Review: Call of Duty: World at War – Treyarch – PC/360

File:Call of Duty World at War cover.png

While I picked this up more or less on release, I really only got to play it some time later. Hence this review was written in January 2009. What do you mean there’s a newer Call of Duty game out?!?

Part 1 – PC version.
Onto the game! The review is written from my experiences with the PC version. The later MP thoughts are based on the 360.
The story is.. well, you’re a soldier. American and Russian at different times, and you have to kill Germans and Japanese. Because they’re bad guys and really the story is the same as every other WW2 FPS shooter, ever. So we’ll skip that.

Peripheral stuff, like loading intro screens and such are very well done, though the audio on mine suffers from some pretty bad stuttering, even after I upgraded my NVIDIA drivers. But while the presentation and such is excellent, pretty much on a par with CoD4, the problems with the game are the same, and even exacerbated. Lots of sudden “oh…  you dead now” moments that require you to die the first time so you can know what to avoid the second time.

Amusing caption goes here.

My squadmates seem to have taken a step back from useful and competent as in previous CoD games and are back to being decoration, and in many levels the enemies only seem to shoot at me (except for the occasional 1-shot kill on my decorative squadmates. And I’m only playing on the second difficulty setting.

While it’s an overused term, the game does have consolitis in that the emphasis is SO much more on the action rather than the playing – firefights are non-stop and frankly, a little too intense. As you simply can’t avoid being shot (not shot at), because they all go for YOU. As mentioned above, most of the time your vision is impaired by the “bloody vision” that the game uses in lieu of a wound meter/HP bar. You sprinting to the checkpoints is once again more important than actually fighting your way through, thanks to the endlessly-respawning enemies, who make attempting to fight your way through an exercise in futility anyway. It’s all about sprint-while-being-wounded towards the next gold star on your map.

In the inevitable 3rd-person view tank level, you’re once again at the helm of a T-34, and it’s much like previous CoD games where you’ve been at the helm of a T-34, (and maybe some MoH instalments as well). Except this time, there’s huge clouds of dust. All the time. All the time because your tank is constantly being pounded by enemy armour, panzershreks, bunkers, 88mm artillery. Your fellow Soviet tanks disappear without a trace pretty quickly, so again you have so solo the whole lot. Through the dust. Of course, this is helped by the fact that just like when you duck behind a wall as an infantryman, your tank regenerates it’s, erm, “health” whenever it’s not getting the shit shot out of it. This allows you to take out at least a platoon of Tigers, and probably PzIVs as well. (Hard to make out their profiles through all the dust, you see.)

I feel like I’ve been here before…

I really enjoyed CoD4, despite many of the same or similar flaws, but that may have been largely in light of the modern setting. This feels even more scripted, and at the same time both less realistic and less arcadey-fun. As it is, and despite both the annoyances and the great visuals, I feel very much like I’ve played this exact game before. Many times.

I mean, I’ve definitely assaulted the Reichstag building and planted the Soviet banner on the roof there before. And though it’s definitely prettier this time around, it’s not any more fun, partly because I’ve already done this, but mostly due to the endless rain of homing bullets and respawning Nazis.

Another annoying aspect of the consolitis are the “death cards”, scattered around in hidden places in the SP mode to unlock cheats in co-op. They’re this year’s version of the Laptops in CoD4. In a game that discourages “exploration” by virtue of endless-respawn enemies, rush-to-checkpoint gameplay, and large areas made up of pretty much identical debris/jungle/etc, it’s a very weak attempt to extend the game’s longevity. This is especially so as their unlocks are overwhelmingly just more ways to increase the game’s difficulty with only a couple of “fun” ones. I mean, even if I cared about them it wouldn’t be hard to play through the individual levels again with a walkthrough, but I have no urge to do so.

Parts of the SP campaign are reasonable fun. The Soviet campaign I enjoyed a lot more than the US Pacific  campaign, which is probably due to preferring the urban battlefronts over the jungle ones where you can’t see the enemy, and the German Stahlheim helmets being a more distinctive target to shoot at than the Japanese. The best parts of the US campaign for me were the first section of the Aircraft-gunner sequences, (“Black Cats”) and the levels where you operate a flamethrower in the jungle, though those still suffered from not being able to see a damn thing due to “bloody vision”, flames and dust’n’dirt everywhere. The Soviet missions were I suppose blander but more solid.

Multiplayer seems to be pretty much exactly the same as CoD4, only with dogs and recon planes instead of attack choppers and UAVs. I got sick of the spammy combat and loudly stupid playerbase after one round. I enjoyed CoD4’s MP for awhile, but eventually got bored with it. As I’m still bored with CoD4 MP and this is exactly the same, I was sick of it about 5 minutes after firing it up for the first time. To be fair though, if you still enjoy CoD4 MP, then you’ll likely enjoy this iteration’s MP.

