Call of Duty: World At War
There are a lot of people out there who dismissed Call of ' Duty: World at War almost from the moment it was announced. First of all, there was the return (unwelcome for some) to World War II, a scenario that raised eyebrows and elicited sighs of disappointment from people fed up of fighting Nazis in the fields of central Europe. This turned out to not be so much of an issue, with the setting being a return to the Eastern Front, specifically the Soviet fightback from Stalingrad, that most incredible of military encounters.
World at War also marks the introduction of a new theatre into the Call of Duty recipe book, the exotic dish that is the fight for the Pacific. Most of the discussion has been on how different this new scenario would be - essentially, would it be as refreshing as the modem setting that proved so popular in Call of Duty 4? The answer to that is a positive no, unfortunately. While Treyarch tries very hard to make the Pacific missions as distinct and individual as possible, they don't succeed. Although Japanese adversaries change the combat dynamic slightly - popping out of camouflaged foxholes, sniping from trees, charging with bayonets - in the end you're doing the same thing you've done to the Nazis hundreds of times. Having said that it's surprising to note that it's the Soviet campaign which provides the game's outstanding moments, but we'll come back to this...
The other thing people will have been talking/worrying about is the developer itself. Treyarch, after Call of Duty 3, has a notoriously bad image in the gaming community - you'd be hard pressed to find somebody who has been resolutely positiye about WAWs prospects since the game was announced. Certainly, WAWhas a lot to do to convince the doubters, who could easily opt for one of the many other big-name titles coming out in the run up to Christmas (a lot of which will already have drained the bank balances of potential customers).
You start off captured by the Japanese, watching an American GI being tortured and brutalised by a sadistic guard right in front of you. Refusing to answer his questions, the private has his throat savagely slit by your captors. You realise you are next but luckily, rescuers (primarily in the form of Kiefer Sutherland's Sgt Roebuck) storm in and prevent your death in the nick of time. From here, you assist in escaping the island prison and returning to the pillowy bosom of US territory, before being shipped out to help the war effort.
Like the death of your character in COM, this particular sequence isn't what you'd expect from a big-budget consumer-friendly title. In fact the level of brutality on show - Japanese soldiers getting their limbs blown off, Nazis viciously executing the dying and wounded in Stalingrad - makes the whole experience grittier than ever, certainly more so than any previous Call of Duty game.
All this happens in the same graphics engine as COM. so you can expect a brilliantly optimised engine that looks gorgeous even on lesser systems (although the character models sometimes look a bit ropey). There are some lovely little touches here and there, like the barrel of your gun being spotted with rain in certain levels. Despite occasions when your surroundings look like they've been shrink-wrapped, the only stage that really lets the side down visually is one where you take control of a Soviet tank rolling about the Seelow Heights outside Berlin. In fact, this level is probably the least interesting part of the game, feeling tacked on and out of keeping with the rest of the Soviet campaign. You can see why they've added it - to break up the on-foot action and prevent it getting samey - but you can't help feeling this was a decision made late in the development process.
This isn't the case with the other 'interlude' section, a turret mission above the Pacific Ocean. I can hear the collective groans - on-rails turret missions aren't exactly flavour of the month in the gaming world. Amazingly, WAIVs gaming pariah is actually damn good fun. What Treyarch have done well is add a great sense of movement and activity to the otherwise stationary action. You are constantly being ordered into different areas of the bomber, moving quickly through the inside of the giant plane in order to take up positions on each of the turrets. At one point you even land on the water and are given the task of preventing kamikaze bombers destroying your fleet while floating survivors plead to be hauled aboard.
This is where one of the game's moral moments rears its head. You can rescue said survivors if you like, but you risk giving the Japanese planes an opportunity to break through. Such morality plays a much heavier part in the Soviet campaign, as Treyarch make sure to highlight the intense savagery of the struggle between the Soviets and Nazis. Some of the set-pieces are on a par with the original COD'S Stalingrad level, especially when you're working your way through to the Reichstag in Berlin. The game's engine does a good job of handling the more epic battles, with smoke, explosions and corpses flying about all over the shop. AA flak zips across the sky, greriades and Molotov cocktails explode all around, while wave after wave of men drop like flies. There are few game series that put you right into the heart of the battle like this and World at War lives up to expectations perfectly. It even has a D-Day style beach assault although there aren't any cliffs to climb up this time round. What WAWdoes very well, specifically in the Soviet campaign, is give you a great sense of the struggle for humanity that is taking place. As you progress, driving the Nazis back behind the borders of Germany, your constant companion, Reznov (played by Gary Oldman), is driven by the desire to crush the 'rats' who butchered his comrades in Stalingrad. At least one other soldier fighting at your side questions the need to kill surrendering troops where they stand, to show some mercy where their enemies had previously shown none - pleas that are subsequently ignored.
