Call of Duty: World at War Review - January 28

Can Treyarch's World at War reach the dizzying heights of Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4? We think so.

Most savvy gamers know that Treyarch's efforts in the iconic Call of Duty series tend to fall some distance behind Infinity Ward's instalments. Their recent Quantum of Solace also failed to live up to the hype, despite also being based on the Call of Duty 4 engine. Things were, perhaps, not looking good for World at War. Thankfully however, this game marks a shift, albeit an uninspired one, in the quality of the Treyarch CoDs.

There are cracks appearing in the previously impenetrable Call of Duty formula: the classic gameplay of hiding behind cover. This is despite the fact that picking off enemies and slowly moving forwards on the higher difficulties is still as fun as ever. The problem comes with the spawning enemies, forced set pieces and unfair Veteran mode. Similarly, many fans have a bad taste in their mouths from the lack of multiple map packs for Call of Duty 4. There is something of a paradox then: gamers are hungry for more multiplayer content, yet Infinity Ward or Activision won't provide it. Many didn't want a return to World War II, or even particularly another single-player campaign in the same vein as CoD 4, but Treyarch have given us one.

The gritty setting is more effective in the Russian campaign.

There were many impressive moments in Modern Warfare's campaign mode, and it is still something of a trip down memory lane to be revisiting all your favourite Call of Duty guns from yesteryear. As a gamer who has only ever played Infinity Ward's products in the series to date, knowing they won't be doing any World War II games again themselves opened my mind to World at War. Just hefting up a BAR or M1 Garand is a fantastic feeling. Sure, they may not be as powerful, loud or impressive as the modern alternatives, but they definitely have their place.

There are two campaigns. First is a USA campaign, featuring 24's Keifer Sutherland as the voice of Corporal (and soon Sergeant) Roebuck, which takes place on the Japanese front. These are levels of gritty, jungle and island-based warfare, packed with flamethrowers, bayonet fights and tense creeping combat. With the tired-formula of the series still present however, these levels never quite seem to work. You can predict perfectly wheat is going to happen at almost every turn (for example, riding on a tank convoy means you will get ambushed, a quiet section with no enemies means the same, a naive soldier investigating a native statue leads to a trap and so on and so forth). The Russian campaign, which seems like an obligatory feature in a CoD game, is great fun but feels very familiar too. There is a twist in that Sergeant Reznov (voiced by Gary Oldman) and your army are pushing the Germans back, with a dramatic climax as you storm the Reichstag in Berlin following Hitler's death. It has to be said that I personally am not quite fed up with Call of Duty's mechanics. The problem perhaps is that we know how talented both the studios responsible for the series are, and it almost seems like a last-gen game now, albeit with current-gen graphics. It feels that with the immensely powerful backing of Activision, more should be done to elevate the FPS genre by the teams. With that said, Infinity Ward seem to design an engine and innovate areas in one game, then Treyarch produce something based around that, before Infinity Ward take over and innovate again, so maybe the next game (probably after Modern Warfare 2) will be another step forward.

The flamethrower adds a new dimension to the gameplay, but not a tactical one

World at War's story features the same interactive cut-scenes and character-building epics such as we saw in the 'All Ghillied Up' level in Call of Duty 4, and you do feel more attached to your fellow soldiers with various (though extremely minor) stories revolving around a select few of them. Thankfully there are no 'defend the target' or 'storm the location in x amount of time' missions that really were the low points of Modern Warfare, and it is a step in the right direction in terms of gameplay diversity. Something still needs to be done by Infinity Ward for the next edition, particularly with improving the variety and intelligence of the AI and the now horribly-static and old-fashioned scenery. That said, there are multiple routes in a good number of World at War's levels (even if they have little effect), and it would not be unreasonable to argue that, had the setting been nearer the present-day and a little more polished, the single-player storyline could have bettered CoD 4's.

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