Everyone knows that the World War II shooter genre is played out more than Soulja Boy’s lame opinion on anything gaming, but that didn’t stop Treyarch from returning to the genre. Treyarch is last known for the huge disappointment known as Call of Duty 3. Well they have been given the reigns to the franchise again, hoping to redeem themselves by fixing their mistakes. Many took that as impossible when it was announced they would return to World War II after Infinity Ward brought modern combat to the series. Infinity Ward gave the franchise a much needed revitalization and breath of fresh air. The perks and prestige levels gave the played out first person shooter genre an RPG feel. Call of Duty 4 was a massive success and now Treyarch is looking to capitalize on that crowd.
The opening moments of Call of Duty: World at War truly set the tone for what you can expect from the title. Within moments you will experience the true feel of war. Before the single player campaign even begins you are warned the game contains graphic scenes and is not appropriate for minors. Well that message doesn’t lie. Where Infinity Ward held back on the gruesome violence of war, Treyarch exposes the player. The opening scene sets the mood, it angers and warns the player. You feel an obligation to fight, kill and win. This is a very well thought out beginning to the game. There is no obvious tutorial, you are thrown in the to arms of combat, with a mission to prove. The game also delights with an interesting take on cut scenes. The cut scenes blend real life footage with artistic story telling images. It’s very obvious that the game is truly historic. This history lesson gives players the feel that they are really in the moment. It adds more to the game play than just any character out to shoot enemies. It’s an excellent example of how Treyarch is trying to redeem their name. The game play in the single player campaign holds true to its predecessor. There are moments of sheer frustration with enemies charging you with bayonets from all directions, but when you take them down you truly feel rewarded. The game gives a real sense of pride when a difficult challenge is completed. And just like its predecessor, Veteran mode is one hell of a ride.
The game plays on the same engine as Call of Duty 4, so for the most part the game feels and looks very similar. But there are times that you will see things that the developers obviously didn’t take their time on. Some graphics just lack a lustering shine, but don’t set the game back any. The game really feels good. The weapons feel like what you would expect WWII weapons to feel like, although at times, rifles feel underpowered compared to lighter faster guns. The bolt action rifles can become frustrating when the shot just doesn’t take down the enemy. Iron sights are historically dead on, and that means you have to aim dead on the enemy to get the best rewards. As the game continues, so does the ease of shooting. There is the initial feeling that the weapons are imbalanced, but that passes and the pros and cons of each becomes more evident. Level design is very well done, and well balanced to have places of cover yet provide a challenge. Areas that may seem like cover could have a weak spot that the enemy A.I. is ready to exploit. The challenging A.I. makes the campaign all that much more enjoyable. So as for the game play aspect of the game Treyarch held very true to what the fans expect after Call of Duty 4.
The levels and characters are very well done. Since it’s running on the same engine, the game can sometimes feel like a extension or expansion of its predecessor. There are some great visuals in the game, but there are very few times you will find yourself mesmerized by your surroundings. Maybe its because the experience isn’t new, but just a change, but often times the game play continues with out you even taking time to view the surroundings. Quite frankly, it doesn’t feel like Treyarch but much of an effort in making the game look better, as much as they tried to make it play better. The game simply doesn’t necessarily play better, though. It plays nearly identical to the last installment with a few mild changes. So for game play and graphical improvements Treyarch doesn’t disappoint but they sure didn’t raise any bars.
All this is fine, but what kept Call of Duty 4 on the top of Xbox Live and Playstation Network for so long? Multiplayer. Any person who purchased Call of Duty 4 and didn’t play the multiplayer side of it just didn’t enjoy Call of Duty 4. It was the shining pride of the title. Millions of people crammed on line to see what the hype was all about and very few came away disappointed. Well where does World at War put us? Did Treyarch answer the call? Yes, they did. And no they didn’t. Quite simply put, they made some changes. Some good, some bad. World at War’s competitive multiplayer has one very obvious change. They slowed it down. Not a ton, but it is slower. Maybe today’s soldiers are faster than those of WWII, but it was one thing that made Modern Combat’s multiplayer great. With World at War, sprinting doesn’t deliver that rush you felt when you sprinted before. The motion blur just doesn’t deliver the same effect as last time. One improvement is map design. There are some excellent maps. Very large maps with open areas and closed spaces. Map balancing was obviously a major concern for the folks at Treyarch, because there are very few moments where you feel that you are overly susceptible to snipers. But that doesn’t mean the snipers don’t have a chance. There are some great spots for snipers to get in the prone position and wait for the kill.
The perks are back and they deliver the same excitement as before. Very well balance perks allow for a higher level of competition trying to perfect that balance of power and longevity. This time around though there’s another type of perk, and that’s for the newly added vehicles. The perks allow for better operation of certain mechanics to the vehicles. To those worried that vehicles would ruin the game, they don’t. They are just simply added to spice things up. You can easily avoid tanks in the well designed levels, never having to see or encounter them. As for destroying them on the other hand, it takes a barrage of RPG’s. The two bazooka rounds one person can carry just won’t do it, but there is a special stick grenade well designed for armored vehicles. Kill streaks are rewarded nicely as well. 3 kills is still reconnaissance, 5 is now artillery strikes, and 7 kills unleashes a ruthless barrage of man eating dogs. Killing dogs not only saves your life but gives you +3 to your score, a double bonus.
Mulitplayer weapons don’t feel as great to start off as they did in Modern Combat. After a prestige in Modern Combat, you were disappointed to lose your beloved weapons but you weren’t truly at a disadvantage. This time around it seems as if you are. The rifleman is quickly plowed over by just about any weapon rewarded with rank. Until your aim is perfect you find yourself disliking any rifle in a close combat situation.
Cooperative mode is always something to enjoy with family and friends, and that’s a fantastic addition to World at War, the ability to quickly jump in to an array of co-op modes and levels and team up against enemies adds a great replay value on top of a fantastic competitive mulitplayer experience. Co-op is more than just an added on feature, it was a well thought out mode that adds exciting gameplay and important teamwork tactics. If a teammate gets shot down you must quickly find the best and safest route to get to his aid while still fending off enemies. It’s great game mode that shouldn’t be over looked.
Overall, Treyarch really came through. The game at times feels like it could be and expansion back, but with a stunning story and great multiplayer it’s well worth the cost. Treyarch was between a rock and a hard place when developing this game following the massive success of Modern Combat, but they did it. This isn’t going to wash Call of Duty: Modern Combat away but it is a nice addition to the series. Treyarch didn’t revolutionize the series or genre, but they did deliver a great game after some harsh criticism. Fans of Call of Duty 4 won’t be turned off by the gameplay and will enjoy the small new additions. Call of Duty: World at War is a fantastic game which shouldn’t be overlooked due to a fans feelings towards Treyarch. Most will find the game extremely enjoyable and rewarding.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
Running on COD4's engine, the game looks and feels just as great.
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Gameplay feels great, everything about it works like you'd want it to.
Sound doesn't disappoint but it's nothing mind blowing.
Turning off the game just makes you want to turn it back on, and get back in to the thick of it.
Treyarch comes through and gives fans a truly rewarding and exciting experience.