Activision Call of Duty: World at War review
After a brief, but brilliant, journey to the present day with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, this latest instalment of the long-running shooter series returns to its World War 2 roots.
This is a surprising move considering Modern Warfare's popularity, but fans of that game have little to worry about.
Call of Duty: World at War (COD: WAW) feels instantly familiar. The setting may have changed, but the gameplay certainly hasn't. Your progress through each level is funnelled down a narrow path dotted with impressive scripted events. Its intense firefights are still great fun, and your foes put up a determined show of resistance - except on the odd occasion when they and your comrades ignore each other completely.
While it often feels as if COD: WAW is simply a re-skinned version of Modern Warfare, it's a fantastically well-produced makeover. The high production values provide lushly detailed and imaginative environments, and the lighting and particle effects look stunning. The intro sequences, music, sound effects and voice acting are also superb.
The game alternates between resurgent Russian forces advancing towards Berlin and American troops prising the Japanese from tiny atolls in the Pacific. Both campaigns focus on the horrors of war. Most of the weapons will be familiar to anyone who has played the earlier Call of Duty games, but the effects of firing them have changed, with hits resulting in sprays of blood. There's plenty of grisly hand-to-hand combat too, which often leaves the enemy crawling away or writhing in agony.
The developers have made a reasonable attempt to provide variety in pace and scale, and the gunfighting at the core of this game is as good as ever. Occasionally they throw in something different to break things up. For example, you must act as a gunner on an American seaplane, dashing between its many weapons to fend off attackers. However, none of these sections compares with the spookily detached brilliance of Modern Warfare's air-support mission.
Modern Warfare's traditional but well-designed multiplayer mode quickly became one of last year's top online shooters. Sensibly perhaps, COD:WAW hasn't made any big changes. The experience system, special abilities and customisable weapons all remain. New additions, such as tanks and dogs (replacing Modern Warfare's helicopter support), aren't instant hits but may grow on us. Our main disappointment is the continued validity of run-and-gun tactics. We would have liked a more measured pace as seen in Call of Duty 2.
COD: WAW is entertaining, but it lacks any jaw-dropping moments like Modern Warfare's SAS sniping mission or nuclear blast. Its setting and gameplay are familiar, so fans will feel as if they've been here before. We enjoyed playing it, but it's not a must-have like its predecessors.