Call of Duty: World at War Review
Written : Monday, November 24, 2008
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
The Call of Duty franchise is eagerly awaited each year by a veritable army of clamoring fans, which isn’t surprising considering the frank and realistic slices of action it has doled up time after time. Last time out Infinity Ward surpassed themselves and produced what was arguably the game of the year – the decision to take the franchise into the modern era was an inspired one and the online aspect of the title soon became the most played on LIVE. It kind of gave Treyarch, who are handling this years installment, a tough act to follow but hopefully they’ll do us proud.
Treyarch were responsible for what many consider to be the weakest entry in the series thus far in Call of Duty 3, so the decision to pass them the reins again wasn’t exactly lauded by many. The fact they have also dragged the series back to World War Two and chosen to use Infinity Ward’s COD 4 engine is also a puzzling one. It’s like they are trying to prove that the same qualities that made up the aforementioned title can also be present in their era of choice. To me it seems like a step in the wrong direction though as after tantalizing us with modern combat do we really want the generic storylines of World War Two once again?
Caution – explosions are hazardous to your health.
Rather than looking at the negatives right off the bat let’s focus on some positives. The presentation here is top drawer and the introductions to each mission are superb quality and set the scene for the conflict superbly. Treyarch have also wisely decided to include some characters this time around rather than the non-entities that made up COD 3. Your team are an integral part of the storyline and you’ll often get the chance to directly save their hides – which only adds to the feeling of camaraderie. The story is nothing too new as you’ll take part in the US war in the Pacific along with the Russian invasion of Germany. However, despite the generic nature of the action everything ticks along smoothly and the voice work (take a bow Keifer Sutherland and Gary Oldman) is top notch.
My only problem with the game as a whole is that it seems to borrow set pieces wholesale from previous titles, the opening Russian level sees you trying to assassinate a high ranking General but the whole sniper aspect is one that was covered with brilliant effect in COD 4. Jumping into a tank is fun too but so was doing exactly the same thing in COD 2. It just feels like the game is a patchwork of all the best bits from the original titles with very few new ideas to make it truly stand out. In saying that, at least the choice of weapons has been broadened slightly with the flamethrower proving to be a (flammable) barrel of laughs and the improvised mortar providing some explosive hi-jinks. The occasional vehicle missions also break up the action nicely too. It’s also quite disconcerting that the narrative jumps about so much as certain missions can be separated by years of conflict, leaving you wondering about what has happened in the interim.
The game-play follows the regular COD formula as you strive to carry out objectives while pushing through wave after wave of enemies. Sitting in one spot and sniping your foes really does you no good beause unless you advance forward the enemy will just keep on coming at you, so moving forward from cover to cover forces your squad to advance with you and provide that much needed support. It seems strange that after all of this time there is still no way to directly influence your team-mates, as the ability to guide them to key points on the battlefield would be a lifesaver and would also stop those annoying moments when they step on your grenades or into your line of fire, resulting in instant mission failure. The hordes of enemies is also due for an update as it seems a complete nonsense that they are just limitless until you move to some invisible checkpoint. It discourages caution and often forces you to rush into a hail of bullets in a bid to make progress, which is hardly how an actual soldier would approach combat. Having said that the checkpoints in this game are at fairly regular intervals so you won’t find yourself losing fifteen minutes of work to one errant bullet, which was often the case in COD 3.
The A.I in the game also leaves something to be desired as your team-mates often seem exceedingly dumb while the opposition troops are amazingly capable. Maybe this was just because I chose to play the game on Veteran difficulty (because I’m tough) but the computer seems to make things horrendously unfair. Japanese soldiers will often run past your squad, who are stood closer to them than you are, in a bid to shoot at you directly. Not only that but somehow your team will inexplicably fail to kill them while they do so – despite the fact they are stood mere yards away. It’s annoying to the extreme that no matter how many of your team are shooting at the enemy the opposition will ALWAYS choose to target you first. The real problem comes with the almost limitless supply of grenades that the Axis forces seem to have available to them, coupled with their frightening ability to drop them directly on your head regardless of where you might be. Probably 95% of my deaths came at the hands of well thrown grenades as enemies manage to drop them right next to you even if you are behind a high wall or in cover. I’m not being overly harsh when I say that I doubt EVERY single soldier could gracefully lob a grenade over a wall from 100 yards away. It’s completely unrealistic and ruins the game quite a bit as grenades seem to be everywhere and often even when you head to new cover there will be an explosive sat there waiting for you.
Your sniping mentor ticks all the dodgy Russian stereotype boxes.
