Call of Duty: World at War Review for Nintendo DS

Call of Duty: World at War Review for Nintendo DS

A Moment Frozen in Time

Call of Duty: World at War is hitting most major platforms, and the series revisits World War II for a second tour of duty on DS. Subtle improvements and a return to a tried-and-true FPS (first-person shooter) formula make this a fun, little shooter on the go.

Call of Duty: World at War screenshot

Though Call of Duty 4 (CoD4) was a major overhaul for the series – bringing the action into the present – Activision has decided to venture back in time for one last look at what are perhaps America’s most memorable moments in military history. You’ll play from three different perspectives: American, British and Russian, and the different locales and weaponry definitely serve to inject at least a little something new into the WWII FPS experience. World at War follows very familiar patterns, however, so if you’ve been down one of these war-torn roads before, you should know the gameplay drill.

World at War DS offers a healthy selection of gameplay options. For single-player, you get Campaign, Missions (which allows you to go back and play specific portions of the campaign already completed), and Challenges. The campaign is broken up into bit-sized gameplay segments, and the checkpoint system makes play on the go an easy proposition.

Campaign first runs you through the American missions, as they take the fight to the Japanese. The game sticks with a similar training regimen as that of CoD4, and you’ll be brought up to speed on all the basics right from the start. Once in the field, the terrain offers a new and interesting topography that’s a nice change from the bombed-out cities of Europe. Of course, you will eventually make your way westward, playing as both the British and the Russians, as they push back the German troops.

Call of Duty: World at War screenshot

World at War is an FPS, and its controls are much the same as the last CoD on DS. However, the double-tap technique used to zoom in during long-ranged shooting in the last game has been swapped out in preference of an actual zoom-in icon located on the top-left of the touch screen. The zoom-in feature in CoD4 DS was a significant issue in the last game, as you’d often zoom in or out at inopportune times. There was no option to adjust the screen sensitivity, and constant issues with your gun sight were a source of contention throughout much of the game.

The controls work well in pretty much all areas now, including various mini-games you’ll play throughout the campaign. One mini-game tasks you with disarming a land mine, and the feel, intuitiveness, and order in which you’re instructed to perform each action makes sense and is fun to play through. There are a handful of other clever and well-implemented mini-games, including one where you’ll need to patch up an injured soldier, as well as one where you’re tapping out Morse code. Of course, there are also plenty of on-rails segments, and the controls for tanks and such all function well.

Call of Duty: World at War screenshot

As you progress through missions, you’ll constantly receive new objectives. They flash onscreen pretty fast, and if you’re in the heat of battle when you receive your latest objective, it’s easy to overlook what’s been instructed. That said, you can press the Select button to enter a map menu that briefly explains the objective and gives you its general location. Additionally, the hub located on the touch screen during gameplay houses a radar that shows you the direction you need to be heading, reveals enemy and ally locations, as well as alerts you to nearby ammo.

There are, however, a couple of issues that impede progress a bit. One complaint has to do with the lack of clear explanation about how to properly use some of the heavy artillery you’ll man during missions. Occasionally, you’ll be thrown onto a weapon you have no idea how to use, and an inevitable trial-and-error process will require multiple stabs at an objective.

Another issue has to do with objectives sometimes overlapping one another, causing both confusion and frustration. One example is an objective that instructed us to hide behind a fountain, then find higher ground and take out snipers who were blocking allied passage. As soon as you enter the area of the objective, however, a timer begins counting down from 30. After roughly 20 tries, we discovered a wounded soldier who demanded treatment, and it was the matter of tending to the soldier that was causing the timer to count down. Additionally, it is occasionally unclear as to what is required to initiate certain objectives, and often you’ll find yourself having to do a bit of noodling around in order to push progress along.

