Skip navigation

Call of Duty: World at War


When it comes to wartime first person shooters, the genre really doesn’t get much better than it does with the Call of Duty series. Activision’s franchise has been a shooter’s staple ever since 2003 and over the course of five sequels and many expansions the game has evolved. Between the two development teams, Infinity Ward and Treyarch, it’s safe to say that Ward’s efforts have been received the best. In fact, even though Call of Duty 5 has landed, there are still many who clamor to get online with the fourth installment because it’s just so darned good. Does that mean Call of Duty 5: World at War is not better than its predecessor? Heck no! Treyarch has constructed a game that rivals the one that came before it, and though it’s not a perfect experience, it’s arguably one of the better WWII shooters ever made.

After playing through the modern, somewhat futuristic landscape with Modern Warfare, World at War throws us back in time once again for better or worse. I do have to say while it's not bad taken by itself, there's a certain "been there, done that" feeling to the whole affair. Thankfully, even though the weaponry is old hat, the story follows different themes than we've seen in other WWII titles. With action taking place in the Pacific against the Japanese and some stuff happening between the Soviets on their march to Berlin. It's certainly a period that has been played over and over, but at least there are some new elements here that keep things somewhat fresh.

Gameplay


As you'd expect with a Call of Duty game World at War squeezes you into the combat boots of a soldier in the middle of a mission. This time around the campaigns are expansive and the stories are told over the course of months. This does help create an epic feeling to the battle, but it also feels a tad disjointed in the grand scheme of things. The finely tuned story from the previous Call of Duty game is slightly better than what's presented here, but the tale in World at War is still very compelling.

The Pacific and Eastern Front campaigns offered here contrast each other very nicely, are immersive, and do a good job of drawing you in. Each of the sections of the game have unique elements to offer such as the tank stage, manning turrets, and running through lush jungles with a flamethrower. Throughout it all, the gameplay remains wholly Call of Duty. If you're unfamiliar with that, it means you'll be running and gunning your whole way through, playing through scripted battles, and being ushered along by the seat of your pants. It's not a bad thing, but it does make the game incredibly linear and it limits replay value; then again few FPS can say that they aren't affected by that.

The single player campaign in Modern Warfare was a riveting experience and thankfully Treyarch more or less kept that feeling here. In the Pacific battles you're kept on your toes as Japanese soldiers play dead in order to lure you into traps or spring out of hiding places only to charge you full speed in an attempt to impale you with their bayonet. You'll feel overwhelmed just enough to enjoy a challenge in this part of the game and it helps crank up the intensity from the usual World War II FPS. There's a certain twitch gameplay element at several points that helps keep things from becoming too methodical. While the Eastern Front missions with the Russians may feel very familiar, it's safe to say that the Pacific battles do not. This is a very good thing and it helps keep the single player fresher than you'd expect.

Despite the somewhat unique nature with regards to battles in the Pacific there are still many checkpoints and instances in stages where you'll feel that sense of déjà vu. Because of that, the single player component in the game suffers compared to what we experienced with Modern Warfare. There have simply been too many World War II games and no matter how many different things this particular one introduces, it's just not enough to shake that familiarity.

Once you've cut your teeth with the single player you'll undoubtedly be itching to see what multiplayer offerings there are here. Thankfully while there isn't much in the way of replayability with regards to playing solo, there is some due to the fact that Treyarch has included co-op as a feature here. While not every mission is available for cooperative play, the majority of the campaign is. What's better is the fact that you can team up with three other people rather than just one person. Four heads are better than one or two, and if you have a group of friends who own this game you'll all have a blast.

Co-op isn't the only way to experience multiplayer with World at War, since you can take the game online with up to 18 players in total. If you enjoyed Modern Warfare then you'll be pleased to know that World at War offers the upgrade, class, and perk system set with the WWII motif. If you're unfamiliar with this system then all you really need to know is that gaining experience points through your performance nets you extra skills, weapons, and abilities to help customize your soldier. There are more options this time around and all in all there's plenty of reason to keep coming back for more.

Multiplayer also offers some sweet maps (some with vehicles) and the same familiar gameplay modes we've all come to love. My favorite new addition is arguably the Nazi Zombie mode. In this variant you and three other people try to survive wave after wave of Nazi zombies. You build up barricades, unleash hell upon the monsters, and try to use points to buy stuff to help you stay alive. It may be silly, but it's very entertaining and it's a lot of fun.

Taken based on gameplay merits along, Call of Duty: World at War is a solid experience. The single player component is finely crafted, the multiplayer is honed, and the control is every bit as good as you'd want it to be. The only real nitpicks I have with regards to the gameplay is the fact that many times throughout the game you'll feel like it's old hat. Still, no matter how saturated you are with WWII shooters this one deserves a spin. It's a solidly produced game that stands as Treyarch's best effort for the Call of Duty franchise. Highly recommended!

Graphics


With output supported up to 1080p Call of Duty: World at War is quite a spectacle. Working off of the prior Call of Duty's engine paid off and this game is ripe with fantastic animation, loads of detail in the environments, and loads of nifty effects in between. Fire looks particularly nice here, though by comparison it's not quite as refined as we saw in Far Cry 2. Even so, this is a slick looking game that represents the time period and locations perfectly. If I have any complaint regarding the PlayStation 3 version of the game it would be that it suffers from aliasing and some slowdown. These occurrences are few and far between, but when they happen they definitely take you out of the finely crafted immersion the rest of the game presents.

Sound


The Call of Duty franchise has been known for its top quality sound production and thankfully World at War is no different. The audio here is absolutely spot on and you'll want to crank your speakers up in order to enjoy it to the fullest extent. Bullets whiz by you, weapons clank, ambient noise in the environment surrounds you, and throughout it all quality voiceovers help round things out. This is undoubtedly a great sound package and the sense of immersion is top tier. It's also worth noting that actors Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman lend their talent to the project as well.

Conclusion


If you're a Call of Duty fan and were grimacing about Treyarch being involved with this installment, don't fret. World at War is a fantastic game from start to finish and the multiplayer is every bit as fun and addicting as Modern Warfare's. Treyarch gave the game a necessary set of tweaks in just about every department, but the merely slight change of venue isn't enough to stave off the feeling of "been there, done that". Don't let that deter you though; this is an impressive shooter that stands out with some of the best on the PS3.