Also Available For: Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 3
At this point, I have played four Call of Duty (Various, 2003 to present) titles and I have to say that, so far, I am less than impressed with any of them, and the series in general. Before I played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Trilogy (Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer Games, 2016), I had little to no interest in Activision’s long-running franchise (that kicked off its first spin-off with this title) primarily because I don’t really like military-style shooters and my love for first-person games died out shortly after Perfect Dark (Rare, 2000). Admittedly, a lot of this is due to my personal bias against being shot in the back or by enemies I can’t see, struggling with the perspective and the controls, and generally just finding first-person shooters (FPS) difficult to navigate at the best of times. However, when I bought my Xbox 360, it came with a couple of Call of Duty titles, one of which was this one and, since I’m doing “CoD Month” on my blog for January and I would hate to waste the G associated with the game, I sat down and rushed through it mainly to see if my bias against the series was justified and to obtain a few extra Achievements.
Despite Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Treyarch, 2007) bringing the series into the then-modern day, World at War returns the plot to World War Two, specifically focusing on the Pacific and Eastern Front skirmishes between the Allied Forces of the United States and Europe against the Axis Powers of Japan, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany.
Call of Duty: World at War is a first-person shooter that casts you in the role of Private/ Private First Class C. Miller of the United States Marine Corps’ 1st Marine Division, Private Dimitri Petrenko, and Petty Officer Locke. While each character’s narrative sees them fulfilling different objectives in different parts of the world (or at different parts of the same location), each controls exactly the same and just like the characters in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The A button lets you jump and vault over walls, Y switches weapons, X reloads, and pressing in on the left analogue stick sees you break out into a finite sprint.
Pressing the B button allows you to either crouch, go prone, or stand to avoid or engage with enemy gunfire while pressing in the right analogue stick allows you to melee kill enemy soldiers. You can toss a variety of grenades and other explosives with the Left and Right Buttons and aim and shoot with the Left and Right Triggers, respectively. Again, you can either shoot somewhat wildly from the hip or snap to the nearest target and aim down the sights of your gun by pulling on the Left Trigger and, similar to Call of Duty 3 (Treyarch, 2006) this can be problematic as you’re aiming without the assistance of modern technology such as laser sighting. As is largely the standard for FPS titles, your health will automatically recover once you avoid damage for a few seconds; the more damage you incur, the longer it will take to replenish. There are a number of checkpoints in the game for when you do inevitably die, though, and there’s plenty of cover for you to duck behind but you have to keep your wits about you as your enemies won’t hesitate to throw a grenade at you or come charging at you head-first with their bayonet drawn.
A helpful radar/mini map combination sits in the bottom left of your heads-up display (HUD); this shows you the location of your allies, enemies, and a star marking your objective. Should you forget your objectives, you can bring them up at any time by pausing the game, which you may have to do from time to time as the game can be both painfully linear and frustratingly unclear at times; if you miss a vague order from one of your team mates, you may find yourself shredded to pieces or blow up before you even know what it is you’re supposed to be doing or where you’re meant to be aiming or directing your air strike. Gameplay is broken up a bit through the use of vehicle sections: as Miller, you’ll call in air strikes and jump on a small tank-like vehicle and use remote-controlled rocket strikes to destroy enemy tanks; Petrenko meets up with Sergeant Viktor Reznov in Stalingrad (who promptly wastes a lot of your time lecturing you about the finer arts of sniping and the evils of General Heinrich Amsel) and is tasked with performing a tricky assassination; and Locke later pilots a PBY Catalina flying boat to shoot down Japanese planes and ships.
Overall, the game is far more intense and gritty than the other titles I’ve played; for one thing, the Japanese troops you encounter are far more sadistic and aggressive than those of previous titles, leaping up from hidden bunkers, charging at you head-first, and even detonating themselves and your own dead comrades. Similar to the controversial airport mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (ibid, 2009), you’ll also accompany Reznov to Berlin and murder a whole bunch of injured and surrendering German soldiers, which is a bit disturbing. A similar event occurs at Shuri Castle, where Japanese troops appear to surrender and instead assassinate one of your team mates with grenades!
Graphics and Sound:
Call of Duty: World at War is the best of both worlds in this regards as it takes the classic World War Two setting of the original games and applies the modern coat of paint the series had received in Call of Duty 4; this means, again, that locations are recreated with a fantastic level of detail and, thanks to the fact that we travel to more exotic locations (Makin Island, Peleliu, Okinawa, and the Reichstag among others), actually make this game far more visually interesting than its predecessors.
While character models are still the weakest part of the game, they’re largely garbed in elaborate camouflage outfits or rugged guerrilla outfits that, again, help them to stand out compared to their more uniformed Nazi counterparts but also against their environments. Also, unlike previous games in the series thus far, enemies can be dismembered by your shots; arms and legs will blow off, chests will be blown apart, and large pools of blood accompany the many dead bodies you’ll leave in your wake. Again, though, locations, weapons, and vehicles still have the same high level of attention to detail I’ve come to associate with these games that really emphasises how desolate and horrific the Second World War was.
