Call of Duty: World at War is a lot like its predecessor, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. In most respects, this is a good thing. The guns are tightly tuned, the tone is gritty and mature, and the action is exciting and fast-paced. It boasts the same addictive multiplayer system as Modern Warfare, and even expands the multiplayer possibilities by allowing four players to play through the campaign cooperatively. Like every game in the series before Modern Warfare, this Call of Duty takes place during World War II. World at War does an admirable job of spicing things up, but between the well-worn source material and dÃ©jÃ© vu game mechanics, there is a pervasive familiarity to the game. Still, though World at War lacks the freshness that made Modern Warfare such a hit, it nevertheless provides a hearty, filling meal--one that shooter fans are sure to savor.
Bayonets are a brutal new addition to your arsenal.
The most salient difference between World at War and Modern Warfare is the WWII setting. In the campaign, you split time between two soldiers in two offensive theaters: the Russian push out of their homeland and into the heart of Germany, and the American struggle to wrest Pacific islands from the Japanese. Though you'll alternate between them every few levels, the campaign feels like one solid progression, thanks to the adept pacing.
Each soldier's journey begins at a low point. Weaponless and surrounded by the enemy, you get a taste of the despair many soldiers are never rescued from. Though the emotional tone eventually rises toward triumph, you never quite forget the fate you nearly met. The first few levels are a hard scrabble as you and your fellow soldiers try to gain a foothold for your country, while later levels are suffused with a sense of hard-won momentum as you fight bigger battles and push closer to your enemies' capitals. Throughout each level you are accompanied by a superior officer who sets the emotional tone through well-acted dialogue. The vengeful, spitfire Russian pumps up your adrenaline to intoxicating levels, while the grim, determined American provides a sobering influence. This grim sobriety is further enforced by the actual WWII videos, photos, and statistics presented in stylish interchapter cutscenes. The message is, by nature, a conflicted one: Though you may feel like an action hero, you are actually participating in the most horrid of human endeavors. How you ultimately feel about this message will depend on your personal disposition, but suffice to say that the elevated emotional timbre makes for an exciting campaign.
Also exciting? Bayonets and flamethrowers, the two standout new weapons in World at War. You wield both in the American campaign, using them to enthusiastically dispatch enemies in trenches and fend off the aggressive banzai raiders. These raiders snipe from the treetops, or pop out of holes and charge you with merciless determination; this aggression makes the American campaign feel uniquely tense. The Russian campaign is slightly more predictable, but it remains vigorous throughout and ends in a spectacularly satisfying way. Explosions and gunfire will cause enemies to lose limbs and copious amounts of blood, making World at War a sight more violent than Modern Warfare. Still, in between the burning, stabbing, and gibbing, there is a lot of crouching behind cover and picking off enemies with your trusty rifle. This kind of action, and most of the other weapons, will feel familiar to anyone who has played a World War II shooter before. It's a well-tuned and exciting familiarity, but it doesn't make any notable leaps.