War is hell. So it’s good to see Call of Duty: World at War taking us back to World War Two where life as a soldier was gruesome, violent and often short. This game’s carefully crafted digital reality is very convincing indeed.
There’s profanity, prisoner of war torture scenes, and there’s death - lots of it. The historic ‘newsreel’ style footage scattered throughout the game is also extremely graphic, so be sure to exercise caution if you’ve got children around.
Call of Duty: World at War is intended as more of a sequel to Call of Duty 2 rather than the next step in the franchise, which is mostly due to the World War Two setting. The solo campaign begins in a fast and furious manner, throwing you into the horror of battle as Private Miller. Having just been rescued, your first mission is to fight through hordes of rampant Japanese militia.
The options have been expanded from the last game to allow up to four players to cooperatively battle through the campaign mode. You can also choose from four difficulty levels: Beginner, Normal, Hardened and Veteran. The most difficult settings (Hardened and Veteran) ensure more enemies are hell-bent on sending you home in a body bag. But there’s not just more of them; they’re smarter too, thanks to their artificial intelligence and accuracy being cranked up a notch.
The visual presentation of Call of Duty: World at War is impressive. Genuine World War Two video clips provide historic depth and the inclusion of a compelling storyline makes the campaign mode a lot more emotionally involving. From the sight of singed and burning buildings as you run through the battlefield to the blood-splattered walls of the prisoner of war camps, everything shows evidence of careful attention to detail.
And, of course, there are the dogs. Instead of being able to call in a helicopter air strike, you can now call in dogs which will pin down your opponents and attack them at will. It’s not nice being attacked by dogs. In fact, there’s something almost embarrassing about dying to a dog in battle, but as an offensive weapon they’re great for helping safeguard a large territory from enemy incursions.
The game’s control system is also spot on. Movement is controlled with the left thumb stick. The right trigger shoots and the right thumb stick aims. The X button picks up and reloads your weapons and the right bumper button is used for throwing grenades. In the heat of the online multiplayer mode you’ll be doing all these things at once, so it pays to master the basics against less nimble computer-controlled opponents before taking on real people.
As polished as the campaign mode is, the multiplayer mode is undoubtedly the game’s highlight. Thanks to the strength of this exemplary online mode, it’s no exaggeration to say that Call of Duty: World at War is one of the best shooting games in recent memory. As with previous games in the franchise, you’ll begin at the lowest rank of Private. But - just like in a real military establishment - you’ll rise through the ranks as you improve.
There are several new multiplayer maps including Castle (which is set in and around the confines of a Japanese feudal castle) and Cliffside (which is great for sniping and long distance warfare). There are also some tasty new weapons on offer, the best of which must surely be the flamethrower, which is unlocked when you reach a rank of 65 in the multiplayer game.
If your addiction to multiplayer action games needs some serious attention, Call of Duty: World at War will certainly satisfy your appetite.