Overall, it’s like CoD4. It’s not a great game. It’s a cinematic experience that you play through. But it’s WW2, again. And I’ve already done all this. I’ve played this. I liked CoD4 a lot more as it was a fresh take. This feels like a mash-up rehash of CoD4 and every other CoD/MoH you’ve already played. Beyond that it doesn’t make me want to play more every time I take a break, and the best FPS games do that. Instead I had to make myself play it through to the end to unlock the Zombie-Mode carrot. Zombie mode looks good on paper, and the combination of wanting to try it and wanting to finish this review was pretty much the main reason I made myself slog through and finish the campaign.

All games must have zombies. Apparently.

Once I unlocked that carrot I found that it was pretty fun. In SP zombie mode you can see that it’d be an awful lot of fun with 4 pals and voice chat (hmm… sound like another recent Zombie-themed game?). Nonetheless I tried it online, and found that there were unfortunately not too many games going, and more importantly, the calibre of players in it is pretty much the same as the random idiots in CoD4/5 MP, or your average trade channel discussion in World of Warcraft. Still, it’s a simple but worthwhile addition to the game.

It’s a solid rental. If you love the CoD-style multiplayer and you’d rather use WW2-era weapons than modern ones for a change it’d be worth the purchase. The SP mode/campaign is like CoD4: Worth playing through, but not necessarily worth buying or owning.

Part 2: 360 and Multiplayer thoughts.

So 3 years after release, and 2 years after writing the above review of the PC version, I got around to playing the 360 version. Why? That’s a reasonable question. The simple answer is simply that I wanted to try the co-op campaign and play through it with my wife. I’m also halfway through the SP campaign, mostly because I thought I may as well play through it since I bought the thing. I’m also interested in seeing how it looks on the big TV screen.

So anyway, my thoughts on both modes are generally much the same. Still can’t see a damn thing with all the bullets whizzing around and your bloodied vision – especially in the Pacific missions. The Flamethrower still (almost) makes up for all of it with it’s sheer mindless fun (time to reinstall RTCW for MP?). Endlessly-respawning baddies still make everything a sprint to the checkpoint. So no major changes. As a co-op piece, it’s okay. I figure that playing almost anything co-op with a friend is usually going to be fun, often fun than solo, so there is that. The co-op campaign omits several missions – the more Singleplayer-oriented ones. Black Cats (the one in the seaplane), the introductory cat-and-mouse Russian sniper level. Possibly another 1 or 2 that I can’t recall. I’m not finding the SP campaign to be “sticky” at all, wanting me to play more of it. It feels a lot more like a chore actually. Something I have to do to “get my money’s worth” from the game. So I might not finish it if I can let common sense and logic win that particular argument. (6 months later, I still haven’t gone back to finish it – so there you go…)

There are no Achievements given for the co-op campaign, and you just play them from a chosen selection of standalone levels, though it does queue the next one automatically when you finish the previous. There are Death Cards in here, so you can collect those for various MP cheats. I pretty much ignored those in the PC version, sine I had no intention of playing through it again, but I may go back for them on the 360. Partly as achievement whoring and partly “just in case” my wife wants to (or is willing to) replay through a level or two with various silliness turned on. Nazi Zombies mode is also unlocked from the beginning, though I suspect that’s been patched in sometime int he past 2-3 years, as I recall needing to finish the game on PC to unlock it.

I did have a muck about with the multiplayer. I actually enjoyed it more than I did on PC for some reason – and more than CoD4 on 360, though the game does have a habit of putting you into a game, then kicking you if you don’t have the DLC map packs, so you have to queue again.

Multiplayer Madness. Ok, so it’s not so mad.

The 2 copies I got for MP were bargain bin pickups, and the MP was fun enough, but unless I can get some major MP use out of Nazi Zombies, it’s not something I could recommend. Regardless of platform, the SP game is still “like CoD4, but not quite as good, and hard to see anything.” and the co-op, while servicable, is nothing to write home about.

====

The Verdict:

If you’re looking at picking up a PC or console FPS for Singleplayer, there are so many better choices out there.

If you’re looking at picking up a PC FPS for Multiplayer, again, there are so many better choices out there.

If you’re looking at picking up a console FPS for Multiplayer, it’s actually quite decent but now quite underpopulated, so there are better choices. Decent if you can get it for cheap.

If you’re looking at picking up a console FPS for co-op, there are far better choices out there.

It’s ok as a bargain bin pickup, especially if you enjoy WW2 shooters.

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