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Call of Duty: World at War

Score: 96%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4; (Online 2 - 18)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

When Call of Duty: World at War was revealed, there was a whole lot of skepticism towards the game. First off, it is not developed by Infinity Ward, who brought us last year's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. World at War comes to us courtesy of Treyarch (who developed the solid, but less impressive Call of Duty 3). Another announcement that did not resonate very well with gamers was that Treyarch was taking the series back to World War II. Even with the slew of World War II shooters that are released annually, I don't see this as a bad move. I find it refreshing to experience the countless perspectives of those who belonged to the very aptly-named "Greatest Generation." Yes, there are some stinkers out there (yes, I'm looking at you, Hour of Victory), but I strongly believe that World War II is still a very fertile landscape for game development. What makes World at War different this time around is that its campaign places a special focus on the Pacific Theater (a first for the Call of Duty franchise). It's been done before (Medal of Honor: Rising Sun), but here, it is done much, much better. But is this new game worthy of bearing the Call of Duty name? Let me put it this way - now that I've finished the game, I feel that the skepticism directed at this game has been completely unfounded all along. World at War is a brutally intense experience that deserves a spot in your library.

Call of Duty: World at War runs on a tuned-up version of the Modern Warfare game engine. Not only is the entire game downright gorgeous, but the framerate never stutters. While Call of Duty 4 is still an amazing-looking game, the visuals in that game are limited by the scope of the conflict (resulting in mostly urban-themed environments). World at War will take you through several different environments, and they all look fantastic, from the dank caves of Peleliu to the city that hosted the bloodiest battle in human history (Stalingrad). This brings me to another point. Call of Duty: World at War is easily the most graphically violent installment of the series, and you find that out less than five minutes into the game's campaign. To start, some of the game's loading montages include actual footage of soldiers being killed in battle or executed as prisoners of war. In addition, blood is spilled far more copiously than in other games in the series. In other Call of Duty games, a successful shot results in a puff of fine red mist issuing from an enemy. In World at War, limbs are violently ripped off, accompanied by bright red arterial jets. Close-range shots from a shotgun reduce the flesh of a foe to something not unlike raw hamburger meat. The graphic violence in World at War is neither gratuitous nor outlandish, but be warned: this game is not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

The sound design in World at War is near perfect; the only problem I have relates to the music, and it's a small problem, at that. Sometimes, when the action gets really intense, an odd blend of orchestral music and heavy metal guitar plays in the background. This game takes place before The Beatles made their mark on popular music, and while the heavy metal treatment gets the blood flowing, it has no place here. Oddly enough, the music is at its best during the soft pieces. There is an undercurrent of desperation so palpable that I honestly can't find the proper words to describe it. The voice acting is also incredible; in both the U.S. Marines and Red Army sequences, you have a "buddy" of sorts in Sergeants Roebuck and Reznov. It's here where the celebrity cameos make their mark on the game, with Kiefer Sutherland voicing Roebuck with grim determination and Gary Oldman as Reznov in yet another of those unrecognizable performances I have grown to expect from such a brilliant actor.

The graphics and sound collaborate in Call of Duty: World at War to the point where the medium has reached a milestone when it comes to the subject of war. I'll not gloss over this any further: of every shooter I've played, World at War contains the most realistic depiction of warfare I have ever experienced.


In keeping with tradition, Call of Duty: World at War puts you in the shoes of two soldiers from different Allied nations. The chronology of the war causes sudden, but welcome shifts in perspective between that of Private C. Miller of the U.S. Marine Corps and Red Army soldier Dimitri Petrenko. Most of the single-player campaign is focused on Pvt. Miller and his squad's push through the Pacific front, but it also focuses on the Russian campaign that ends with the Third Reich's crushing defeat at the Reichstag in Berlin. Treyarch makes good use of the rich history of this conflict and the different tactics with which it was fought; the scenarios you find yourself in are relentlessly intense and often horrifying. When exploring the beaches of Makin Atoll, booby traps suspend your helpless allies in midair and the bone-chilling cries of "BANZAI!" will freeze your blood. In the Russian campaign, the near-suicidal assaults on seemingly impenetrable enemy strongholds offer some of the most exciting adrenaline rushes in all of gaming (especially when these attacks are punctuated by the Red Army soldiers screaming at the top of their lungs: "URAAAAA!"). There is also one special mission worth noting that involves a third playable character, Petty Officer Locke. This mission is an on-rails sequence in which you participate on a midnight raid on a Japanese merchant fleet headed for Okinawa. This sequence is similar to the AC-130 gunship mission from Call of Duty 4, but there is a serious sense of vulnerability aboard the PBY Catalina that makes the mission far more exciting.

World at War plays identically to Modern Warfare; it feels and plays like the same game, but with a new coat of paint and a different arsenal of weapons (including flamethrowers). You advance with your squad, take cover, shoot the enemy, and move from objective to objective. Many of these objectives are standard for the franchise (planting charges, clearing mortar pits of enemies, etc.), but some of them are unique and surprising enough to keep this game from being yet another derivative World War II shooter.