Some moments are genuinely thought provoking, with Soviet troops dealing with a captured German soldier in a ruthless and brutal fashion - one that is celebrated by Reznov, yet may well disgust you, the player. Treyarch have done superbly in refusing to shy away from the madness of the Eastern Front the horrors of which we in the West can only begin to imagine.
Perhaps the best moment in the game, therefore, comes not from the storming of the Reichstag but when you find three Nazi soldiers at the entrance to a subway. They are of no threat desperately pleading for mercy. However, surrounding them is a group of Soviet soldiers clutching lit Molotov cocktails, and Reznov places their fate in your hands. I won't splay the scene wide open for you, but it's enough to say that the outcome is grim either way.
There's a strange aspect to the missions that sometimes grates a little. It was the same in COD4, but is more pronounced this time out Sometimes the battles seem to progress without any input from you, while at other times, if you don't take the risk and advance yourself, your squad will remain stuck where they are forever. It doesn't really matter too much, but it can still lead to a few moments of "Am I meant to advance now or what? You might even advance too early and get rinsed by a sudden wave of enemies.
If you're after anything resembling a challenge, it's best to steer clear of the easiest difficulty levels. You certainly won't get the most out of the battles when you can take ridiculous amounts of punishment before finally carking it The larger battles are meant to be exercises in intense action, but when you can survive so easily, they lose most of their impact. You'll find yourself virtually impervious to damage, apart from grenades and flamethrowers.
Speaking of flamethrowers, you'll find yourself equipped with one pretty early on in the Pacific campaign. It's devastatingly powerful and makes clearing out bunkers and enclosed spaces a doddle. Unfortunately, due to the nature of your Japanese opponents, specifically their banzai charges, the weapon makes some sections far too easy. When enemies rush right at you, a one-shot-kill weapon takes any sense of fear out of the equation. This could have been solved by making adversaries appear from unexpected directions more often, catching you by surprise, but disappointingly, this rarely happens. They usually just pop up right in front of you, virtually pleading to be roasted alive. You can also use the flamethrower to bum the long grass the Japanese sometimes hide in, as well as the trees enemy snipers call home. However, due to the nature of the game engine, it doesn't feel as natural as the flame-bringers in Far Cry 2 or even Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
Follow The Leader
World at War is still as resolutely linear as its predecessors, except for one or two moments where you get to choose whether to go right or left.
In these days of free-roaming worlds and vast environments, the extreme linearity is both frustrating and, curiously, comforting. Sometimes you don't want to be overwhelmed by side quests or options - you just want to get stuck into the combat When you get that particular urge, the Call of Duty series remains at the top of the pile, providing one' of the most tightly scripted and linear gaming experiences money can buy. Nevertheless, some more choices here and there would have been nice, even if it was just along the lines of a branching campaign that involved some form of decision making on your part.
Multiplayer has been expanded since COM, with the addition of a co-op mode, vehicles and a Nazi Zombies mode unlocked by completing the single-player campaign (see 'Zombie co-op'). There will also be the usual Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag modes, plus the usual perks and achievements for people with far too much time on their hands.
The multiplayer beta that has been doing the rounds hasn't gone down too well with some fans, specifically veterans of C0D4, who have complained it is effectively just a reskinning of that game's own multiplayer section. Even if the more competitive elements of WAWs multiplayer don't go down too well, the co-op side is, as such modes tend to be, great fun.
What we have here is an excellent game that will suffer not because of its quality or lack of such, but because it is inevitably going to be compared to its immediate predecessor. Gameplay-wise, there is little to separate the two titles in terms of quality. Both are perhaps the finest current examples of tightly scripted, linear rollercoasters, packing in as many extraordinary moments into their relatively short timespans as possible.
