November 11, 2008

When learning the game, Call of Duty: World at War, was being developed by Treyarch (who previously produced the laughably stale, unbelievable mediocre Call of Duty 3), I thought it had to be more of the same. With the Call of Duty series being co-developed by Infinity Ward (the brilliant minds behind games like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault), and Treyarch, switching off every other game in theory sounded like a breath of fresh air, but in reality, it meant every other Call of Duty game would be good from this point on. In short — Infinity War made good games, Treyarch made bad ones.

Until devoting a good half week to plowing through CoD: WaW, I was sure that this would be the case. It would be more of the, “I take myself way too serious. Games are an art form and this is art,” type of nonsense, where the dialogue is far too cheesy and far too serious for me to do anything but scoff at the interactions between the blatantly unoriginal protagonist and his stock crew of rag tag warriors. But after busting through the single player and enjoying the fact that Nazi Zombies, a game mode involving four players in a two story building who must fend off wave after wave of progressively stronger zombies, as well as logging plenty of hours into the solid multiplayer mode, I was proven wrong.

CoD: WaW does take itself too seriously. That hasn’t changed; the single player campaign involves two different perspectives during World War II, one from the perspective of a Russian soldier who unbelievably survives multiple near death experiences, and the other perspective is from one of the most generic American soldiers in his trek through Japan. Both characters are surrounded by stock dialogue and characters. The only exception to the monotony that is dialogue in most war games, and especially any war game created by Treyarch, is the inclusion of Kiefer Sutherland as a voice actor for a sergeant in the American campaigns platoon. He offers a little bit of variety in terms of expectations but that is all, his lines are still boring

The campaign only lasts a few hours, ending with the Russian soldier planting a flag, and hardly does anything in terms of changing the structure of a Call of Duty game. That doesn’t mean it’s all bad necessarily, the levels are varied and the environments are fleshed out, but that isn’t a good thing either. Playing it safe behind the Call of Duty games that came before it, WaW’s campaign is as satisfying as a McDonald’s happy meal. Everything looks great, but it doesn’t fill you up, and it sure as hell doesn’t do anything new.

The ending is not very exciting and once the credits started to roll, I felt empty. After the last of the credits though, a new game mode was introduced. Nazi Zombies. I couldn’t have thought of a better idea, a better twist, on the World War II shooter than the inclusion of a four player, co-operative game that involves a variety of ways to destroy zombies. Getting a bunch of friends together to play this game mode is a well spent use of your time. Not only is it fun to shoot zombies with rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers and flame throwers from the 1930s & 40s, but the difficulty gets progressively harder. While the first wave of zombies is a synch, by wave ten, if you haven’t devised a strategy, you’ll most assuredly be overrun. Able to play online, as well as offline, this game mode gives CoD: WaW a much needed boost in terms of separating it from the plethora of other first person shooters to date. And with Valve’s, Left 4 Dead, right on its heels, Treyarch did a miraculous job of stealing some of that games thunder before its release with this game mode.

The multiplayer modes don’t very much in terms of what Call of Duty 4 did, by revolutionizing the way multiplayer first person shooters should be, and instead incorporates every facet of that, juxtaposing World War II guns for Modern guns. They’ve also replaced the helicopter, the boost you get from a seven kill streak in CoD4, with dogs. While this is annoying, more annoying than the helicopter, it is a valid inclusion to the game. The dogs are difficult to shoot at and prove nearly as effective as the helicopter. One major plus, and the only reason I continue to go back to WaW’s multiplayer instead of CoD4’s is the map design. Almost every map is very huge and very detailed, with numerous buildings and angles to shoot at enemies.

This offers a wide variety of confrontations due to the fact that nearly every time there is gunfire it is in a different location. The one thing I would remove completely is the inclusion of vehicles in the online modes. CoD is about intimate, skillful, combat where players actually have to excel at one thing or another to succeed in any aspect the game, not about unbelievably ridiculous carnage brought about by amateurs in a tank.

While Call of Duty: World at War is a solid game, it still lacks in its ability to innovate. It instead acts more like a modification of Call of Duty 4, and at $60, you’d have to be a dedicated fan of the series, or of first person shooters in general to fork that over. Or you just have a lot of money.

About The Author

Roger Gude is a Blast Magazine correspondent

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