Call of Duty: World at War Xbox 360, PS3 Review

World at War is a game where you get a hell of a lot angrier at the bad moments than you express feelings of joy at the good moments. This is a shame, as at its heart it is certainly a competent shooter, at times even managing to feel like a very fresh take on the genre. This competency comes is the face of much adversity, chiefly because it is yet another WWII based shooter, a setting and genre so clichéd that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of games already available.

Most of the game’s initial appeal comes from the fact it offers a relatively new setting to gamers, taking place in the relatively untapped Pacific and Eastern front of World War II – where American Marines battled against the Japanese forces, and the Russians fought back the Germans. However, there are also new gameplay additions on show which impress too.

One of the most noticeable additions comes a few minutes into the first level as you’ll see the different, almost crazed way some of the Japanese soldiers attack. At different points throughout the game they’ll set traps for you, at times play dead or hide in long grass before they jump up and make a beeline at you. When this works it’s rather impressive, with enemies startlingly appearing in front of you, before rushing forward with a banzai attack. This is a fantastic way of adding some diversity into the game, as both campaigns offer a variety of different challenges as you bounce back and forth between them from level to level.

Regretfully, there are various problems with ruin this good will. Firstly, the game has absolutely reckless friendly AI of the most cannon fodder nature imaginable; running head first into battle, positioning themselves in the most unhelpful area possible, and refusing to move when you are looking for some cover to crouch into. Furthermore, they never seem to make any helpful kills as you work your way though the campaign, refusing to advance forward at times, and for the most part just being an absolute nuisance. Sniper missions also get annoying, as you can get tagged with multiple bullets from the AI even if you’re hiding in the supposed best vantage point available.

Another problem, perhaps a more personal one, is that I seemed to get killed by a hell of a lot more grenades this time round than I did with COD 4. First I thought this was due to their power or kill radius being increased, which would mean a swifter death should be in their vicinity. However, after going back to COD4, and checking a few helpful online forums, I realized that it was just the sound effect of the falling grenades that had being changed. This small change, to my ear at least, made them notably less distinctive, and I think it was the chief reason for many deaths. I know this may be just a small change, but it is a good example of the little things Infinity Ward manage to get right, giving their iterations of the series the edge in terms of quality.

Additionally, most of the World at War’s epic moments are built around high tempo shootouts that put you in danger. This is in sharp contrast to COD 4 when many of its memorable moments focused on you getting the upper hand on your enemies, or playing the game in a different way to the usual approach. The single shot sniper mission, and the scene where you take a room full of people with night vision were top-notch in COD4, but there is however nothing akin to that this time round, with almost every level revolving around a multitude of death and violence each and every time, which can get boring.

One thing that has not changed is the multiplayer, and if you spent any time with COD4 multiplayer, then you’ll be very familiar with what’s on show in World at War. For the most part, both games are pretty much identical in this regard, with no crucial gameplay aspects added or removed. Instead, little changes have been made to suit the shift in locale. For example you can call in a pack of dogs instead of a helicopter if you get a 7 kill streak. Surprisingly, the differing weapons of the era don’t affect gameplay too much; with a decent range available to find something you’re comfortable with.

In the same vein, the perks system has being slightly altered to suit the period, but also not drastically changed. In fact, co-op is the only brand new multiplayer option, offering split-screen offline play, and up to three friends online. You do however get tossed back to the lobby after you complete each level in co-op, so the flow takes a hit, making the co-op structure feel less impressive than what was on show in Gears, Halo, and even Haze… yes Haze.

As reward for finishing the game you get access to brand new offshoot single/multiplayer game called Nazi Zombies. On paper it sounds like something the developers joked about over a beer, but went on to include in the game. This mode revolves around you, or up to a team of four, trying to guard a building from hoards of cantankerous zombies trying to break in and marmalise you with their flailing limbs. You remain in this building at all times, trying to shoot at zombies before they bust in. The more zombies shoot, the more points you get, and the more guns you get access to (which you purchase by walking up to their chalk outline on the wall), and the more doors you can open to gain entrance to new rooms. This keeps going wave after wave, with the amount of zombies getting larger every time. Now, I really don’t want to give Activision any more ideas to exploit our wallets further, but I’d buy Nazi Zombies: Reloaded if you release it on XBLA/PSN with a few more levels and options included. Nevertheless, it is still a respectable diversion in its limited current form.

When all is said and done, most would have to admit that that World at War is somewhat of a step back from COD 4, although not a major one. Just like that game, it has a nice selection of set pieces, a dashing of clever ideas, and selection epic moments, which means if you’re a fan of the fairly unique shooting experience that COD brings, then you should find something to like.

However, in contrast to last year’s effort, none of the game’s high points are as memorable, and in addition, quite a few of the gunfights start to border on routine as you get further into the game. For that reason, combined with the selection of other erratic blemishes named above, World at War is a notably less appealing game.

7 out of 10