‘Call of Duty: World at War’ PC Review

August 21, 2009 § 7 Comments

Score: 4 out of 5

Poor Treyarch – always in the shadow of its allegedly more talented sibling, Infinity Ward. Treyarch’s name is one that has become synonymous with inferiority or slapdash effort. Along with Climax Group (they of Silent Hill: Origins fame) and Ubisoft Shanghai (they of, well, that train wreck), Treyarch seem to have garnered an unfortunate reputation among gamers.

Now, I’m not here to argue whether that’s a fair reflection of the company or not, but what I will say is that Call of Duty: World at War is a really great game, and Treyarch do have something to be proud of here. Its single player campaign may not have quite the same impact as Call of Duty 4’s, but it’s got its share of spectacular moments. The multiplayer, likewise, is of the same high standard and possesses an almost identical levelling up component, allowing you to gain access to new weapons, perks, and other unlockables. But there’s also a new competitive co-op mode, too – never seen before in the series and which, for the most part, works quite well. Lastly, there’s this thing called Nazi Zombie mode, where you and three other buddies team up and hunker down in a level, defending against incoming waves of Undead – essentially, a smattering of Left 4 Dead with a smidge of Horde mode from Gears of War 2.

Fundamentally, it’s the exact same gameplay in Call of Duty 4 transferred into a World War II setting, with more stuff. And, hell, I don’t think you can really consider that a bad thing. You could say that it’s just a cosmetic overhaul, but Call of Duty 4’s core gameplay and multiplayer were, and still are, sublime. The old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, applies here, so why go and change a winning formula? (Answer: you don’t.)

The single player campaign delivers nicely, indulging in levels that are fast-paced and frequently filled with large, sprawling set-pieces. The campaign itself switches back and forth between the American’s efforts in the Pacific and the Russian’s counterattack out of Stalingrad and towards Berlin. While the American campaign feels the freshest out of the two, it’s also the more frustrating one because of the nature of the guerrilla warfare being carried out by the Japanese. What that means is that you can often come a cropper from ambushes, camouflaged soldiers, stray grenades and traps. On the whole it’s not too riling, but, as a result, there are a couple of dud missions here and there that veer into the frustrating.

CoDWaW 1

However, having said all that, there’s a rather interesting issue over the tone of the game. Namely, the intro to each mission in the campaign is chocka-full of Tony Scott-style quick edits with graphics flying about the screen, reminiscent of something like the The Day Today’s opening montage. The second instance of this kind of strangely anachronistic, slightly flippant, presentation occurs sometimes in intense battle scenes, where heavy rock music starts blaring out in the background supporting the action. Personally, I found these aspects a bit crude and ill-judged.

The problem, as I see it, lies in how the game strives to get us involved in the cruelty of war – forcing us into becoming an active participant – and then undermines itself with a hyper-kinetic, sometimes tasteless, presentation. The upshot is that it’s at odds with itself; at points it wants to be taken as a serious diatribe of war and, at others, a video game. I should point out, though, that it’s only because these moments are few and fleeting that they contrast so heavily with the rest of the game. It’s not a huge issue, and it won’t stop you having fun, but it did jump out at me a number of times.

The co-op campaign is a tad different from playing solo. In this mode you are fighting alongside up to three other human players, but the emphasis is on scoring points by racking up kill combos, scoring headshots, reviving downed teammates and not dying yourself. While some smaller levels feel a little crowded for four people, generally the single player campaign does allow for the transition into multiplayer co-op. The issue, for me, is that when you transpose the structure of a campaign mission into co-op and make it a points game, you lose the ability to work at your own pace and the feeling that you are the one soldier, the hero, isolated among unfamiliar faces. With other teammates there, often behaving in a quintessentially erratic human way, it spoils the immersion, and hence it loses some of its appeal.

With the multiplayer competitive play these issues don’t exist. It knows what it is, and that is the equivalent of a really frantic paintball match. There really isn’t much to say except that it’s almost identical to Call of Duty 4 – only with different maps, different weapons and the same experience system. So, it’s just as addictive and as satisfying as it ever was, and if you liked Call of Duty 4‘s multiplayer then the chances are that you’ll enjoy this just as much. (I actually prefer it.)

Nazi Zombie mode, on the other hand, I don’t think very much of. While it’s actually become quite popular on home consoles, it just feels a bit too rough around the edges and watered down to be considered anything other than mediocre when compared to the likes of Left 4 Dead – and unfortunately for Treyarch that’s the standard they’ve set themselves up against. It looks like a user-created mod and something hastily bundled in as an extra feature. Others may get something out of it; I was bored after two maps.

