STAFF REVIEW of Call of Duty: World At War (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

Call of Duty: World At War Box art Only one year ago we were talking about COD4 and Infinity Ward and now we have yet another Call of Duty title on our hands, but make sure you don't call it COD5. The latest installment of the series comes from Treyarch whom delivered the lack lustered Call of Duty 3 a few years back. After Infinity Ward made the jump to modern warfare, our friends at Treyarch decided that it was best for their game to head back to the World War II era once again. Honestly, I myself think the COD series is best served by the WWII scenario more so than the modern warfare. Now of course COD4 was a great game which would be why Treyarch pretty much used every bit of COD4's gameplay and engine that it could while still trying to remain a unique title.

Treyarch takes back to WWII but at least serves up some new scenarios of which we haven't played before. You';; be taking on the Germans as US and Russian soldier on the Eastern and Western fronts, as well as hitting the South Pacific fighting the Japanese. The new scenarios definitely are a welcome addition to the COD series, but after a while it just seems like the same old Call of Duty in a World War II setting.

So at first glance as you begin playing Call of Duty: World at War you'll recognize the COD4 gameplay and structure is very evident. The only real difference is that instead of modern weaponry, you are now using old school weapons and sites. This is truly most evident in the multiplayer aspects and I would even be will to call it completely identical to COD4. Sure there are different weapons and vehicles as well as new maps and perks, but really its the same game as COD4. Why fix something that isn't broke I guess.

One of the defining factors that sets World at War apart from its big brother is the addition of co-op play in the campaign mode. Now you and up to 3 of your buddies can run through the campaign mode together which is a great addition to any game. The campaign mode is laid out fairly well and you'll jump from front to front fending off the Germans and Japanese. From the co-op sessions I played the games were relatively lag free and a lot of fun. This definitely made the single player a much more enjoyable experience and more games should follow this trend.

Graphically the game is right on par with what we saw from COD4 and even does better in a few areas. To me intricate details that can go overlooked are what makes a game great graphically and I think one of the best small details I saw were the artillery strikes. Not so much the impact of the strike on the targeted area but more so the way it looks when its incoming. When you hear the siren warnings of an impending strike take a look to the horizon and you'll see what I mean. You be able to watch the smoke trails of the shells as they are launched towards the target. You can follow them all the way across the sky until they impact the ground. While this doesn't really impact gameplay I found it still to be one of those things that sets the game into a higher category graphically.

Other than that, the game looks great and runs at a high frame rate with no slowdown that I noticed. Attention to detail, like the artillery strike, is key and I one of the most graphically intense gameplay moments would have to be the first time you see a flamethrower. The fire looks amazing and frankly eclipses any flamethrower that I have ever seen in a game before. The fire is intense and the results are smoking, no pun intended. Kudos definitely go to the graphics team on the flamethrower in the game. Explosions look good but as of late explosions look good in pretty much every game that comes along.

The weaponry and accessories are all WWII era equipment and seems to be a gripe among many folks because the weapons fire to slowly or they are a bit inaccurate at times. Well, think about it folks. We are talking about 60 plus years ago. The weapons should be inferior to that of modern combat. I like the fact that you need to have some skill to use the weapons of the time period. Of course there are a few power houses in the ammunition dump when it comes to strong guns but overall the weapons are fairly well balances and the attachments that go with them seem to work well too.

When it comes to the sounds of World at War there really isn't anything that stands above previous iterations of the series. In game weapon and vehicle sounds are right where they should be and really are probably the best you can accomplish. I mean seriously, guns and vehicles really do not have that many different sounds nor are they complicated in nature. So once you get the sound down as I think this game has, then there isn't much more you can do for future titles. Some interesting things I noticed were the air sirens that warn of incoming artillery strikes and the dogs ambient barking as they travel the map in search of enemies. The rest of the sounds in the game are that what you have come to expect with Call of Duty. Battle cries, sergeants screaming, cliché one liners that you have heard in all Call of Duty games are in this one as well. Not to much of a wow factor in the sound department in my opinion.

When it all boils down to it, the Call of Duty series is all about the online experience. And World at ar delivers on that experience just as COD4 did. Well, honestly, it is COD4 with a World War II overlay so why shouldn't the game be good. You'll instantly recognize the online portion of the game being that of COD4 with all the options you grew accustomed to last year. The ranking system is pretty much the same and the perk system works the same as well, only you have a few new perks that are related to the time period of WWII.

One of the most annoying and really one of the only pitfalls of the game is the spawning system. There really is no rhyme or reason to the spawns as you'll find yourself spawning in the middle of gun battles or right beside an enemy looking directly at you. Most of the time this results in immediate death, and huge frustrations. I like the random spawn points which tends to deter spawn camping, but in the end I would rather take my chances with a spawn camper than be killed immediately upon spawning just because I ended up in someone's line of fire or an artillery strike for that matter.

The prestige level has been increased from 50 in COD4 to 65 in World at War. You'll also obtain the flamethrower at level 65, so this should make for some interesting decisions as whether you want to move onto prestige mode and start over again, or hang onto the flamethrower for a while and remain at level 65. Some other changes to the game would include your rewards for achieving a certain amount of kills in a row. At 3 kills you'll still earn the recon radar that indicates enemy positions on the map. At 5 kills you earned an Attack Chopper in COD4, but now you'll earn attack dogs which will seek out and kill enemies. Now the dogs are not indestructible, but they are vicious and do some major damage to enemies and you best bet is to follow the dogs to enemy location to finish off victims that may have fended off the dog attack. Finally, once you hit 7 kills in a row without dying you will be garnered with an artillery strike rather than the air strike in COD4. The artillery strike seems to have a longer duration and a much more widespread targeting area than the air strikes. I personally think the artillery strike is much better than the modern day air strikes.

The perk system is pretty much the same but with one welcome addition. You now have the ability to be a medic once again, well of sorts anyhow. If a player has the second chance perk they can revive any person that is in last stand before they die. You'll just have to head over to their position and inject them with the medicine and off they go. You will of course have the typical perks such as martyrdom, deep impact, juggernaut, etc. Some of the new grenades included are toxin grenades, sticky grenades, and anti tank grenades along with the normal frag grenades and smoke grenades. You can also obtain Molotov cocktails which are pretty fun but take some getting used to when used in battle.

Along with the standard multiplayer matches you'll be treated to a new game mode as well. If you finish the campaign mode you'll unlock what is called the Zombie mode. In this mode you'll basically be locked down in a boarded up room and have to fend off Nazi Zombies coming at you from all directions. The windows and doors are boarded up, but the zombies will tear them down to get inside after you. You'll earn cash for each zombie you kill and this cash can be used to purchase new weapons as well as repair broken boards blocking the windows. As you pass each level of zombies, the difficulty increases more and more. Eventually you'll have zombies attacking from every direction and you won't know which way to turn. This game is most fun with 3 other buddies online of course.

When it all boils down to it, much of World at War is COD4 with a World War 2 overlay. That makes this a great game no matter how you look at it. The multiplayer is fun, but can be a bit frustrating at times with the spawn system. I would have liked to have seen a little more variety in the game, but I still love it despite its huge resemblance to Call of Duty 4. I really think Activision made a good choice in keeping with what was doen well last year and building upon that while not changing to much other than the time period. There are plenty of maps and weapons as well as challenges to keep one busy for quite some time. This is definitely a title you should have in your library if you are a fan of first person shooters.

The spawning system online definitely needs to be tweaked quite a bit. The way it is right now completes frustrates many including myself and actually has me turning off the game from time to time. Look forward to more maps and maybe new weapons in the future as well.

Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.7 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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