The Call of Duty series started in October of 2003 as an answer to EA's Medal of Honor series. Medal of Honor came into the industry and showed how the greatest war of the 20th century can be done in a video game. CoD ramped up the action in the battleground and told the story of soldiers that were in the US, British, and Russian armies. The franchise started off well but quickly became just another WWII game up until CoD4. The developer of CoD4, