Wow, that was quick. It was just yesterday I was taking out Terrorist in the middle east somewhere. Now, we're back to the historical documents (thank you Galaxy Quest) and into World War II battles.
Is it the same old stuff? Could it be that Activision went back to what worked so they didn't have to work so hard? Or is it something more? Read on...
Is that who I think it is?
This game has style, make no bones about it. It brings the punch and it doesn't stop to ask questions. You begin your campaign, if you're doing campaign -- which you should to get back in the groove, with the American Army trapped on a Japanese occupied island. You're a captive and secret ops has been sent in to retrieve you. Just before you are about to have your throat sliced by a Japanese soldier, he's shot and you're freed. Before you know it, your sergeant, voiced over by Kiefer Sutherland, pulls you out of the shit and leads you off the island. From that point on you're stuck with Kiefer and his boys, which isn't bad at all. The American Army's missions are completely against Japan. You'll have different missions that lead you into different scenarios, each one sort of random. As you progress through the game, you'll find that each one gets harder and harder and harder. The final battle to overthrow the remains of the Japanese army is intense! That's something that Call of Duty: World at War doesn't fall short of throughout the game, intensity. The American campaign seems a bit disjointed though, as it clearly is only the most interesting portions of the war against Japan. You don't get a lot of other details other than the mission itself and what happens if you succeed. Again, the only complaint that I have with it is that it may seem a bit too shallow in that area. Unlike Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which had a fantastic storyline that followed a particular group in the present and past, it's more like you're skipping around in battles here.
Now, the game isn't completely just about the American Army, there is a second, mixed in, campaign surrounding the Russian invasion into Germany. With that, you get a second star studded actor to lead the charge, Gary Oldman. He plays a high-ranking fighter who helps you to escape an invaded Russian city (forgot the name of the city, many apologies). He's pushy, he's intense and he doesn't mince words with other folks in the unit. The Russian campaign is a bit more disorganized than the American campaign. It feels more like 'rebels' than it does a Russian Army. I think that adds a bit more variety to the game. the first part of the Russian mission requires you to snipe folks and to escape, which is (again) intense. I have to admit though, the end battle on the Russian side is far more intense than the end battle of the American campaign. I must have died at least 20 times before finally figuring out the A.I. and achieving what I could achieve. I like the parody between the two storylines, or set of missions. It keeps the game going, keeps it moving forward at a very rapid pace.
The oddest missions out there, ones that seem disjointed the most, but still damn cool are the two missions involving a Russian tank and an American plane. You get to man each one and have one single mission to take care of business. The plane scene is probably the coolest between the two as you're required to man various guns on a single plane (yes, you do travel back and forth between them) and take down Japanese Zero and ships. It's quicker than the normal missions, but just so much fun to play. The tank mission, on the Russian side, can be compared to the tank mission out of Call of Duty 2. A little less impressive, but still fun.
Moving on to the next subject, the A.I.. The A.I. is a mix bag of nuts here, depending on how you look at it. Typically, A.I. folks will shoot on a pattern, meaning that they'll shoot-duck-shoot. Here, if you start unloading in the direction of enemy soldiers, some will die and the others will duck until it's safe to start firing back. I was very impressed with this, considering that FPSs nowadays don't give the A.I. such attention to detail. You could see this coming though if you played Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The enemies were a lot trickier and less forgiving in that game, just like in this most recent version of CoD. Now, the variety of enemies is probably where I was disappointed the most. You get Japanese soldiers, but you have maybe four-to-five different varieties of soldiers during battle. This goes for the Germans as well. I'm not complaining, because I have no plans on sitting back and enjoying the scenery during gameplay, but it is a knock as I'm sure there could have been a slightly larger amount of enemies. The other side to this is that the enemies repeat way too much. I don't simply mean there aren't a variety, I literally mean they respawn too quickly. The game, instead of allowing you to take a chunk of folks out and move on, forces you to move on to take people out so that you can progress. In Call of Duty 4 you could lay back and take people out until you were in the least amount of danger, this isn't the case in Call of Duty: World at War. For example, the final stage of the Russian campaign, when you're storming Berlin's capital building to plant your flag, if you don't blow up the artillery guns that are planted throughout the entrance to the building, you'll have an endless amount of enemies streaming at you. I must have shot 20-25 guys at the same position on top of that building before I realized they were respawning. I'm not completely keen on this, I think if you're going to limit your enemies, you should limit them. If you're going for historical accuracy (which I won't get into) then don't expect 20 guys to man that same position with the same weapon. After the tenth body the next guy would have realized that's probably not a good position to be at.
As for the variety of weapons, you get some really neat stuff. Ranging from rifles to automatics, to very nicely slicing knives. I will give you a hint on the weaponry, make sure to look in all the places that you can for weapons. Activision's dev team has hidden some goodies in spots that look abandoned. I ran into some sniper rifles out of the blue in a lot of places, so please make sure that you look everywhere. It helps the gameplay immensely when you can blow the holy hell out of enemies with the least amount of causalities.
So is the gameplay all it's cracked up to be? Without a doubt! There's so much here to look forward to and have fun with. The only thing, don't expect this to trump Call of Duty 4 because it simply doesn't. The action is there, the great acting is there, but the game just seems to pieced together in the story area to compare it. I do believe it's the second best of the series to date, though.
Can war truly look good and is it worth fighting for?
The answer two both of those questions is a resounding yes. While, I can't confirm it directly with the studio (which I never asked), it does appear that the same graphics engine that drove Call of Duty 4 is leading the charge here. The environments in this game are so detailed. The final chapter in the Russian campaign, the final level where you're pushing out the Germans, is so incredibly detailed. You have a giant dome that has something crashing through, pieces of glass flying everywhere, while gunfire is spreading through the area. That is impressive to see. The shading elements used on the shadows of the characters is also impressive, as it correctly drops the player's shadow where it needs to be dropped. The lighting, much like any PS system, is superb. You'll find the PS3 sports a better graphic range than what you'll find on the 360. I'm not sure if it's the disc, the chip inside or my imagination, but it looks a hell of a lot better. As for the characters, you'll see details in their faces, teeth, wrinkles and expressions that bring the characters to life. Much like Call of Duty 4 demonstrated to us, it's possible to make these characters real, visually. They do a damn good job of it. Enjoy the water scenes, by the way, they are gorgeous.
The different modes of play really lend to the experience as well, as you get the story mode, coop mode and multiplayer. Multiplayer is probably going to be the selling point, as most FPSs have this as their selling point, but don't discount the coop mode. There's much to be had here and each mode carries a lot of entertainment with it. As you progress through each mode though, you do have a trophy system that is in place. For every mission or accomplishment that you achieve you get rewarded with a trophy. Aside from trophies, you also have a little bit of easter eggs to acquire. If you beat CoD 4 properly, you get to rescue a hijacked plane from terrorist, avoiding minimal causalities to the civilians of course. Well, I'm not going to spoil it for you, but there is a deeper game unlocked at the end of the story mode. You won't be disappointed and you won't have to complete the game again to replay it. It's quite odd, but worth the effort.
So is this worth $59.99? Without a doubt. I would probably pay $69.99 for this if I didn't already get this game for free. It's a beautiful game that's particularly, not incredibly, deep with about 10-12 hours of gameplay. Now, 10-12 doesn't sound like a deep game, but the catch is that you'll want to replay it more than once, not only for the trophies, but for other goodies. Unlike other companies, Activision has stood beside the CoD franchise and made it more than just a typical FPS game. They have enough here to entertain for a while and make it seem like it belongs on your gaming shelf. It does belong on your gaming shelf if you're a CoD fan, or looking to become one.