System: Xbox 360
Release date: Available now
Review by: Andrew Clark
Gamers these days have plenty of options when it comes to World War II shooters, and between all of them, most of the major battles have been digitally re-created in some fashion or another. That’s why when Call of Duty: World at War landed on my desk, I was apprehensive to go back to the front. I’ve played some pretty decent WWII games in my day, and struggled through some real stinkers, too. How could another one possibly be any good?
Spanning two campaigns (the Pacific theater and the Eastern front) and placing you in the boots of three different characters, World at War takes you to places familiar, but uses a fantastically cinematic approach to immerse you throughout. Fight alongside fellow Marines in the jungles and caves of Peleliu, snipe a Nazi commander as a Red Army soldier, and then hop on board a PBY Catalina and man the guns for an intense rescue mission with Japanese kamikaze zeros falling all around. It’s all brought to life like a first-person movie, with you as the star.
The campaign can be approached solo or with up to four friends taking positions and providing covering fire as needed. The multiplayer mode utilizes a perk system similar to the one used in Call of Duty 4, with upgradable weapons and ranks to keep things fresh. There’s also a zombie mode entitled “Nacht der Untoten” (“Night of the Undead”), which confines you in a house with repairable entry points and an endless supply of shamblers trying to get through you. It’s not really canon with the WWII setting, but who can honestly say they don’t like killing zombies – especially Nazi zombies?
Apart from that, it’s total war as usual, only this time it’s even more brutal, more realistic and built on the same foundation that made its future-brother-from-another-mother Call of Duty 4 so successful. Everything from graphics that submerge you into the battle to the mind-shattering sound work (highlighted by the voices of Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman) is there specifically to immerse and assail. Multiplayer is tense and contains six different modes to sate the online appetite. Just be mindful of the occasional dog attack and surprise knifing that has been known to happen.
All that glitters, however, is not necessarily gold. Even though we’ve finally been given four player split-screen, it’s only available as a local game type. Online it’s single-screen only, and while banding together as brothers is still available through Xbox Live, the COD series still needs to take couch friends into consideration if it truly wants to take the top spot away from Halo 3 and keep it.
A while back I reviewed another WWII game and was sorely let down in just about every way. I’m glad to say that Call of Duty: World at War has successfully pulled me out of the wartime doldrums and given me hope that the most overused subject matter in gaming (next to rescuing the princess) can still find an audience. It may not have everything I want in an online game, but for war buffs and fans of the series alike, this is the height of historic battle as we know it.