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Call of Duty: World at War

Score: 58%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: n-Space
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 (2 - 4 via Local Wireless or Internet Wi-Fi)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Graphically, the small-screen version of Activision's Call of Duty: World at War doesn't look half bad, but don't expect anything near what the PC or console versions display. In fact, it could be said that the DS version is terrible looking comparatively, but when compared with other DS titles that I have played, this first person shooter has about as good a level of visuals that can be expected on this small system's power.

The environments give the look and feel that is needed to enjoy the game... no more, no less. With that said, these functional graphics do a decent job of hiding the enemy with their drab colors and pixilated textures. The character models are extremely low polygon in nature, but again, represent their real-life counterparts as well as can be expected; ditto for weapons models. Where the game's visuals do shine, however, are within the touch screen mini-games that are scattered throughout each level.

When it comes to audio, Call of Duty: World at War is a total mixed bag. On one hand, I thought the drill sergeant from the opening tutorials sounded great, but on the other side of the fence, you have terrible death and being shot noises that are not only stale, but also have a lot of audio static. Weapons and other ambience sound appropriate. Don't expect this title to give you the full immersion factor that its big brother has.


Call of Duty: World at War on the DS plays like any other first person shooter, with great functions like looking down the sites of your gun and being able to run, crouch, and interact with objects throughout each level. The way you interact is a mixed bag of tricks, however, but we'll touch more on that a bit later.

In this WWII title, you will battle in both European and Pacific battlefields, allowing you to take up different arms against your foes. Unfortunately, World at War is an extremely linear game in nature, taking away slightly from the fun factor that this title could have had. Instead, enemies are predictable and nearly always pop out straight ahead of you. There are times where you will be surprised from the side once in a while, so quick wits and an even quicker stylus will still come in handy.

While I'm not a huge fan of being forced to use the touch screen to control your character, it does serve its purpose. What I do like... no, scratch that... what I do love are the mini-games that you'll stumble across during the Campaign mode. A simple example would be the use of turning the wheels on a mortar to aim at targets in the distance, but an even better example of great touch screen use comes in the form of disarming land mines. Here, you will have to use the stylus exclusively to pull out pins, turn and lift the cover, then dismantle the mine until it is safe to continue. One false move and you fail, so speed and a steady hand are key to your staying alive.

Call of Duty: World at War also offers up Challenges and Multiplayer action. You will actually unlock different Challenges as you play through the Campaign, and these Challenges are often quite difficult. The multiplayer settings allow you to hook up with either friends via the local wireless connection or you can choose to go online via a Wi-Fi connection. A game with such a high profile would likely have some great multiplayer action, but this is just not the case. Like the single-player gameplay, the multiplayer conflicts feel a bit on the boring side. A large part of this goes to the relatively small environments, but another big part of it goes hand in hand with the controls.


Call of Duty: World at War for the DS isn't super-hard by any means, but the controls make it a bit more difficult than it needs to be. You can choose from three difficulty settings at the beginning of your matches, but I found that the gameplay feels a bit choppy when it comes to shooting. This is not to say that the framerate is horrible like the PC version that I played, but the precision of shooting enemies or other players in multiplayer matches just doesn't feel as smooth as it should.

A big part of this goes to the way the controls respond as well, in my opinion. While the stylus is meant to simulate mouse movement (and for the most part, it achieves this), it doesn't feel natural to move around on the screen in this manner. In addition, looking down the sites of your weapon also doesn't feel quite right, and while it may be realistic to have your gun recoil a bit as you are shooting, this game goes a bit overboard and it ruins any enjoyment that the effect may give.

Multiplayer matches will, of course, vary in difficulty, depending on who you play. However, the small levels make multiplayer a bit more boring than it needed to be because there isn't much in the way of the element of surprise other than walking around a corner and seeing someone unexpectedly. Then comes the close-quarters combat. It stinks. Enough said.

Game Mechanics:

As mentioned above, the developers over at n-Space did a decent job at emulating mouse movements with the use of the Nintendo DS stylus, but it still doesn't feel 100% natural. The feeling I get while trying to play is that of trying and wanting the controls to be fluid, yet constantly realizing that they never will be. Aside from controlling your character's looking ability with the stylus, you also have to use the D-pad (to move) and (LB) (to fire) at the same time, making it interesting in just holding the DS without dropping it. (Note: For all of the lefties out there, you can use the face buttons and (RB) to move and fire, respectively, allowing you to free up your left hand for the stylus.)

Once you get that figured out, however, there is the fact that not only do you steer with the stylus, but you also reload and switch weapons, interact with objects, and aim down your sites by pressing on-screen "buttons" with your stylus. What this means is that while staring at the upper gameplay screen, you have to be able to tap different areas of the touch screen (all jumbled on the left side) either without looking, or by taking your eyes off the enemy for a moment. This method is very unfortunate. While some of the buttons are large and can be hit on the blind, the one that really kills me - the one that is likely as important as any on the screen - is the ADS (Aim Down the Sites) button. It is tiny and offset from the side of the screen so that you have no choice but to take your eye off the enemy, and this is the only button that you would really need to use quickly on the fly. A little more thought should have gone into this one.

It's hard to put the controls aside when talking about the playability of Call of Duty: World at War on the DS. While it was a good effort, the fun factor just isn't there. If you are looking for a first person shooter on Nintendo's handheld, World at War is a worthy on-the-go fix, but don't expect the same great gameplay that you are used to on the PC or console systems. Hopefully given another chance, next year's title will build off the good and steer away from the bad.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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