Activision’s plan is to release a new Call of Duty game each holiday season, and in order to do this they are employing two different studios so that the titles have two-year development cycles. Last year, we had “Call of Duty 4”, developed by Infinity Ward and the first Call of Duty title to move into the modern age; in fact, it was subtitled “Modern Warfare.” This time around, Treyarch, developer of “Call of Duty 3,” has taken the reins once again and brought the series back to its roots with “Call of Duty: World at War.” Was this move an example of devolution for the series, or was Treyarch able to keep pace with their sister studio’s breakthrough?
Though set in World War II, World at War brings you to different arenas than we are used to seeing from most titles in that genre. You play as Private Miller, a United States soldier fighting in the Pacific theater, and as Private Petrenkov, a Soviet who shoves the Eastern Front back to Berlin along with the rest of the Red Army. Though some locales from Petrenkov’s missions look familiar, the island hopping is utilized far less in WWII shooters, giving the game a freshness that it needed to justify the return to this era.
Nov. 11, 2008
This game also serves as Treyarch’s tribute to the veterans of the war, and they share this with you in a few ways. The cutscenes are made up of actual historical footage from different portions of the war, meant to showcase the atrocities and horror of the events that took place. Some may feel like they are having this shoved down their throats, but personally I feel like it’s a nice touch, and a good change from the classic historical map with troop movement often utilized in WWII shooters.
The cutscenes work as both a history lesson of sorts as well as a way to humanize the missions you are undertaking. Running around burning everything in sight with a flamethrower is somewhat sobering when it hits you that this act, as disturbing as it is with the level of realism Treyarch has employed, was something that happened constantly during the real war. It adds to the emotional impact of your missions, and helps to immerse you further into the game. This is easily the darkest and most realistic WWII shooter on the market, something we should be thanking Treyarch for.
Since the story is a bit shallow-mostly in Miller’s case, as he’s sort of a generic soldier, and the continuity is hurt by jumps in months between battles-this immersion is necessary in order to make the gamer care about the mission’s goals. Gary Oldman’s voice work as Sergeant Reznov adds significantly to the game-you are either repelled by his barbaric stance on mauling the Germans (wounded and well, alike) or you are drawn into the essence of the Soviet fight against the Nazi demons that haunted them back in Stalingrad. Either way, you are pulled further into a game that thrives on realism and history.
The game uses the Call of Duty 4 engine, but with some added tweaks to the physics-limbs and body parts fly at appropriate times-and with a grittier look that works well with the WWII motif. It’s a gorgeous and realistic game, even when covered in blood and mud.
As for the actual gameplay, the controls are very tight, and with the use of the sights on the weapons a skilled gamer can rack up the headshots even from a distance. The addition of Japanese weapons helps, as you get some options to toy around with that you are not used to seeing, though in the Russian campaign, there are plenty of familiar German weapons lying about.
The cover system works well, as you can crouch or prone behind any object or out in the open, but don’t think you are safe just because you are hard to see. The enemy will chase you down, and in the Japanese’s case, will banzai attack you, or they will throw a grenade in order to flush you out.
The frequency at which grenades are thrown in this game is disarming, as even with the grenade indicator on screen you will find yourself with too little time to move or nowhere to go too often for your own liking. It’s a minor complaint though, and you can always throw the grenade back if you are close enough.