Four-player cooperative play is a new addition, and it is a solid one at that. It plays like Halo 3's meta-game, with players simulaneously helping each other survive and trying to finish the mission with the highest score. Killing enemies in quick succession earns multiplier bonuses, and shooting allies detracts from your score. Unfortunately, the cooperative experience crops some of the campaign's more interesting missions from the lineup. This can cause some jarring moments, but in the grand scheme of things, this nitpick is too much like looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Once the campaign mode is completed, a special mode called Nazi Zombies! is unlocked. Yes, you read the last sentence correctly; yes, the exclamation point is part of the title; yes, it's as cool as it sounds. Nazi Zombies! is what you get by mixing the mechanics of Counter-Strike and Left 4 Dead with Gears of War 2's Horde mode. You and your buddies are trapped in an area and legions of undead Nazis are out to kill you. Resources are limited, but money is earned by killing the Nazi Zombies(!) and by repairing the barricades they break in their efforts to get in. This money can be used to refill your ammunition, buy better weapons (indicated by fluorescent outlines on the walls), or unlock new areas of the map to defend yourselves in. Nazi Zombies! is more slowly paced than the other gameplay modes, but it is a fresh and entertaining diversion from the real meat of the experience: the online competitive multiplayer.

Call of Duty games are noted for their exceptionally strong competitive multiplayer modes, and World at War is absolutely no exception. As in Modern Warfare, three, five, and seven kill streaks reward players with special abilities. These include recon planes, artillery strikes, and my personal favorite, attack dogs. The dogs are fast and vicious - not only do they add to your kill count, they are really good at flushing enemies out of hiding. The leveling and class-building system in the multiplayer mode remains largely unchanged, save for the new perks and challenges. It's fiendishly addictive, but there are a few problems. For starters, the infamous Martyrdom perk (drop a live grenade upon death) is back to punish success and reward failure. In addition, spawn points are poorly positioned. I don't remember being spawn-killed at all in Modern Warfare, but it's unfortunately a problem in World at War. For some reason, only a few multiplayer modes are initially available - you must level up to unlock the rest of them. It would have been nice if the developers had made these modes available from the start, but it's not that big a problem. Some of these restrictions can be worked around; I was able to join a friend's game of Nazi Zombies! before I had finished the campaign. Even if you have to work for the new multiplayer modes, the game is so much fun that you shouldn't have any problem advancing far enough to unlock them all. The matchmaking is fast and convenient, especially when you factor in the New Xbox Experience's party lobbies. All told, the permutations of new weapons and perks are so large in number that an already great customization system has become even better. World at War offers a similar but more beefed-up multiplayer experience than Modern Warfare. If you loved Call of Duty 4's multiplayer, you will love World at War's. If you didn't, then there's just no talking to you.


Call of Duty: World at War has a variable level of difficulty, and it is no different from the previous entries in the series. The campaign features four difficulty levels: Recruit, Regular, Hardened, and Veteran. As expected, Recruit offers casual and inexperienced players the chance to tear through the campaign with little resistance while learning how to play the game. Veteran mode is every bit the masochistic experience that it was in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and it is also every bit as rewarding. Every Call of Duty game has at least a few sequences that are incredibly frustrating (especially on Veteran difficulty), and World at War definitely has its share of them. However, with practice and perserverance, you'll get through them.

When it comes to length, the campaign is a little bit longer than that of Call of Duty 4's. That may not be saying very much, but rest assured: World at War's campaign outranks its predecessor's in memorability and intensity, and it will stay with you for a very long time.

If it's been a while since you've played Call of Duty 4's multiplayer mode (or if, for some reason, you have never played it), prepare to be humiliated, as World at War's multiplayer mode will pit you up against some seriously talented soldiers. It takes a while to get into the groove of the online experience, but with enough practice, you'll be racking up kill streaks left and right.

Game Mechanics:

Call of Duty: World at War's approach to the tried-and-true mechanics of the franchise seems to be "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." If you're looking for evolution, you're not going to find much here. The development team at Treyarch have learned their lesson with Call of Duty 3's unimpressive quick-time events. With World at War, they gave the best parts of Modern Warfare a tune-up. This is a great move, as it provides for some of the game's most exciting moments. For those of you who remember the brutal neck-snap you could give the vicious attack dogs from Modern Warfare, the developers have expanded on this mechanic. When a banzai attacker tackles you and tries to introduce his bayonet to your abdomen, a quick press of the right analog stick will cause you to dodge the blade and sink your combat knife into the attacker's carotid artery.

The intel collectibles in Modern Warfare are useless to gamers who don't care about collecting achievements. The developers of World at War nullifiy that issue by replacing the Intel with Death Cards. These collectibles are similar to Halo 3's collectible Skulls in that they offer the option to subtly (and sometimes radically) alter the gameplay. One Death Card causes enemies to explode when shot in the head, while another makes it impossible to scavenge for weaponry and ammunition on the field. In contrast with Modern Warfare's Intel collectibles, World at War's Death Cards provide incentive to explore the battlefield. When it comes down to it, the core mechanics present in World at War are so finely tuned and appropriately balanced that it often feels like they can't be improved upon any further.

Call of Duty: World at War is an excellent example of a franchise staying faithful to its roots while putting its best foot forward. World at War may not be as innovative a game as its predecessor, but it is a more powerful and important one. If you're a mature gamer and/or a fan of the series, you have absolutely no reason to miss out on this game.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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