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Call of Duty: World at War


ESRB Rating: Mature

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Call of Duty: World at War

UPC: 047875832817

Platform: Xbox 360

Publisher: Activision, Inc.

Developer: Treyarch

Category: Shooter

Style(s): First-Person Shooter

Synopsis: With the World at War, Infinity Ward's veteran military first-person shooter series heeds a call to return to its WWII roots. Built on the Call of Duty 4 game engine, World at War aims to bring Modern Warfare's state-of-the-art graphics, interactive battlefield environments, unflinching "M"-rated presentation, and sophisticated online multiplayer options back to the World War II setting in which the series earned its stripes.

As (at least) the fourth original console and home computer Call of Duty title set during World War II, World at War offers an expanded selection of era-authentic infantry and vehicle weapons, as well as the tactics that go with them, such as using flamethrowers to burn away camouflaging cover and expose hidden enemies. For the first time in the series, co-operative multiplayer gaming is strongly supported, with team-up options for two players to play through the main campaign in split-screen mode, or for as many as four to play together online.

Call of Duty: World at War is set in the Pacific Theater and in Europe, near the end of the war. In the single-player campaigns, players take the role of a United States Marine or a Russian infantry soldier, and face an onslaught of deadly new techniques, including brutal guerrilla warfare and kamikaze attacks. In online multiplayer games, an increased emphasis on squad tactics in chaotic, bombed-out environments makes coordinated teamwork the deadliest weapon of all. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide

Package Contents: 12-page Instruction Manual

Controls: Joystick/Gamepad

Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4 has impressed not only gamers and critics, but also apparently the developers at Treyarch, who follow an almost identical blueprint in crafting World at War. Treyarch's third crack at the franchise returns the series to its World War II roots, leaving behind M16s, Javelin missiles, and glowing red dots for bolt-action rifles, Panzerschreck, and iron sights.

The campaign follows two fronts: U.S. versus Japan, and Russia versus Germany. You will alternate between the U.S. and Russian forces across 15 missions. As in previous Call of Duty games, the action is more Hollywood than historical, with dramatic and intense firefights occurring every few feet. Once again you'll follow a group of soldiers through linear levels divided into a series of checkpoints. Unlike Modern Warfare, however, there are few memorable scenes in World at War despite the new environments, and your objectives offer no surprises. You'll have to clear out buildings, storm beaches, crawl through trenches, plant charges on bunkers, eliminate AA crews, and engage in tank-on-tank warfare. Chances are you've already earned your stripes doing these missions in Call of Duty 2.

Japan certainly looks different at first, as you wade across streams and scan palm trees for pesky snipers. Thick grass makes targeting the camouflaged enemy difficult, and you have the added surprise of banzai attacks, where soldiers rush at you with reckless abandon. Yet the action rarely feels epic, thanks to the constant reminder that you're on a narrow path to your objective. Call of Duty 4 did a better job at hiding its linear nature, offering at least the illusion of more expansive environments. Here you'll often feel like you only have one route to your objective. Combat also follows the Call of Duty style of endlessly spawning enemies until you move forward just enough to hit an invisible trigger and advance the scene.

While the core controls and format aren't any different from previous Call of Duty games, there are a few twists. The biggest addition is easily the flamethrower weapon, which is prominently featured in two levels. Squeezing the trigger sprays out a steady stream of fire to barbecue enemies, who do a convincing job of writhing in pain. You have to ease up on the trigger so the weapon doesn't overheat, and the device can also be used to burn tall grass and some trees. This isn't as nearly impressive as it could be, however. You can't set the world ablaze, just specially designated areas. The other noticeable change is the level of violence, which has been ratcheted up to cringe-worthy levels. You'll hear a squishy sound when you thrust a bayonet into a soldier's chest, witness limbs being completely blown off from gunfire, and see more blood spatter than in an episode of Dexter.

There is also some great voice acting by Kiefer Sutherland, who, as Sergeant Roebuck, barks out lines with Jack Bauer-style intensity. Yet you don't feel connected with your squad. There's not much dialog between soldiers, but the most damning part of this disconnect is the irritating tendency for your fellow squad mates to act catatonic on the battlefield. Soldiers will literally walk past an enemy and get attacked from behind. Enemies will rush toward you as your fellow comrades sit idly by and watch you fend off an attack without lifting a finger. Apparently, nobody knows how to use a smoke grenade or provide suppression fire. It would be funny if it weren't so annoying, as you can't issue commands to teammates to help them snap out of their collective stupor.

While the single-player campaign is solid but unspectacular, the developers went the extra mile in cramming an impressive amount of multiplayer features into the game. The main online component (surprise, surprise) is structured precisely like Modern Warfare. You'll create custom classes, earn experience for kills, points for being proficient in certain weapons, and even more points for performing actions like killing people behind walls. You'll unlock many of the same perks from Modern Warfare, and as you increase your military rank, you'll open up a variety of play modes. The 13 included maps consist of two small, five large, and six medium-sized areas, with up to 18 players supported in team deathmatch, free for all, capture the flag, and other familiar modes.

It's easy to see why the developers copied such a format. Like a hamster earning a pellet for spinning its wheel, you are constantly being rewarded in this game, and you are always shooting for something (other than your opponent). New game types, hardcore modes, weapons, and ranks will keep you playing. Rack up kill streaks to unleash a pack of German Shepards (which replace the helicopter in Modern Warfare), and sit back and cackle maniacally as they run around disrupting everything in their path. Also new are controllable tanks on four of the maps, which are just as fun to use as they are to destroy. The biggest multiplayer concern, other than people exploiting potential glitches, is the imbalanced weapons. There's no incentive to use anything other than the powerful machine guns unless you are going for experience points.

The online action isn't limited to multiplayer battles, either. You can join forces with up to three friends online to replay missions from the campaign (all except for two levels), or play them competitively instead of cooperatively. The former involves racking up points by completing kills, reviving fallen teammates, and more. It's a fun way to squeeze more mileage out of the campaign, especially when using cheats earned by collecting "death cards" throughout the storyline. The 13 cards range from a paintball option to a vampire mode, where you have to keep killing to maintain your health. World at War also includes both split-screen and system link support, so those without online connections can still partake in the festivities.

The most surprising addition, however, is the "nazi zombies" mode, which is unlocked after completing the main campaign. It essentially follows the premise of the classic film, Night of the Living Dead, and has you and up to three friends (online or off) trying to survive waves of zombies while trapped inside a dilapidated farm house. There's a strategic element, as well, with each successful attack and kill earning you points to spend on removing barricades, shoring up walls, acquiring new weapons, and so forth. You definitely feel tension while playing, and don't be surprised if you return to this mode more frequently than the main campaign.

World at War can't fill Modern Warfare's combat boots despite an earnest attempt by the developers to replicate the experience in a World War II setting. At the same time, the game still offers an impressive amount of bang for your hard-earned buck. While it's disappointing that more wasn't done to further distinguish World at War from Infinity Ward's magnum opus, shooter fans should strongly consider re-enlisting with Activision for another trigger-happy tour. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide

the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.