World at War is a bit more expansive than COM, in terms of both level design and length. So the fact there are so many moments I'll remember long after the game's credits is a testament to the cinematic quality of the game. Sadly, for some players the fact they'll feel like they are playing a mod of C0D4 will be too difficult a barrier to overcome, especially when the scenarios are, at least initially, unexciting prospects for a COD veteran.
Nevertheless, if you can get over these obstacles, you'll find yourself enjoying yet another example of exhilarating action. While World At War isn't original and has moments lacking in inspiration (the tank section, ugh) it has refined the linear World War II shooter template as much as perhaps it can be.
Download Call of Duty: World At War
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Like Star Trek films we've come to expect the Call of Duty games (if you take into account the ones released on consoles) to run one good, one bad. However, now that former provenors of console-fare Treyarch have sat me down in front of the game, I've removed my cynicism goggles to look upon the series with fresh, blood-spattered eyes.
Dropping the number system, Call of Duty: World at War is a new start for the COD 3 developers - having been granted a lot more time to make the damn thing, and specialising on parts of the war not instantly recognisable to your average gamer - stuff like the Russian push on Berlin or, as I was recently shown, the conflict in the Pacific.
The raid of Makin Island, one of the first levels, starts with you tied to a chair, faced with a smug Japanese general. He puffs cigar smoke in your face, before turning to one of your comrades and shouting appropriately phrased Japanese at him. All standard fare until he takes that cigar and stubs it in your mate's eye, the blood-curdling scream making even fellow enemies squirm, before they move into full-blown shock when he slits your comrade's throat, spattering blood across the wall and the dead man's shadow. As the general grabs you by the hair and readies to kill you, there's shouting, footsteps and a knife in your captor's back. A marine pulls you to your feet, assures you you're safe and shoves a gun into your hand, asking if you can fight. As there isn't a "bugger this" option, you're well on your way into the most brutal portrayal of war you've ever seen.
The Other War
"We didn't want to make another World War II game. We wanted to make something new, something different," smiles Mark Lamia, Treyarch studio head. "We knew with this Call of Duty that people didn't want to play the same WWII game, and we didn't want to make it - and we haven't."
The console skid-mark Medal Of Honor: Rising Sun and bog-standard FPS MOH: Pacific Assault portrayed this side of WWII as a rather linear journey against some angry-looking Asians on a glorious summer holiday, but WAW continues CODs tradition of action-packed gameplay rooted in historic conflict - and the reality of a situation that was blood-drenched and ugly as sin.
Both in our history lessons and in most WWII games there's a heavy focus on classical tank and infantry combat, with familiar soldiers and countryside dotting a stretch of countryside. Here, we see a rich, pine-laden Pacific and a different war, thanks to the unconventional style of warfare use by the Japanese. While the banzai tactic of running, swords drawn, into the enemy is well-known, the Japanese fought in a brutal, mano a mano fashion. The Bushido code, which valued honour over life, drove Japanese soldiers to fight to their last breath, no matter how dire and hopeless the situation was. To put it in Lamia's words, "They were taking no quarter, and none was given."
"COD has always been about authentic and cinematic battles," he continues, "and as we learned about this enemy, we knew we had to change the game we were making. The Imperial Japanese weren't like any modern fighting force you've ever seen. They were a gritty, ruthless, non-traditional opponent - stuff like guerrilla warfare and the Bushido code were completely alien to the Americans at the time'.
Japanese soldiers would hide in undergrowth and slit the throats of sleeping soldiers and snipe from trees, using every trick they could to bewilder the allies. I later witness this in-game, near the end of the Makin Raid, as we trundle past a seemingly benign set of bushes. Flashlights suddenly blind us and a bunch of manic Japanese soldiers leap from the foliage. One primes a grenade and grabs a soldier in a suicidal embrace, winning a grim victory.
World at War's stated aim is to move away from convention, removing the stodge from a tired genre with new vistas, under-exposed theatres of war, and a new angle on storytelling. As such, London-based video maestros Spov, best-known for their excellent mission briefings from COM, have returned to the franchise to create WAIVs campaign FMVs. They go beyond the simple briefing format with amazing combinations of slick graphics and facts about the mission you're sent on.
