Summary: Set in the Pacific and Russian theaters of WW2, Call of Duty: World at War is built on the CoD 4 engine. But is it as good as Modern Warfare and previous titles in the CoD series? Find out in our review!
Call of Duty: A Tradition of Action
The Call of Duty series spans 5 years, 4 releases, two developers and that doesnít even count the numerous spin-offs and handheld versions. First released in 2003, Call of Duty was a continuation of the work that Infinity Ward had begun over at EA on Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. The series has built a reputation on fast game play, cutting edge graphics, audio immersion, and addictive multiplayer. Call of Duty and its sequel were both developed by the original team, while the reigns of Call of Duty 3 were handed off to Treyarch Studios for a console-only release. This freed up Infinity Ward to develop the outstanding Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the first game in the series to not be set during the Second World War.
Modern Warfare set a new standard in the series, bringing with it many innovations while also remaining true to its action packed single player roots. Released on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and the PC, Call of Duty 4 was a huge success, both financially and critically, making a sequel in the series a foregone conclusion. Now with Infinity Ward working on the true sequel to Modern Warfare, Treyarch has been tapped once again to develop another entry into the series. However, instead of following up on Call of Duty 4ís modern success, Treyarch has decided to return us to World War II in Call of Duty: World at War. Will a return to the Second Great War herald another successful entry in the series or are we stuck with a prettier version of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault?
The focus of World at War is on the Pacific theater and Eastern Front, with the player swapping roles between a U.S. Marine and a soldier of the Red Army. Gameplay follows the standard set in Call of Duty 4 as the player can carry two main weapons, two types of grenades, and can insta-kill anyone with the magic melee button. You work with fellow soldiers in combat to achieve an established set of objectives that are usually communicated to you as the level is loading. As with the previous game, load times are nice and brisk, but there are animations between levels help to kill the time. The ďbriefingsĒ themselves feel a little bit out of place as they are a mix of real footage, 3D graphics, and a voiceover by Kiefer Sutherland. The combination of modern animation and period footage doesnít mesh too well, however it gives the player all the information he needs, so itís hard to really find fault with it.
World at War features a fairly robust multiplayer aspect, with both co-op campaign and traditional offerings. Co-op in games is always a welcome treat, especially 4-player co-op as is featured in World at War. Thankfully, you play through the entire campaign with your buddies, who can join and quit as they please. More developers need to include co-op gameplay in their releases, if possible. Perhaps not on atmospheric games like Bioshock, but you never know, it couldíve made Rapture more interesting. Especially if your friends are prone to unleashing expletives every time a splicer jumps on screen.
Unfortunately, one area that Treyarch fails in is the same one Infinity Ward failed in with Modern Warfare: locally save profiles. Since your rank and experience are saved locally, it was only a matter of time before crackers and hackers released tools to instant level 55 yourself, with no real way of detecting or preventing it. Also, should you decide to play along the straight and narrow, and have to format for any reason, best hope you remember to back up your profile. Otherwise, all those hours of grinding and gibbing will have been wasted, as are the unlocked weapons that accompanied them.
Call of Duty World at War utilizes the same graphics engine as Modern Warfare, only enhanced to support updated effects physics, like the fire from the flamethrower. The engine boasts self-sustaining fire, so anything you set ablaze should remain so and propagate to nearby tinder, until all fuel is extinguished. Although the fire effects look pretty decent, they do pale in comparison to other recent games like Far Cry 2.
Other graphical effects look as good as they did in Call of Duty 4, with dynamic lighting and depth of field adding a great sense of realism, especially when you are aiming down the sights of your rifle. Meanwhile, a combination of canned animations and ragdoll physics help add to a nice mix of realism and movie magic to each death throe. World at War does feature some gorier death animations, as limbs and body parts can be blown off. Overall, World at War is rendered just as well as Call of Duty 4, only it has the added benefit of already being tested on a variety of hardware. World at War seems to run pretty good on any modern system, although anyone running anything older than Radeon 3850 is probably going to have turn some of the goodies down, especially during some of the more explosive-laden sections.
Audio production in World at War is pretty good, as it features voice acting from the likes of Gary Oldman and the previously mentioned Kiefer Sutherland. It sure seems to us that poor Gary Oldman only gets to play either Russians or Bad Guys, so itís probably somewhat of a win to play a Russian Good Guy. The rest of the voice acting is decent, although hardly memorable. Kiefer and Gary also help you out during the multiplayer sessions, calling out the game type and the when the HQ is available. Weapon sounds are accurate, although some do lack a little bit punch, especially the Thompson and BAR. Surround sound is well executed and adds a nice immersive atmosphere to the ensuing carnage.
Itís Call of Duty! Letís face it, thereís a reason Call of Duty is such a huge series. The intense action, attention to detail, incredibly deep multiplayer; it all adds to a complete gaming experience and Treyarch does their best to continue in this regard, while Infinity Ward works on the follow-up to Modern Warfare.
*SIGH*Itís Call of Duty: If you thought that the previous games were mindless, shallow shoot Ďem ups, then World at War isnít going to change to your mind. In fact, it will only reinforce that interpretation.