Call of Duty: World At War
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.
Download Call of Duty: World At War
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
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