One of the best improvements is the ability to play the game with other people in up to four player co-op, this makes things a lot more enjoyable as it takes away your reliance on the dozy A.I and ensures that you can co-ordinate your team for maximum effectiveness. Not to mention that it’s a hell of a lot of fun. A nice bonus, after you finish the game, is the ability to fight the zombie hordes too as you and your buddies are charged with staving off a limitless supply of the undead. Do well and you’ll access new areas and better weapons – with the trade off being that the zombies suddenly have more ways in. It’s a blast and as a bit of throw away fun is hard to beat.
Graphically the game is superb but seems let down by some truly odd moments which detract from the whole experience. The character models are top notch, and despite the occasional blemish help to make everything feel pretty damn authentic. However, if you crouch and move around you’ll often be able to crawl straight through peoples limbs and the occasional bit of scenery leading to far too much clipping and pop up. Not to mention the fact that crawling straight through a tire kind of detracts from the realism. Tied in with that is the plethora of destructible scenery, which is tremendous fun to blow holes in (unless you are cowering behind it) but does also seem to cause a few issues. I saw a fence explode and one of the pieces flew halfway into the ground and started to spin around wildly, after a few minutes it then slowly sunk through the ground completely and vanished. Little things like that pop up time and again and take off some of the polish. It also seems far too easy to get stuck in scenery and you are forced to kill yourself in order to continue – it happened to me no less than four times in the opening few levels. As I’d be taking cover in between some boxes or clambering over some scenery, only to get stuck and have to chuck a grenade at my feet and start over. Things like this should have really been ironed out through testing as the rest of the game looks amazing and the little niggles really bring things down.
Quite possibly the best weapon ever.
If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it seems to be the motto when you head online, as most of the same modes have been carried over from the previous title. The prestige ranking system is also present once again so the more you play then the more perks will become available to you. These can range from different camouflage to vastly improved weapons and abilities. It’s a clever system as it encourages long term play but it also slightly skews the game in favour of veterans, as if a bunch of new players come up against people at level 10 prestige they are likely to be quickly outmatched. The online aspect is probably the strongest aspect of the game but, aside from the previously mentioned co-op modes, not a lot has really been added to improve upon the benchmark set by COD 4. That’s not to say you won’t have plenty of fun though especially if you can find a decent group of regular players.
The achievements on offer here show a bit of a lack of thought really, as you can pretty much pick up everything in one play-through with very little effort to be honest. Completing each of the levels on veteran will net you the most points and a lot of levels also have specific achievements tied to them. Like assassinating someone with a pistol or downing a certain number of planes – they’re fun to go after but never feel that challenging or like you have to go out of your way. I do appreciate the multiplayer achievements a bit more though as they encourage players to try out the co-op and competitive play without forcing them to jump through too many hurdles. Overall though you should be able to pick up the full 1000 in pretty short order.
This is a game that tries too hard to successfully merge together all of the aspects that made some of its predecessors great, however, it just seems to come up short in every area. The storyline and introductions are solid but some are the key moments and levels are things we’ve all seen once too often – the most obvious being the sniper mission which seems to have been torn directly from COD 4 and slapped in a Russian setting. That’s not to say this game isn’t fun both on and offline but it’s not the great leap forward Treyarch have been promising and it seems their constant references to COD 4 may have come back to haunt them as this game seems like a pale imitation at best. Rent it for some short term fun but don’t expect it to blow your mind.
The sound effects are top notch, even down to the Japanese war cries as they try to impale you. The voice acting and mission briefing are also top drawer.
The graphics are awesome and very reminiscent of the games predecessor however there are far too many bugs and glitches that didn’t seem to be present in that title. Scenery you can get stuck on and people and objects that just vanish into the floor aren’t good enough.
Enjoyable enough but the cheap A.I ruins things entirely. The fact enemies will actively run past other members of your squad to kill you is ridiculous and the constant spamming of grenades that land right on top of you soon gets tiresome.
A game that feels like more of a re-hash of what has come before but does everything pretty well. The story is solid but not entirely original and I suspect after one playthrough you’ll have had enough.
Playthrough the game once and you’ll have pretty much everything and there seems to be a real lack of inspiration. The odd interesting achievement may cause you some consternation but nothing too bad. Kudos though for the online aspects which encourage newcomers to dip their toe into the action.
Overall it’s hard to see what Treyarch were aiming for here, as the story retreads old ground and most of the set-piece moments seem to have been lifted directly from the previous games. Coupled with dodgy A.I and the ever present endless rush of foes and it’s just not that great.