The Makin Raid mission is pre-empted by giant floating ribbons, an introduction to Emperor Hirohito and a visual representation of Japan's invasion of Asia, with historic footage mixed in for good measure. It's a fascinating mix of Bond-style credits and stock footage, that gives meaning to the action as well as the necessary pep and excitement
Treyarch have had two years to create WAW, and Lamia is proud to say they've used it well: "We've created something that's a great deal edgier, and with that edge the whole thing feels different WAW will feel nothing like any other WWII game you've ever played."
And behind the optimistic waffle, he could be right - while we're used to slowpaced crawls that eventually lead to hiding in ruined houses and bunkers, with the occasional tank thrown in, the Makin Raid appears to be pulse-pounding, erratic and wildly disorienting. Enemies seem to come from everywhere and nowhere, sneaking through undergrowth before charging at you, or hiding in seemingly cleared areas, waiting for you to pass by.
"We've found, thanks to the Al, that testers are naturally using the tactics soldiers worked with," interjects Noah Heller, the game's senior producer. "Like throwing grenades into empty bunkers just in case there's a soldier I waiting to jump you at the next opportunity. It's all pretty amazing."
Four Man Army
New to the series is the four-player co-op mode, allowing you and your friends to waltz through IVAWs conflicts, dropping I in and out at the beginning of levels. I am given a demonstration of just how effective this is when the action skips to covering an encounter with a huge armoured division on some exoticlooking farmland. With two players on hand, one takes on the tank battalions by ducking into foxholes and launching barrages of rockets, then by going hell-for-leather and leaping on top of them, dropping a grenade casually into the metal beasts before scarpering.
Meanwhile the other player covers him and handles the infantry, at one point using a flamethrower (see Flame On! box out) to set fire to a huge field of com, scorching several ghillie-suited Japanese soldiers and grimacing at their pained screams. The blowtorch certainly has a Return to Castle Wolfenstein feel (understandable, as many of the staff from Gray Matter - RTCWs developer -are now working at Treyarch), but now has more practical uses in its ability to set fire to trees and any hidden snipers, as well as spreading between soldiers that are touching or are too close to each other.
Moving on from the farmland, the pair hurry up a hill and face a group of soldiers holed up in a building, using a handheld mortar to flush them out. Said building, being of a destructible ilk, is shattered, and the explosion throws two worried-looking Japanese soldiers arse-over-tit accompanied by a pile of physics-enabled rubble. Not a pleasant end. No time for a breather though as seconds later a low-flying plane screams through player two's vision, snapping power cables and crashing in a wall of flames that engulfs a passing tank. You couldn't imagine a scene that sings from the COD hymn sheet with as much gusto.
These days it's become corny to even say that WWII is a road that has been heavily-trod previously - its something that everyone says and everyone thinks. However, the C0D4 engine, along with the new environment, has led Treyarch to believe they are creating a genuinely exhilarating experience out of source material thought long-since bled dry.
"My hope is that players reading about this will realise that you're not going back to WWII - you haven't been here before. That's how we're making this game. It's a realistic, true-to-events game that we're taking in a direction that no-one's ever seen," grins Lamia.
Heller steps away from the controls and nods. "When we chose the name 'Worldat War,' we wanted to make it clear that this was WWII and that we were going to re-establish the genre much like C0D4 did. Infinity Ward set a high bar, and we're going to set the same bar for WWII gaming."
Another help is that they're using the multiplayer from Call of Duty 4, right down to the matchmaking and the excellent levelling-up system that makes playing COD4 online so engrossing. WAW also has a new attachments system, allowing guns to be realistically modified (eg bipods can be connected to machine guns, letting you to lean the gun on a wall to make an accurate turret).
Players will also have dedicated vehicle-based games, including some in specially made vehicle-only combat zones. Treyarch are promising great things, but they're keeping schtum about them for now. Rumour is that you'll be able to use the LVT - an amphibious transport vehicle - to sneak up on people from the water.
Multiplayer-wise PC gamers will be treated to 32-player free-for-all battles (much larger than on World at War's console versions). That means, with the promised dedication to mappers and modders, we can expect some epic combat scenarios. Also new to the multiplayer is the cross-map squad feature. Rather than just letting players stick together, you can now have built-in squad benefits - we predict better I accuracy will be one example - that work across the team. These are still a work-in-progress, but promise to reward players for sticking together through Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Vehicle Deathmatch and other returning modes. They may also lead to some interesting clan-based scenarios, with particular load-outs leading to monumental clashes.
