Review by CaptainWhee

"Decent campaign, frustrating multiplayer"

Having been a huge fan of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, I was very hesitant when I learned that the era of the game was returning to WWII (no laser sights, no night-vision, etc). Nonetheless, I bought Call of Duty 5 and eagerly drove home, breaking speed limits and throwing out swear words to other drivers left and right who did not understand that a brand new Xbox game was more important than life itself (a realization obvious to us gamers). Inserting the game into my console, I leapt on my bed and flexed my thumbs. I quickly realized that, while the campaign was engaging, the multiplayer was what brought the game down, and I eventually traded it in three weeks later.

My very first notice when my campaign started was how impressive (but not perfect) the graphics were. The texture of the walls and the close-up skin of my enemies appeared to have a slight "shiny" appearance, but this was quickly forgotten in the next five seconds. The explosions were great, the guns looked amazing, and in a particular ambush scene, I found myself appropriately dazzled when a nearly pitch dark clearing was violently changed into a stark white landscape as a flare burst overhead and my enemies burst from everywhere. The next two hours came and went as I cut bloody swathes through my enemies (I was playing on Recruit, the easiest difficulty...don't judge). However, I noticed some minor problems with the campaign.

First off was the frustration of aiming down iron sights (to those who don't know, that means I was not using a scope). Accuracy was not an issue; on the contrary, I could hit an enemy in the head across 100 yards with a single shot...if I could line him up with my sights. The sights had a tendency to go slightly blurry as you aimed, which made it very difficult to hit enemies more than a few dozen yards away...and because you didn't have a laser sight or scope to help you, you had to actually cover your enemies head with the sight in order to get a headshot. And because you couldn't SEE the head, there was a very good chance you were either shooting above them or to the sides (this was ESPECIALLY frustrating during multiplayer...more explained below). More often than not, I would find myself shooting three or four bullets at a single enemy, and "walking" the puffs of dirt on the ground behind them onto them. Not a hugely irritating problem on Recruit, but extremely frustrating on Veteran and in Multiplayer.

The second problem was the sound of the game in certain points. A perfect example is after assaulting a beach against the Japanese, your commanding officer pulls you behind cover and tells you that the current plan has gone FUBAR, and you (the player) need to call in a rocket strike that will destroy the gun emplacements that are currently shredding your fellow soldiers. Or rather, that's what I REALIZED he said after I put on the subtitles because I had died twice (on Recruit, no less) after charging headfirst into machine gun nests. The surrounding explosions and gunfire completely drowned out his voice, so all I heard was a few syllables and a swear word here and there. I don't like to use Subtitles, because the text at the bottom of the screen forces your eyes away from the action (and enemy locations). This happened several times throughout the game, with your fellow soldiers giving out crucial information on, say, where enemies were at or how to best kill them, but because their voices were being drowned out, you were either getting killed or being forced to go about an objective in a much slower and painstaking manner.

Despite these faults, campaign was very satisfying to play, even on Veteran. The voice acting was impressive and easy to follow, when it wasn't being drowned out. The historical detail that went into the guns, clothing, actions and tactics of Japanese, American and Russian troops was brilliantly and accurately portrayed (as a college History major, I was especially impressed by this portion of the game). Campaign is where this game truly shines.

Now, onto Multiplayer.

If Treyarch did one thing right about the Multiplayer, it was mimicking Call of Duty 4 and NOT having any achievements to be gained from online play (aside from two secret achievements which do not give you any gamerpoints, and therefore easy to overlook if you're shooting for 1000/1000 points). I had very little fun playing Multiplayer for several reasons.

First and foremost was the HUGELY unfair gap in player experience when matches took place; both in Team Deathmatch and Free-for-All. As a Level 3 Private, I had basic weapons and basic perks (which are not very useful--even the "Extra Health" one, which basically allows you to live 1/50th of a second longer once you start taking damage). I was going up against a Level 65 General who had the most powerful weapons and the best perks. Guess who won?

