When you think about console first-person shooters (FPS), the Wii is usually the last system that comes to mind. With the beautiful graphics, steadily high framerates, precision controls, and online capabilities afforded by the PS3 and Xbox 360, many forget that the Wii can also be a great destination for this genre. While there hasn’t been a plethora of excellent FPS games on the Wii, the list has officially grown one title longer thanks to Call of Duty: World at War.
I know that most gamers, including myself, have grown tired of WWII as an FPS backdrop but World at War manages to come back from that arid well with a full bucket of water. It does so by telling two separate and interesting stories from two less recreated and exploited aspects of the war. Half the game will have you playing as a U.S. Marine named Miller, trying to survive the constant barrage of Japanese soldiers. The other half puts you in the boots of Dimitri, a Russian soldier seeking revenge with the help of his comrades for the atrocities committed against their homeland by the German army.
The way these stories are told is incredibly cinematic and unabashedly brutal, which I have to say surprised me, since the Wii is considered a more family-friendly console. However, the game is rated mature but does give players the option of toning down the violence, though doing so does diminish the overall experience. Without any filters, expect to see some grizzly, authentic war footage that sets the mood of the game perfectly as well as some pretty horrific, yet appropriate for the setting, in-game events. Scenes such as watching a fellow soldier being burned with a cigarette before having his throat slit and waking up in a pile of mostly dead soldiers with enemy troops executing any who move are par for the course. While these scenes can be hard to watch, they draw you further into the experience and effectively convey the horrors that often occur during war.
Besides the fresh storytelling opportunities provided by these relatively unexploited backdrops, they also make way for differing gameplay elements. Admittedly, the Dimitri portion of this game plays similarly to many previous WWII FPS games but there are still some interesting missions to be experienced. One in particular finds you teaming up with an injured sniper who is unable to fire his weapon. As such, he functions as your eyes and ears, essentially training you on the fly on how to be an efficient sniper. With his guidance, you’ll find yourself using low flying airplanes to cover the sounds of your shots, sneaking through buildings and around troops to find good shooting positions, and having a shootout with a skilled enemy sniper.
On the other hand, Miller’s levels play much differently than most of the other FPS games on the market. Instead of fighting against a foe who just passively sits behind cover trying to pick you off with a skilled headshot, you are battling enemies who can literally be anywhere at any time. While walking across a field, Japanese soldiers may spring forth from nearly invisible tunnels and bring the fight directly to you. Well camouflaged combatants will ambush you in the jungle, making suicidal dashes, with their bayonets leading the charge. The sheer spontaneity of these attacks will constantly keep you on your toes and ensure that you never let your defenses down. However, if you do get caught off guard, you’ll be treated to a very cinematic struggle where you have about one second to shake the Nunchuk or press down on the D-pad to stab your adversary with your knife before being run through by their blade.
While I can’t say that the Wii-mote and Nunchuk work perfectly for controlling this game’s action, they do an admirable job. There are a multitude of options both for button layout and how the motion controls handle. Players can tweak their bounding box, how quickly the camera reacts to moving the pointer, and the sensitivity required for shaking either controller. This does provide some good options, but none feel entirely precise or quick enough when in combat. Still, they work well enough to not cause frustration and to keep the gameplay enjoyable.
Visually, this is one of the best looking games on the Wii. While the textures may not be as impressive as its current generation siblings’, there are some great lighting, smoke, and particle effects you wouldn’t expect out of a Wii game. Unlike Quantum of Solace, which came out earlier this month, the Call of Duty 4 engine has clearly been better optimized to handle this title. You may see an occasional framerate hit when there is a lot of onscreen action but it is barely noticeable and very rarely affects the gameplay.
Another thing you may not expect from a Wii title is great online play. Although Nintendo’s console can indeed connect to the internet, many games completely ignore this option. Thankfully, World at War embraces this opportunity, providing one of the best online experiences on the console to date. While the included modes (standard and team deathmatch variants only) and number of players (only eight) are limited, they run solidly. The create-a-class and challenge barracks have also been included, constantly rewarding continued skillful play with unlockable perks, weapons, and attachments.
If you’re looking for a great FPS on the Wii, Call of Duty: World at War definitely fits the bill. With its impressive graphics, cinematic and brutal storytelling, varied missions, and excellent multiplayer offerings, this is a must play title for mature Wii gamers. While it is missing many of the online modes included in the other versions of this game, what is there works incredibly well and provides a lengthy experience. Who knew WWII could still be this much fun?
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
A well optimized Call of Duty 4 engine provides some impressive visuals. 3.5 Control
There are many ways to tweak the controls but in the end, none feel quite as precise or quick as they should be. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great voice work and music collide with realistic sound effects to provide an aurally authentic war experience. 4.4
A varied, lengthy, and compelling single-player campaign in addition to an excellent online multiplayer component make this game a very enjoyable and complete package.
4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.