The maps have all been forged using readily available tools and have been tested and tweaked since development began, allowing Treyarch time to create convincing line battles, fast-paced fights (so that you're no more than five seconds from a fight at any given point) and some individual and interesting maps for the multiplayer modes.
I watched a game played by a group of testers. The play was every inch as action-packed as a COD4 game, with one player shooting through a hut wall and leaping through the hole to escape a grenade, while others joined in a pitched battle that appeared far more fast-paced than earlier WWII notches on the Call of Duty bedpost.
It isn't all Pacific either, Treyarch are still to reveal the European campaign -the Road to Berlin - where you are part of the Russian advance. This part of the war, previously only covered in depth by strategy titles, saw embittered Russian forces pushing the Nazi forces back into their home country and on to Berlin. Here the Third Reich's army fought a street-by-street battle to slow down the Red Army's advance, in a bid to give civilians a chance to escape the brutal vengeance of the Soviets. I went into Treyarch's offices cynical, and came out cautiously excited. Call of Duty: World at War looks truly different. While it's still a World War II FPS, it has new enemies that react differently and, as Treyarch and their war researchers repeatedly say, entirely different battles. Sure, we've been burnt by this sort of thing before with the mediocrity of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, but even in EA's botched effort there were moments in which the variety, spectacle and terrifying 'trees have eyes' tension as you snuck through the undergrowth, gave us something new.
What is remarkable is that despite the preponderence of action games set in World War II, the bits we're all-too familiar with remain the thin-end of a particularly horrifying global wedge. The day people truly run out of things to say about the conflict, or ways to portray it, will be the day that it's revealed that historians haven't been working hard enough. Say "It's not Infinity Ward!" all you want, but let down some of your defences as Call of Duty: World at. War could be massive.
Call of Duty: World At War would be the fifth main Call of Duty game in the series. Looking back at past Call of Duty games it is easy to see why this one is still held in such high regard to this day. Call of Duty: World At War was developed by Treyarch and I think this was the game where they really hit their stride with the series.
A Different Kind Of War
World At War had the hard job of following up from Modern Warfare. World At War takes the series back to World War 2. Even back at this time, World War 2 had been done to death in video games, but Treyarch managed to keep it fresh. They did this by focusing on parts of World War 2 that were not as overdone. One part of the campaign is set in the Pacific Theatre and the other is based on the Soviets trail to Berlin. The story is very well done and absolutely brutal in its execution. The deaths and characters you come across are much more savage than they had been in previous games. It actually starts off with a torture scene!
I loved the sections of the game that were in the Pacific, the jungles that you would have to go through and the wooden villages really did help give the game some major personality. While it may not be quite as story driven as the campaigns we have gotten over the last couple of years. World At War I would say does have one of the better campaigns in the series history.
Epic Set Pieces
Each Call of Duty game has some great set pieces and World At War is certainly no different. There are some very memorable moments here, but my favorite has to be the part where you are the gunman on a Navy airplane. There is also a really cool section with tanks when you are playing the Russian part of the campaign.
Play With Friends
It is not a Call of Duty game without multiplayer and the multiplayer in World At War is great. You can play around with your loadouts, pick the right perks for you and so on. There are of plenty of new perks as well as kill streaks for you to have some fun with. Team Deathmatch, Headquarters, Search & Destroy all return from Modern Warfare. War and Capture the Flag mode were also added which gives you a lot of bang for your buck as far as the multiplayer is concerned.
We take for granted that Zombies will be part of the Call of Duty experience these days, but it was World At War that started this trend. Nazi Zombies is what you would expect, you just trying to survive horde after horde of zombies. It is a lot more basic than what the mode would eventually turn into, but this Nazi Zombies is still a lot of fun, especially if you can play with other people.
Call of Duty: World At War is an absolute classic when it comes to Call of Duty games. It has a really well done campaign for you to play through. Then there is the multiplayer. The multiplayer is stacked to the brim with fun game modes and of course, this was the one that’s started off the zombie's craze!
- The campaign is very well done
- The campaign is like being in a movie
- Nazi Zombies is awesome
- Plenty of new perks to have fun with
- Lots of multiplayer modes
- Nazi Zombies is more basic than what would come
- The campaign could have been a wee bit longer