Call of Duty: World at World really brings the big guns to its vocal performances thanks to the inclusion of Gary Oldman as Reznov and Kiefer Sutherland as Corporal Roebuck. Of all the Call of Duty titles I’ve played so far, I had the least amount of issues with World at War’s dialogue; it wasn’t fully of overly macho “Hoo-rah!” or military slang like the Modern Warfare games but also wasn’t repetitive and annoying like in Call of Duty 3, though it still sticks to the stirring military tunes that pepper these games.
Enemies and Bosses:
Call of Duty: World at War has far more variety in the types of enemies you’ll encounter than the other Call of Duty games I’ve played in that you’ll battle both Japanese troops and Nazis this time around. Generally, the enemies you come up against are just as wily as ever; hiding behind cover, tossing grenades at you, and bashing you with their weapons whenever you get close but the Japanese troops are on another level entirely. The Japanese are aggressive, suicidal maniacs who burst out from hidden bunkers in the fields, clamber up and snipe at you from trees, charge at you head-first screaming “Banzai!” and trying to skewer you, or simply blow themselves up to kill you and your comrades. They also don’t hesitate to rush at you in waves upon waves, clambering over their fallen brethren to get to you, and force you into a quick-time event whenever they try and grapple with you.
As always, you won’t really come up against boss battles in the traditional sense. You’ll need to make use of air strikes and heavier weaponry to take out tanks and enemy placements and protect some naval ships from kamikaze pilots, which is about as deep as that gets, and the game’s final mission sees you (as Petrenko) storming the Reichstag in a bid to liberate it from Nazi control. This was easily one of the most frustrating and tiresome missions in the game as you have to disable some anti-tank guns, wipe out the ground forces who pop up out of nowhere, have the high ground, and throw grenades at you, and then try to not get crushed by a falling column or roasted alive by a flamethrower-wielding Nazi.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Call of Duty has always placed a greater emphasis on realism compared to other FPS games and, as a result, your power-ups are largely limited to the lovingly-recreated weaponry and vehicles made available to you. As always, you’re limited to holding only two weapons at a time, some more suitable than others. Given the setting of the game, you’ll often find yourself running through and clearing out trenches, so you might need to Trench Gun or the shotgun to make bloody corpses of your opposition. The Panzerschreck is perfect for taking out tanks and enemy aircraft and you can make use of Molotov Cocktails and flamethrowers to roast your enemies alive if you’re feeling particularly sadistic.
You also get to jump into a flame tank and use its cannon to blast Nazi bunkers, tanks, and towers while roasting soldiers with its flamethrower and pilot a PBY-5A Catalina aircraft to shoot down Japanese fighters. One thing I did like about this mission was that you had to constantly switch from the front, back, and side turrets as the mission progressed and you really got a sense of the claustrophobic space in this small aircraft but actually shooting at and hitting your targets (especially the planes) as a tall order thanks to the game’s less-than-helpful aiming reticule.
Call of Duty: World at War features a number of different difficulty settings for you to play on, each one affecting the challenge in different ways, in addition to a number of Achievements. The majority of these can’t be missed as they’re tied to story progression but others will have you performing more specific tasks, like air bombing a certain number of enemies, burning soldiers out of trees, or completing a sniper assassination with a handgun. If you explore your environment well enough, you’ll also find Death Cards attached to makeshift graves; find all of these and you’ll get another Achievement and special gameplay options for the game’s co-operative mode. As with its predecessors, World at War features a multiplayer component that I wasn’t able to fully explore since I don’t have Xbox Gold. It also features a co-operative mode, however, that allows two players to player through the main campaign at the same time, which is a nice touch and I wonder why this wasn’t incorporated until the fifth game in the series. Brand new to the series, though, is the game’s “Nazi Zombies” mode in which up to four players are forced to survive against endless waves of Nazi zombies in a variety of maps. The more zombies you kill, the more points you earn to spend on fortifying your defences, unlocking new areas, or accessing better weapons. While an interesting mode to include, I can’t say that it hooked me too much as you have to play and grind quite a bit to get the most out of it but it’s a nice breath of fresh air after the game’s more sombre main campaign and I wonder how I would feel about an entire Call of Duty game in this vein.
Of all the Call of Duty games I’ve played so far, World at War is probably the best but that’s still not really saying much. The game makes use of all the improvements brought to the series in Call of Duty 4 and applies them to a truly horrific time in the Second World War, offering a greater visual variety to the locations and enemies you’ll encounter. The inclusion of a couch co-op mode and the zombie survival game is a nice touch and I felt this did a much better job at presenting an appealing, intuitive, and coherent military shooter than Call of Duty 3 but, at the same time, it’s still not very innovative. There’s an “x factor” that is just missing for me, mainly because of how bland even this game’s more exotic locations appear. The zombie mode had more promise as it was skewing towards the ridiculous; I get that Call of Duty is a far more serious FPS title, though, but, for me, it’s just not as much fun as other FPS games.
Could Be Better
What did you think of Call of Duty: World at War? Where does it rank for you compared to the other Call of Duty titles? Do you think I have committed the ultimate sacrilege by besmirching the good name of the Call of Duty franchise or do you agree that the series is somewhat over-rated and stagnated? Whatever you think, please do leave a comment below and come back next Wednesday for the last Call of Duty review of “CoD Month”.