Call of Duty: World At War - Review

Call of Duty: World At War, Xbox 360 - £35 delivered
Call of Duty: World At War, PS3 - £37.71 delivered
Call of Duty: World At War, PC - £29.49 delivered
Call of Duty: World At War, Wii - £29 delivered

Review by LewieP

CODWAW (Cod·Wah) is a funny beast.

The previous entry in the Call of Duty series was a big franchise reboot. It left behind the World War 2 backdrop of the previous entries in favour of a modern setting, It also brought a whole load of new ideas to the table for the multiplayer, adding an almost MMO style meta-game to the multiplayer really added to the game, and it was also hugely successful. It was also developed by Infinity Ward.

This entry to the series is seemingly undeserving of a number. It goes back to the relatively safe territory of World War 2, and instead of telling a new story, tells the story of (fictional) characters taking part in the (real) World War 2. It is developed by Treyarch, whose previous output can generously be described as 'mixed'.

A lot of people thinking of picking up CODWAW will be thinking a lot about the Multiplayer. Sorry, I have not played the Multiplayer. I am not a big fan of online FPSs anyway, so consider this a review of the single player aspect of CODWAW.

I jumped straight into the single player. Before each mission you are given a bit of historical background to the mission you are about to undertake. These are in the format that can best be described as halfway between a BBC2 WW2 documentary and a White Stripes video, voiced over by Jack "Corporal Roebuck" Bauer. Honestly, I don't know how I feel about these. Generally, I think history is fair game for making books/films/games about, and world war 2 is just a part of history. I just think using archive footage of real soldiers in real battles, likely real soldiers who died fighting, in the same game that features a "Nazi Zombies" mode is a little crass. More on that later.

The first mission opens with a cut scene, only it's a "you can move your head so it's not actually a cut-scene, honest" type of cut-scene, you'll be seeing a few of them. The game has you switching roles between a rescued American POW, Miller, fighting The Japanese, and a (believe it or not) Russian, Dimitri Petrenko, from the 3rd Shock Army, fighting in Stalingrad, and later across Germany.

The core gameplay is pretty much what I've come to expect from COD. Set pieces strung together with shooting bad guys, taking cover, and using a range of weapons (all of which are pretty fun to use, and sound great) to follow a very linear set of objectives.

A few things did bother me. There are more invisible walls in CODWAW than any game I have played in a while. Far too often you are stopped by an invisible force, for seemingly no reason. I'm not expecting some kind of open-world game, but it's really disappointing when sloppy level design breaks your immersion. Similarly, there are lots of times when there are ledges or walls that you should be able to climb over, and you can't. Sometimes you can easily hop a 3ft wall, other times a 1ft step is insurmountable. This is pretty basic stuff, and I don't remember it being a problem in COD4. There are often a bunch of conveniently placed explosive barrels too. In 2008.

I can't help but feel I am alone on the battlefield. There are times when I know I would not have been a good target, it would have made more sense for the enemies to target one of my squadmates, but still I am target number one. Conversely, you have to single-handedly achieve all of the objectives, you can forget about expecting your buddies to kill any of the enemies, and left to their own devices they would never get anything done.

The environments, whilst generally pretty, are very un-interactive. A lot of stuff doesn't react to being shot. There are loads of doors that can't be opened. The fire burning effect is not all that good. The animation is sometimes excellent, like when you see your buddies slide behind cover beside you, but they will also often clip through corpses, and the really seem to struggle with steps and stairs, I have more than once seen people floating/clipping through the ground.

There are lots of constantly spawning enemies. Times when it is simply impossible to just kill all the guys, you have to kill a few, then run through an invisible gate, which will trigger the command to stop spawning more guys.

There are also QTE-esque "press this button to not die" thrown at you every now and again to keep you on you toes. Because everybody loves them.

You have the same health/death/respawn system from COD4, although I must say, it is not implemented as well here. Sometimes check points feels far too spread out, and sometimes too close together. I have also often respawned at the end of a series of corridors, or at the bottom of a flight of stairs, just to have to walk a long time each time it reloads. Kinda frustrating. I also had to quit once because I was being respawned over a grenade and hadn't got enough time to move out of its way, or throw it away.

That said, the 'return the grenade' manoeuvre feels a lot tighter. I can't put my finger on what has changed, but I am much more often successful at it than I was in COD4.

Other good stuff -

The Flame-thrower is a hell of a lot of fun, if a bit over used.

When a grenade goes off, you know about it. Lots of nice sound and visual effects really put you right there in the battlefield.

There is probably one of the better "on rails" sections of any FPS in a while, shame it was so short, and is skipped when playing co-op.

The soundtrack is actually a real surprise, mostly subdued electronic stuff. I wouldn't have thought it would work on paper, but it makes a great change from sweeping orchestral themes we are so used to in WW2 games.

Split Screen Co-op is a much welcome addition, you'll have to sit pretty close to the screen, or have a big telly, but I can see myself replaying it many a time on co-op.

The Nazi Zombie mode is as fun as you would hope. It reminds me of one of the best bits from RE4. You get points for killing zombies, and you can use these points to get more ammo, better weapons, and other stuff. Great fun, and very frantic.

Overall, it is a bit hard to get too excited about CODWAW. The narrative, characters, and set pieces are all a notch lower than those of COD4. That said, it certainly has some great moments, and some of the new stuff is a lot of fun.

As great as COD4 was, it certainly wasn't forward thinking enough that the design won't get stale pretty fast. This is a sequel which brings very little new stuff to the table, and it really shows that Treyarch are simply not as good at making Call of Duty games as Infinity Ward are. There is fun to be had here, for sure, but if you wait another year, you will get the real sequel to COD4.

As a sidenote, props to Treyarch/Activision for making the Wii version the same game as the other versions just with less pretties. More of that please.

Discuss it in the forums.

Call of Duty: World At War, Xbox 360 - £35 delivered
Call of Duty: World At War, PS3 - £37.71 delivered
Call of Duty: World At War, PC - £29.49 delivered
Call of Duty: World At War, Wii - £29 delivered