Review by myHOTTERgf

"War is Hell, but this one is SWEEEEET"

Has Call of Duty become the Star Trek of videogames? Because when you do the math, the even-numbered installments in the series are always the best. And while following up the 10-rated, Game of the Year–nominated Call of Duty 4 can't be easy — after all, there's really nowhere to go but down in the minds of many players — World at War's step back in time from Modern Warfare's current-era landscape to World War II only makes the challenge that much greater.

For better and for worse, World at War feels like a prototypical play-it-safe sequel. Though it takes a crack at freshening up the WWII formula with flamethrowers, a slightly more tropical setting, and all kinds of M-rated blood and profanity, it takes absolutely no significant chances whatsoever, borrowing everything from the Call of Duty 4 playbook and adding nothing noteworthy of its own. It feels more like an expansion pack than a full-priced sequel.

By default, though, the similarities to Modern Warfare mean World at War is a perfectly good game. Both the technology behind Call of Duty 4 and the gameplay are cut-and-pasted into this version, so the campaign features solid gunplay, intense audio, and smooth visuals. And multiplayer delivers the same perk-packed, level-based, class-customizable romp that's dominated Xbox Live for the past year.

The problem is that there's nothing to truly distinguish World at War from last year's game, which means there's little reason to recommend it in any sort of significant way. The Pacific campaign is a bit different than the WWII games that have come before it, but not as much as you might hope or expect. Essentially, there are now enemies hiding in some trees, and you have a flamethrower to torch both people and foliage, but really — you could just be marching through another European town with a lot more trees.

Meanwhile — again in traditional series fashion — a second campaign alternates missions with the first, this time putting you in the boots of a Russian sniper as the Red Army marches toward Berlin. A by-the-numbers Call of Duty experience, its finale possesses potential for heart-thumping greatness — as you stomp up the steps of the German Reichstag — but squanders it by dragging on for far too long and becoming more of a chore to complete than a climactic exclamation point.

It is, in fact, disappointingly lacking in anything as impactful as the shocking conclusion to CoD4's “playable” opening-credits sequence, its U.S. campaign–ending nuclear detonation, or its riveting pistol-gripping finale. World at War's lone highlights — first scurrying back and forth between gun turrets aboard a U.S. seaplane, shooting down Imperial ships, and then rescuing adrift survivors after you splash down into the water, and later the climax of the American campaign in which you drop mortars and airstrikes on a Japanese village — serve as its too-few highlights in the solo game.

On the multiplayer side, World at War feels more like a WWII map pack for Modern Warfare. Don't get us wrong: they haven't broken a thing from the last game. It's polished, balanced, and addictive over its dozen maps and almost equal number of modes — but World at War never flashes enough originality to make a name of its own. That said, big ups to Treyarch for the giddy surprise factor of the multiplayer Nazi Zombie mode (see sidebar).

World at War is like watching a fireworks show that you've seen a few times before. You're simply not wowed by the buildup, the grand finale, or any of it anymore. When — not if — the next sequel arrives, it's going to have an upstream swim against an apathetic tide of familiarity. But if the Star Trek analogy holds, at least it'll be even-numbered.

Activision tapped Hollywood's top talent for the voice acting. Kiefer Sutherland does his part for the Marines, while Gary Oldman is the main voice for the Russians. Sutherland's voice is so distinct that it's easy to imagine him in the recording booth, bellowing his lines into the microphone (that must have been some recording session). Oldman, who has made a career out of being an utter chameleon, is almost unrecognizable in his role, and he delivers a convincing Russian accent. The rest of the sound effects are as authentic as we've come to expect; when you hear the metallic thunk of various machine guns you know that the sound guys spent a lot of time shooting and recording those World War II guns in a desert somewhere. Yet it's the mixing of all these elements that makes a Call of Duty game; there's so much audio erupting all over the place, from gunfire, explosions, guys yelling out commands or warnings, the whistle of artillery above, to the rumbling of vehicles nearby. It all combines to create a rich soundscape comparable to those in movies.

It's easy to be jaded about World War II shooters, but Treyarch makes a convincing argument to stay excited with World at War. The game is packed with a deep amount of gameplay to appeal to every type of player, from those who want to experience a gritty single-player campaign to those who like to play with their friends to those who just like to play multiplayer. This is a solid, confident shooter with plenty to offer the casual and hardcore alike.


Multiplayer remains topnotch.
Four-player co-op is appreciated.
Gore looks goooooood.


Feels like a full-priced expansion pack.
Graphics are dull at times

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/17/08

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

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