Review: Call of Duty: World at War

CallOfDutyWorldAtWar.jpg After Treyarch royally effed up Call of Duty 3 (OK, so maybe it wasn’t THAT bad, but it was still very disappointing), Call of Duty: World at War was initially cast aside once the announcement came that Infinity Ward would once again be taking a game off while Treyarch subbed in for another shot at the series. I felt this pessimism myself, but was willing to give Treyarch the benefit of the doubt. So how did Treyarch handle the job on its second try? Well, light-years better than before, no denying that, but still not quite up to par with Infinity Ward’s consistently masterful efforts.

It’s crazy too because World at War may actually be a little better than Call of Duty 4 as an overall production, yet somehow it still winds up being a lesser game in the end. That probably sounds absurd, I know, but let me explain.

Much of World at War is direct carry over from Modern Warfare: the same superb graphics engine, satisfying FPS gunplay model, intense atmosphere, multi-front campaign structure, and benchmark-setting multiplayer experience that made Modern Warfare such a memorable experience are all back, only this time the setting has returned to WWII. World at War depicts a side of WWII that has never really been seen in a game before, though, and for that Treyarch deserves a lot of credit. WWII seemed to have been milked dry years ago, but this game proves that there are still theaters of the war that have yet to be explored and are worth doing so.

On top of all these returning elements from Call of Duty 4, World at War also introduces thrilling four-player campaign co-op — which can be played in true cooperative style or in a competitive co-op mode where you are both working with your teammates to survive and complete the mission while also competing with them for the highest score — and a surprisingly tense Nazi Zombies unlockable bonus mode. Nazi Zombies is an obvious attempt to rip-off of Left 4 Dead, placing you in a boarded up building fighting for survival as wave after wave of ruthless Nazi zombies charge in to eat your brains. And you know what, it may just be the most entertaining and replayable mode in the entire game.

At this point it may sound like World at War has a slight edge on Modern Warfare, but here’s the problem. So much of the game is so blatantly copied from Modern Warfare that after you complete the campaign and sit back to examine it, the whole of the experience ultimately comes off as uninspired and forgettable. The story is nothing special — which truly is a shame because strong lead acting performances by Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman are essentially wasted on such a weak script — and while the game looks fantastic graphically, it is running on the same engine as a game one year its senior so that initial wow factor Modern Warfare delivered doesn’t exist anymore. I also must call into question the musical scoring. At times it’s appropriately intense and dramatic, as you’d expect from a war game, but in certain situations these cheap hard-rockin’ guitar riffs kick in and totally ruin the game’s atmosphere.

World at War really is a fine FPS, one that redeems Treyarch from bungling Call of Duty 3 and in the process does the Call of Duty franchise proud even if it is missing that “something special” Infinity Ward always brings to the series. That said, the game borrows so heavily from Call of Duty 4 in all areas – story, campaign structure, multiplayer, graphics, etc. – that in the end it simply doesn’t leave nearly as strong an impact. The 4-6 hour campaign will have you by the balls from beginning to end, but once it’s over you won’t pull any memories from the experience or feel compelled to ever really play through it again unless you’re a hardcore trophy/achievement hunter. Rent it, enjoy the hell out of it, maybe buy a copy on the cheap when it inevitably drops in price, but don’t rush out and sink $60 into a game you’ll play hard for a week or so and likely never look at again.

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Pros:
+ Intense gameplay
+ Gritty, highly immersive atmosphere
+ Strong co-op and competitive multiplayer
+ Unlockable Nazi Zombie mode is a blast
+ Fine voice acting performances

Cons:
– Short, forgettable campaign
– Too much uninspired carry over material from Call of Duty 4
– Lacks Call of Duty 4’s sense of impact and longevity
– Highly questionable rock vibe to some of the music

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also on PC, Xbox 360, Wii and DS
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Release Date: 11/10/08
Genre: FPS
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-18

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!