Call of Duty: World at War screenshot

On the plus side, hit detection is good, the missions are challenging and varied, and the A.I. is fairly intelligent. Soldiers don’t run blindly behind enemy lines, making themselves moving targets. A.I. is dangerous, though fair, and enemies will often continue to fire off a few rounds upon falling in battle. You’ll even occasionally see downed enemies attempt to crawl away before ultimately meeting their demise. Allied A.I., too, has been improved, and your fellow soldiers will be a real aide to you as you make your way through missions. It is subtle tweaks such as these that make World at War a better, more enjoyable game to play than last year’s DS CoD4.

Of course, multiplayer is always of major appeal to hardcore FPS fans, and this latest DS offering brings us online matches. You’ll be able to choose from 11 maps and three different gameplay types, including Deathmatch, Hunter/Prey, or Capture the Flag, either in Free For All or Team Games (of up to four players). We experienced minimal lag, and hit detection seemed accurate online. The maps were generally fun to play in, but environments are a bit sparse. It remains to be seen just how long online gameplay will be active with World at War DS, but it’s certainly a welcome feature all the same. Additionally, the game offers local multiplayer, though only for players who each have a copy of the game – no download play.

The visuals are strong, though there is no marked improvement here. Character models are still boxy, though they animate smoothly. Backgrounds are something of a mixed bag, with some elements exhibiting a lot of detail, while others reveal their textures all too prominently. The frame rate is smooth, however, and we experienced no discernable slowdown throughout the duration of the game. It’s a shame to see enemies disappear off the field so quickly after dying, but there is usually a lot of action onscreen at once, making for some exciting combat. There’s an overall lack of polish with regards to the visuals in World at War, but the great variety of landscapes and environmental elements make up for it.

The audio in the game is quite impressive, as themes break in during key moments in the conflict, adding inspiration and urgency at various times during the experience. The instrumentals comes across with surprising power on DS, and a good stereo mix really helps bring the action to life. Effects, voice work, and other ambient sounds all fit nicely alongside the gameplay and help add an element of immersion to the campaign. Multiplayer, however, feels a bit barren due to its lack of aural complements, and occasionally music gets lopped off during single-player.

All told, Call of Duty: World at War for the DS shaped up nicely. It’s got a few bugs, some minor issues in terms of making its objectives clear in the single-player campaign, and the graphics lack polish. However, it’s a fun shooter, if all too formulaic. For those who’ve had enough of World War II, well, you may want to take a pass. However, DS owners looking for another worthwhile FPS to play on the go will find a respectable package here. The campaign is lengthy and offers a lot of variety. Multiplayer options round out the package, though they may prove short-lived.

The graphics often lack detail and polish, but the variety makes up for it. The framerate is smooth, though there are a few graphical bugs here and there. 4.0 Control
FPS controls work well, and the mini-games are enjoyable. Occasional glitches and a lack of clear instruction hamper the experience a bit. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music and sound effects add a lot to the single-player campaign and come across remarkably well on DS. Music getting occasionally lopped off and a lack of aural elements during multiplayer take away slightly from the overall package. 3.8

Play Value
The campaign is quite lengthy; the Missions mode allows you to return to your favorite skirmishes; and challenges and multiplayer add replay to the game. The “Collectables” is little more than a picture that’s framed together as you collect stars hidden throughout the campaign, and it’s likely the online play for World at War will prove short-lived.

3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Building on the success of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for the Nintendo DS, developer n-Space returns with a game that delivers the grittiness and chaos of three historic campaigns into the player’s hands.
  • Mini-Games: More than seven types of mini-games utilize the unique capabilities of the stylus and the dual screen interface. Players will transmit secret messages with Morse Code, disarm mines, parachute to safety, heal fellow soldiers, and provide artillery support to achieve victory on some of the most chaotic battlefields in history.
  • Multiplayer: With more than ten maps available for Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Hunter/Prey, players can challenge their friends to a multiplayer match at any time. Up to four people can fight with or against one another, with access to a wide array of weaponry including fan favorites MP44 and Sten machine guns.

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