|System: X360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Treyarch||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 11, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-18||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Last year, Infinity Ward developed Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for practically every major gaming platform. That development team put together a first-person shooter that went beyond an excellent single-player campaign; the beefed up RPG-like multiplayer content made CoD 4 an instant fan favorite and a truly bar-setting title. That title was so good many gamers were scared that, because the franchise was returning to Treyarch, Call of Duty: World at War couldn't possibly live up to its revolutionary predecessor.
Moreover, Treyarch was going to bring the series back to World War II, an era so often used it has become cliché. However, in the face of these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Treyarch has pulled off the impossible; they've created a game that is every bit as good as Call of Duty 4. The only minor complaint I can muster is that, by sticking to the Infinity Ward formula, they have brought little new to the title other than the distinct atmosphere and better enemy A.I. Nevertheless, the refined solo campaign, perfect cooperative offering, and engrossing competitive multiplayer action makes this title a candidate for shooter of the year.
Gameplay in World at War is made up of three distinct parts: Solo Campaign, Cooperative, and Multiplayer. Each of them is outstanding and truly worth your attention. The Solo Campaign takes place during WWII. Players will take on the roles of Pvt. Miller (U.S. Marines) and Pvt. Petrenko (Soviet Red Army) and fight in disparate theatres of war: the campaign in the Pacific against the Japanese Imperial Army and the one in Eastern Europe in the defense of 'Mother Russia' from the Nazi invasion. Jumping back and forth between the two theatres not only keeps the gameplay very fresh, but also provides players with very different terrain to do battle in, distinct enemy A.I. behavior, and even a couple of differing perspectives from which the story is told.
The Solo Campaign is marked by meaningful, story-driven, realistic objectives, a host of interesting battlefields, enemy behavior that challenges a wide range of shooter skills, and tons of era-appropriate weaponry. I loved clearing out Japanese mortar emplacements with my Garand and flamethrower, struggling to make my way up an ambush-laden river bed, picking off the cowardly Nazi Colonel with my sharpshooting prowess, and literally steamrolling through enemy lines with my Russian tank. Players will constantly be thrown into interesting scenarios that provide for an exciting array of battle tactics.
Moreover, enemy A.I. is no pushover (unless purposely made so) and it will act differently depending upon where and when you fight them. For instance, while island-hopping in the Pacific, the cornered Japanese begin throwing suicide Banzai combatants at you, perch snipers in palm trees, and have fortifications that are always intricately dug-in with nooks and crannies that spell death to unwary GIs. On the other hand, the Wehrmacht in the beginning of the game are bursting with confidence, as they methodically clear out buildings with dogs and fire. Their machine gun nests are deadly, and their organized tactics are difficult to combat. However, later on, the Nazi morale is low, as they are being routed in the face of the Red Army. Consequently, it's not uncommon to shoot fleeing infantry in the back and have your squad mates deal with the rest with inspired revenge. From beaches and jungles to ruined cities and wide open countryside, World at War's solo campaign is filled with challenging fun and interesting environments.
As an added bonus, finishing off the single-player campaign will unlock Nacht der Untoten (Night of the Undead), which is similar to Gears of War 2's Horde mode. Wave upon wave of zombies will come at you and your partners while your group defends your cabin from the shambling horde. Players can earn points to upgrade weapons and even add onto the cabin. Every successive wave of zombies is faster and more dangerous, and the resulting frenzy of arcade goodness is a surprisingly strategic and enjoyable co-op mini-game experience that doesn't feel simply tacked-on.
Co-op play doesn't end there, however. The next part of the World at War equation is true cooperative play, both off and online. You can play with your best friend at home via split-screen or you can get matched with up to three other companions online. Depending on the amount of players in the cooperative campaign, enemy A.I. will adjust accordingly. Additionally, experience can be accrued during cooperative play that can be applied toward online multiplayer ranks. Also, if unlocked, secret Death Cards in the Solo Campaign can be used during co-op to modify rules and add interesting turns to standard gameplay mechanics, such as the ability to heal downed mates, limit kills to head shots only, add undead soldiers, etc. Finally, scores achieved during co-op play can be uploaded to the Call of Duty leaderboards to see how your group ranks.
The interesting cooperative features are a great way to add serious longevity to the campaign offering. We can only hope that the servers and matching will hold up as well as local multiplayer does. Conceivably, the online co-op modes could suffer from LittleBigPlanet-like connection and lag issues, though Activision typically resolves these problems quickly. However, another Treyarch developed game, Call of Duty 3, seems to be plagued by server issues even to this day. It's something to look out for.