Finally, I don’t usually talk exclusively about a game’s graphics or sound unless it bears mentioning – and it most certainly does in this case. When the graphics are set at their highest settings the game looks absolutely gorgeous. Likewise, the sound design is just as good, with the ambient effects and weapons having a real oomph to them.

CoDWaW 2

So, in closing, Call of Duty: World at War is a worthy successor to Call of Duty 4 in a lot of ways. It may not be a revolutionary step forward, but it has successfully brought a couple of new features to the table, and it’s an excellent source of value for any first-person shooter enthusiast.

(1058 words.)

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§ 7 Responses to ‘Call of Duty: World at War’ PC Review

  • Connor says:

    Yeh, I have to agree. I hate the way people are always complaining about Treyarch and the game even though they continue to play it and have great enjoyment, and they will also continue buying the Map Packs, thus adding to Treyarch’s handsome profit.

  • yangchu says:

    When I asked about this on the Steam forums, the answer that came back seemed to be a rather large resentment over the number of bugs and glitches left in at launch. Playing the game almost a year on I have, luckily, managed to avoid these issues. Perhaps if I’d reviewed the game at launch I’d have a different perspective.

  • Connor says:

    Yes at the start it was full of glitches and bugs like the levating glitch on many maps, but now I think most or nearly all have these have been fixed over a few updates.

  • littlelessvague says:

    Great review. I’m not an avid gamer, I only played World at War half way through on PC before I got bored…I found it quite repetitive. Whilst I did enjoy the American and Russian perspectives of WW2 (or at least through the eyes of Treyarch), I got slightly bored of the attack, take cover, attack nature of all the campaigns, and I have heard that more avid (and good) gamers have felt the same way (namely my friends and family). I did eventually complete it a few months later on Xbox 360 though, but more out of boredom than anything else. I thought the American storyline was more interesting than the Russian storyline. I was quite disappointed when Jack Bauer (yes, you read correctly) was killed and the exploding of the buildings around me whilst I was fighting was pretty intense. I was bored with the Russian storyline, as I felt a lot of the monumental moments were extremely unoriginal. Especially the introduction to the campaign, I found was slightly reminiscent of “Behind Enemy Lines” (movie), which I was very disappointed with. I was disappointed, after playing CoD4 through four times on PC and never tiring of it, I found it compelling and a delight to play, Treyarch’s World at War was a disappointment, and not very original unlike Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare attempt.

    My dad is a PC gamer, part of a clan apparantly, and he has informed us many a time of the excellent online multiplayer gaming. I’ve only played a few rounds of capture the flag, nazi zombies and free-for-alls with friends, which I quite enjoyed though. I also think you’re spot on with the graphics, especially on PC.

  • yangchu says:

    Hey, thanks for commenting. I have heard quite a few people say how the campaign in WaW isn’t as good or as original as CoD4’s, and I think they’d be right in saying that. I quite like the attack-cover-attack nature of the gameplay, but I also took a much more rambo-type approach to it all and in that way I took enjoyment from the gameplay. Indeed, you can go in and play the game very methodically, but that’s never really been my style.

    I find it very interesting where you say you prefer the American campaign to the Russian one. I agree that some of the events in the Russian campaign are quite hackneyed (the Behind Enemy Lines bit sticks out very clearly in my mind, too) but there are moral questions raised in that campaign, and there’s also a lot of foreshadowing to the atrocities and war crimes committed by the Russians towards the end of the war.

    I almost wish the whole game could have focused on this aspect of the war – caught between having to fight, making a choice as to whether to be cruel or kind, or both, in order to survive yourself. That would be a difficult game to make, though, and it certainly wouldn’t be Call of Duty anymore. It would take a skilled set of developers to be able to make that game and it not to end up insulting those who suffered during the conflict.

  • Great review, a very good read!

    I’ve got both Modern Warfare and World at War and to be honest I probably couldn’t decide between the two of them. I prefer to play them both on the PC as I enjoy using the mouse and keyboard option (I’m more accurate that way) but I believe World at War is every bit as equal as its predecessor. CoD WWII games never got to have the chance to play like Modern Warfare until World at War came out and they gave it a damn good go! The zombie mode is fantastic and has so much atmosphere it can rival any online experience!

  • […] – and I hate to buck a trend. I’m quite looking forward to playing the game, given that I was a fan of Treyarch’s last title in the Call of Duty franchise, World at War. Never really understood the absurd amount of disdain […]

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