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Call of Duty: World at War

Call of Duty

You’ve got to hand it to Treyarch. Ever since the announcement that the next Call of Duty game was to revisit World War 2, rumblings of uncertainty have echoed through the ravenous stomach of most gamers. After the success of Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare, the task couldn’t be any bigger for the team behind the series’ lowest point, Call of Duty 3. In an attempt to firmly place the developers back on track, World at War comes as a pleasantly adept visit back to the good ol’ days.

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If you’ve ever played a Call of Duty title, then the formula here will be effortlessly familiar. Rather than building from scratch, Treyarch have tried stamping their updated vision of war firmly in place from the off, adding a sense of brutality and realism to the events that unfold. Although instantly recognisable, this is the vilest, barbaric, and certainly the most explicit game to enter the franchise. As Call of Duty has always suffered from a heavily crimson emitting filter, it’s encouraging to see that the series definitely shapes up better with a lick of the deathly substance.

Aiming to provide an end to World War 2, Treyarch have ensured that players can work through the latter stages of certain US and Russian campaigns. Noticeable differences can be found through each, especially the range in tactics used by the German and Japanese forces you will fight against. Substituting organisation for kamikaze tactics, players are sure to thrive on the direct encounters the Japanese now bring to the table. With the voices of Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman to help you through your journeys, it’s clear to see that the developers have aimed big. With that said, the opening level is hugely disappointing, and represents the poorest section of the game. Being rescued from certain death is exhilarating (although rather clichéd), but fighting through an unimaginative and heavily scripted area is something that will leave many players wanting more. Thankfully, once you’ve sped away on your rescue boat and into the distance, the title begins to gain a smoother rhythm.

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As gamers alternate between campaigns, you’ll quickly begin to see that the series has taken a turn for the better since those mundane COD 3 days. The poor vehicle sections that littered Treyarch’s last World War 2 outing are now used sparingly, meaning the dire transitions between locations and mission objectives are largely gone. As you progress and each campaign opens itself up, players will begin to recognise the historical context that the developers have based their production in. Offering a hauntingly personal tale, playing through with the Red Army has never been so thrilling and terrifying at the same time. In fact, this represents everything that is right with World at War, as the Russian sections are excellently dramatic and engaging. Being rescued by your Sergeant, players will begin a mission to destroy any Nazi strongholds held over Berlin. As you make your way through the broken city, it’s great to witness the sudden sense of panic that shackles the Nazi army to their homeland, as they realise the tide has turned. Not willing to hold back in any area, the final attack on The Reichstag is an outstanding last mission, and ranks up as one of the best that Treyarch have ever produced.

Left 4 CODIn a nod to the horrors of war, Treyarch have included a Nazi Zombie mini-game that can be played once the story mode is complete. Having to survive a rampaging horde of these ghastly soldiers is a fun way to satisfy anyone’s hunger for gore. As with the rest of the title, play it with friends and the entertainment factor ramps up considerably. Just be sure to board up the windows before you begin…If it isn’t obvious already, the Russian campaign steals the limelight away from the American showing in unprecedented fashion. Granted, the US assault on Shuri Castle is exciting and well realised, but there are many shortcomings. Treyarch have employed too many over-used and tedious objectives throughout that tire instantly. Adhering to the World Word Two formula, gamers have to eliminate mortar crews and flak guns many times throughout. This is completely lazy, as a greater sense of variation is needed in order to distinct World at War away from the many other titles of similar setting. It’s a real shame that the US campaign amounts to such a forgettable experience, as new aspects such as the use of the flame-thrower fall flat. We were led to believe that the fire travelled realistically, burning everything in its wake as it spread over heavily condensed grassland. This is extremely wrong, as the flames die away nearly as soon as you let go of the trigger. After so much was made of the weapon in the pre-release press build-up, a tinge of disappointment will hang over many.

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Even with the aforementioned faults announced, there is a hell of a lot right with World at War. The same fast-paced, high-energy pacing that made Modern Warfare such a pleasure to play can be enjoyed throughout most of the game. With that said, the major coup to the series is the ability to play through the entire campaign with up to three friends, either over PSN or a well-organised LAN party. Adding a sense of companionship to the entire game, Treyarch have employed a score system to ensure all members are on their toes and hunting for headshots whenever possible. Just like the competitive online multiplayer, you’ll be issued points depending on your actions. The best way to accumulate such accolades is through tallying up combos of impressive kills and completing various objectives. If one of your brothers happens to fall on the battlefield, you better be ready to save the day. The developers have added a rather simple revive system that means ‘team’ tactics should be drummed into your squad from the outset. It’s a superb addition that really adds to the drama of the campaign, effectively demolishing the popular “live together, die alone” quip of many popular media texts. To ensure squads work efficiently, if one of you dies, you’re all going to hell with him.

The real shock of the release of Modern Warfare was just how well Infinity Ward had improved over COD 3’s forgettable online multiplayer set-up. Thankfully, Treyarch have seen sense and completely installed Infinity Ward’s award-winning formula into their game, almost right down to the last details. Players can expect to build up their rank in the same way, earn perks just like before, and to create their own classes with an admirably accessible menu system. Interestingly, gaining a kill streak will still allow players to launch a special attack onto the unsuspecting enemy, although this time they are themed for the occasion. Forget man-slaughtering helicopters, this time you’ll be unleashing a pack of rabid dogs instead. Equally as terrifying as the lung-popping rain of death seen in Modern Warfare, the dogs are a neat (and terrifying) way to mix proceedings up. Hunting for blood, you better have a knife ready just in case one of those ear-piercing growls finds its way to your sadistically delicious human flesh.

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A huge strength of the previous game was that the online maps amounted to a well-balanced and fair battle. For the most part, World at War delivers, although there are many niggles that persist to bug the player. For instance, spawn points now place you into the midst of the fight straight away, meaning that you are susceptible to be annihilated as soon as you are briefly back in the game. You can expect to die many times when playing against a decent team, as many maps are generally too small to survive without fatal conflict. Although this is true, a few of the maps allow for balanced and well-contceived firefights, ensuring that World at War becomes a surprisingly addictive experience against the rest of the planet.

When it comes down to it, World at War takes the familiar World War Two experience and condenses it into the formula that gave Modern Warfare such success. Using an engine that is beginning to creak, it’ll be interesting to see where the series heads from here. The same guns, graphical style, navigation system and narrative build only reminds gamers that Treyarch can be hugely thankful towards Infinity Ward for creating such a brilliant set-up. Having created an excellent Russian campaign, it’ll be interesting to see where the development team heads from here. Push aside the majority of the US conflict, and you have yourself an accomplished, entertaining and brotherhood building title that’ll fill the void until the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Once the communist flag is planted and the Motherland rescued, World at War is sure to lead the charge for Christmas number one, just like it’s historical older brother.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2007.

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