As the saying goes, better late then never. While Call of Duty: World at War was released in November, it took a little while for it to really find its feet and gain traction in the gaming community. Not for a lack of advertising, but it was competing with its little brother, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which was a mega hit and still widely played. World at War was back in the hands of developer Treyarch as they transport us back to World War II. This time you’ll battle in the Pacific, as U.S. Marines, and on the Eastern Front, as a Russian private.
Abandoning the numbering system, World at War is Activisions feeble attempt to bring the franchise back to its roots. Reverting back to a World War II setting doesn’t seem like something that would advance the franchise to the future, but then again we are talking about Treyarch and not Infinity Ward, so you can be assured that you’re bound to get mixed results. It reminds me of the Star Trek movies, all the even ones are considered good while the odd numbered movies are considered poor to mediocre. It’s as if the curse has founds its way to the Call of Duty franchise. Perhaps that was a factor in Activisions decision to drop the 5. Still, the question remains. Just what is World at War? It’s clear that it’s not a sequel, could it be no more then a CoD4 standalone expansion pack with new art?
Story wise World at War doesn’t make much sense. You’re playing to completely opposite campaigns where the stories never cross paths. Unlike CoD4, there aren’t any interesting characters or a sense of plot. You’re left wondering why you’ve played through two separate stories that have no connection to each other. Only at the very end does the game approach anything that feels personal and interesting, unfortunately it’s too little, and way too late. It could have easily been split into two separate games with more meat to them.
Not helping any is the fact that the single player campaign is borderline terrible. Call of Duty has for the most part had a unique feature where enemies would constantly respawn until you reach a point in the level. It’s always been slightly annoying, but tolerable. World at War amplifies this and it produces a negative effect. The game assaults you with bullets from so many angles, and often times from enemies that can’t be found. I played the entire game on the Veteran setting so it was amplified even more. In one instance on the final level, when attacking the 88’s in front of the Reichstage, enemy soldiers would walk through a barrier that was inaccessible by anyone else. Perhaps it’s a glitch, but it’s an annoying one when you can’t shoot the individual and you can’t enter the area they’re in. Further compounding the frustration was that enemies seamlessly unlimited supply of grenades that he was constantly throwing.
Speaking of grenades. Treyarch must have gone off the deep end with the grenade feature because it become preposterous at some points with the amount of grenades being thrown by the enemy. Grenades would randomly appear, even in improbable locations, one after the other in quick succession, and on the Veteran setting their span of damage increases greatly. Far too often while I was hiding behind sandbags which were behind a concrete barrier, a grenade would land on the opposite side and kill me. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that enemies can now drop grenades when their killed, similar to the the Martyrdom perk in multi-player.
There’s not much redeeming to the single player campaign, but luckily the co-op helps redeem the game a bit. There’s your regular campaign co-op, where you and up to three friends can team up and fight your way through the various levels. Then there’s competitive co-op, which works the same except you now receive points. Points are based on the number of kills and other intricacies such as headshots, etc.
There’s really nothing new or innovating to add to the multi-player feature. Call of Duty really established itself in Modern Warfare as being one of the premier online games. World at War takes the multi-player functionality of CoD4 and adds some new artwork while giving you new weapons and switching around some of the perk. You can no longer call in a helicopter, this being Word War II and all, instead you call in a pack of German Shepards to attack the enemy. Instead of an aerial bombing run you call in an artillery strike. Other then that no effort was made to enhance the multi-player experience.
The most innovative feature of the game is the the unlockable Nazi Zombies level. Upon completion of the campaign, players have the ability to join in a co-op mode to defend a building from zombies trying to overrun the facility. It’s a shame that they decided to use zombies though, it doesn’t seem fitting for the franchise.
Overall, World at War is a mediocre game. The A.I. is atrocious and the mixing of the two stories is disjointed. I would have preferred a straight up Pacific campaign with more of a story behind it, or even one dedicated to the Eastern Front. They’re well designed, but you get the feeling that you’ve seen and played this before. As an expansion, World at War could have worked. As a stand alone game, it’s simply not appealing. Fans of the series should check it out, but I’d recommend a rental first.