I was surprised time-and-time-again through-out the campaign, at the quality of this fifth major COD game.
Plenty of Pretty Things
When I first sat down to play the game, my eyebrows raised immediately as the gorgeous stylized cinematic intro brought me up to speed on when and where we’re at. Thankfully, these beauties continued between to play between each mission and were a treat each and every time.
Along with the gorgeous cinematics, the graphics and sound overall are top notch. The music however, well, WTF? I’m not sure who though throwing heavy electric guitar in the mix would be a good idea, but hopefully they no longer have a job in that department.
The Single Player Campaign
World at War bounces between two major campaigns – the Pacific assault, where you’re an American soldier battling the Japanese, and the siege toward Berlin as a Russian soldier fighting Germans. They play completely different, as weapons and environments are nothing alike. The balance between the two is very well done and I found that I wasn’t favoring one over the other, nor was I disappointed when the direction suddenly shifted.
The tell-tale sign that you aren’t playing an Infinity Ward game is with the enemy AI. As with Call of Duty 3, there are spots where you’ll actually see enemies spawn in. But worst of all, it’s blatantly obvious where the action triggers are. By that, I mean the spots you need to reach to trigger the next sequence in the level. In some situations, you could sit there picking off enemies all damn day and you wouldn’t get anywhere – they’d just keep on coming, until you crossed the invisible line that tells the game to progress to the next part. I never noticed this sort of thing with Infinity Ward games, but it seems like there may as well be big red flags with Treyarch at the helm. This can be particularly frustrating when there’s an area you know you need to reach, but the stream of constantly spawning baddies is preventing you from moving forward.
Of the new goodies in your arsenal, is the flamethrower. Fire seemed to be the trend in 2008, and I have no complaints in that regard. Burning shit is fun. Burning dudes hiding in trees is even more fun! I couldn’t have been more excited when my commanding officer told me to run up the beachhead, grab the flamethrower, and clear out the emplacements. And from that moment on, I didn’t put the flamethrower down if I had the choice.
The Not-So Single Player Campaign
Something entirely new for the COD series is co-op play. I really didn’t know how this would play out, but it works quite well, with support for up to 4 players total. There is a down side, though. And that’s how it can be noticeable while playing solo that an area is designed for more than one person. During my first play-through, I often wondered why there was four mortars, or an abundance of weapons to pick up. I then realized it was in preparation for co-op play. Co-op picks up basically everything from Halo 3, where you can keep score collectively or competitively. There’s also “death cards”, which are the equivalent to Halo 3’s skulls.
Of course, there’s another co-op mode that has received plenty of attention – Nazi Zombies. I was not only enthused when I first caught wind of this. And playing it through didn’t do much for me either. I could see how it would be fun, if you don’t own Gears of War 2 or Left 4 Dead… which I do. It’s very slow to start when you have three or four players, and the AI is nothing to write home about. Not to mention, there’s only one map this mode can be played on.
Virtually Untouched Multiplayer
The other end of the game, that keeps people playing for hours on end, is the mighty online multiplayer. Built on COD4, everything is in tact. The perks system, custom setups, clans, etc. It’s all there, and judging by the Xbox Live stats, fans of COD4 are really digging it. Myself, well, I didn’t like COD4 multiplayer so much. And as such, this doesn’t really appeal to me. While I do find it to be a bit more fun than COD4, as the weapons have shorter range and less impact, it’s just not my cup of tea.
Treyarch Delivered the Goods
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by World at War and have been recommending it to those who were on the fence about another Treyarch developed COD. Despite its flaws, it’s worth at least a rental for the single player campaign. And if you enjoyed the multiplayer in COD4, you’ll likely be just as stoked on World at War.