I’m not going to start this review off by going into the history or the franchise or the Treyarch vs. Infinity Ward versions. This review won’t mention it, I promise, sort of. If you pick up the latest Call of Duty epic expecting last year’s amazing COD 4, then you will get a mixed experience. In certain ways the latest COD feels more like it’s a WWII mod than a brand new experience. It kept all of the elements that made COD 4 fun – tight controls, great graphics and fun, addictive multiplayer are all intact here.
At first I was a little skeptical about the series returning to WWII but the minute you pick up a M1 Grand or a Thompson it just feels right. Instead of focusing the entire game on fighting “Gerries” throughout Europe W@W splits the story between two characters – Pvt. Miller who is fighting with the Americans in the Pacific and a Russian named Dimitri, who is chasing Nazi’s around Europe.
Splitting the story in two makes for several jarring transitions. One minute you are fighting guerilla war fare in the jungles of the pacific – making me think, for the millionth time why aren’t there any Vietnam based games? These jungle levels are lush, beautiful and deadly. The Japanese set ambushes in the trees and build little bunkers in the grass and pop up out of nowhere. It’s really unpredictable and chaotic. You really see a lot of original thinking here. When the game switches to the traditional – let’s storm this German building mode, the game feels repetitive and looks pretty bland. In both modes the character models are almost indistinguishable there were a couple of times I walked next to what I thought was a fellow marine only to realize it was a Japanese soldier.
Another annoying thing is, this year’s installment includes more “invisible” walls where it forces you to go through a shooting gallery. One of the things that made the COD Campaign experience so great was, the open nature of how you complete your missions and the ability to either go straight up the gut, or do flanking maneuvers. There are too many levels here where you have to die about 30 times before I finally got through. There was several times where I wanted to throw the controller at my television. At these points the game ceases to be fun and becomes an annoying pain in the butt.
Towards the end, the Campaign mode gets to be a little frustrating because it feels like it’s never going to end. The first few hours, I was really enjoying myself but it eventually gets repetitive. The lack of any progress meter in games is starting to become a major issue with me. I like to know exactly where I am so I can tell if it’s worth playing through yet another level of storming a building. At one point in the game, I sacked Berlin. At that point, I thought the game was over and was satisfied with that ending. Instead it turned out to be I don’t know the halfway point, because then the game switches you to a Bi-plane flying over the Pacific. Then I played through 4 or 5 more levels for a few more hours and I find myself back in Berlin. I was like – didn’t I just level Berlin? There’s this feeling that this Campaign will never end. I never developed any kind of attachment to either character, there are no amazing moments like the Nuclear death in the last one
The weapons in the game aren’t as exciting or cool as the modern day COD4. You get an assortment of machine guns, rifles, on rare occasions you’ll come across a scoped rifle or sniper gun, I found a shot gun just once in the entire campaign mode. The game’s much talked about new weapon – The Flamethrower is disappointing. You never really feel the full impact of using it. It has a limited range and it’s too controlled. If you use it to burn out the Japanese hiding in bushes, I want to see the entire forest catch fire, or see the flame go all over the place. Instead the flames go out almost right away and only stay in the area that you burned.
Multiplayer is almost exactly like the last year’s game. You earn perks and rewards as you play. I always loved this aspect of the series. Generally, I suck at multiplayer but COD keeps me playing because it makes me feel like, I’m still gaining something – like new weapons and enhancements (Scopes, Grips, Suppressors), character Perks (Special Grenades, Health, etc) and the ability to unlock and achieve special talents. While, constantly dying, I know there’s a whole other game going on. I don’t know how many multiplayer maps there are, but I seem to keep getting the same 3 or 4 boring, bland maps – I know there must be more, but I never saw them. I played about 13 hours of multiplayer over the course of a week and kept thinking, why? They also made it harder to unlock things like the Scopes (instead of 25 kills with the weapon, you have to have 75).
You start with 3 modes – death match, team death match and a noob mode. So you don’t get the other numerous modes – until you reach level 14. I’m at level 12 and don’t care enough to unlock everything. It’s very addictive, but not all that fun playing the same crappy 3 or 4 maps and 3 different modes. It only made me miss playing COD 4. I wish they would set it up so that the stuff you do in Campaign mode translates to the multiplayer. Specifically have the kill count added to the multiplayer challenges.
Call of Duty: World at War is a very competent game that I enjoyed but didn’t love and I question some of the unnecessary changes. If it didn’t have the COD moniker attached, I’m not convinced it would rise above the level of just another fun, but bland shooter. Its fatal flaw is that it’s not original and I think I’m officially getting Shooter fatigue.
Final Grade C
EM Review by
Originally Posted 11.28.08