Even though I had my own high ranked players on my team, the other players walked over me (and my fellow just-starting-out teamates). And because assigning random players to a random side (either on the "red" team or "blue" team), teams could be lopsided in skill. A perfect example (one that happened alarmingly often) was when I would search for an available Team Deathmatch. Once in a pre-game lobby, I would notice that, on the other team, there would be a solid team of very high ranked officers. And on my team, all of my teamates would only be a few Levels above or below me. In one case, the LOWEST ranked person on the other team was Level 47...out of 65. The HIGHEST ranked person on my team was me...at Level 18. Again, guess who won? In an article on the multiplayer in Call of Duty 5, the producer of the game said: "We wanted to make it where a new player could go toe-to-toe against an experienced player and have a chance at winning."

This is where I say: Uh....excuse me?

Another multiplayer foul up is just as bad: the knife. Designed to instantly kill close-up opponents, I found instead that the knife was just a deathtrap. For the user. I honestly cannot tell you how many times I would surprise an opponent or catch them unawares, and the bloody thing wouldn't work. I would even preform the "lunge" with my knife (picture the sword lunge in Halo 3), stab it into their bodies and hear the "chunk" sound the knife makes, only to watch in astonishment as my enemies promptly knifed me back or pumped a few rounds into my body, instantly killing me either way. In one case, I even knifed an enemy sniper TWICE, literally standing on his back. I was just about to say "Screw it," and put a round in his head, when I was killed by his teamate who had just (and I mean JUST) spawned. Needless to say, I was just a trifle upset.

In order to unlock better weapons and attachments, one must get an accumulated number of kills on that weapon. Okay, that seems fair enough. An example is, for the Mp40 (a submachine gun), a player has to get 25 kills with the Mp40 to unlock a "flash suppressor." This lets you remain invisible on enemy radar when you fire your weapon, but your range with the weapon decreases slightly. Get 50 more kills, and you unlock an Apeture Sight, which is a primitive dot sight. Get 75 more kills....well, you get the idea. This concept applies to every weapon except pistols. For the most part, it it's actually pretty good way to make your favorite weapon even deadlier...be it a Heavy Machine gun or a Semi-Automatic Rifle. However, it can become irritating. Once you unlock a certain Bolt Action rifle, you have to get 25 kills with it before you unlock the scope for it (Bolt actions are the sniper rifles). That doesn't sound like it's very hard, does it? Think again. Bolt Action rifles may be stronger than the Semi-Automatic rifle...but not by very much, and they fire MUCH slower. Unless you get a headshot on your enemy, which is very hard to do if your enemy is moving at all (see above on Iron Sights), the second you put a round in your target, they'll turn around, locate you, and while you're still jacking a shell into the chamber of your rifle, they'll either kill you or dash behind cover, causing you to miss a perfectly good chance to kill an unsuspecting enemy. Needless to say, unlocking the scope for that weapon was a major headache.

The main beef against multiplayer, in my opinion, is the unfair experience gap. If I were going up against opponents who were my own rank (or even a few ranks above me), I wouldn't mind nearly as much unlocking a scope or losing to another team. Even a glitchey knife would be bearable. It's having my butt handed to me by an opponent who clearly is a better player is what bothers me.

In short, Call of Duty 5 is a decent game if you can stand having the snot kicked out of you on multiplayer 75% of the time (at least at the beginning; as you unlock better weapons and perks, you can make a better stand for yourself...but this isn't a guarantee). The campaign is enjoyable in its difficulty and historic authenticity, the graphics overall are impressive, and the sound and dialogue is top notch.

Gameplay: 7/10
Graphics: 9/10
Replay Value: 8/10
Sound-Dialogue: 10/10
Historic Value: 10/10
Multiplayer: 5/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/17/08

Game Release: Call of Duty: World at War (US, 11/10/08)


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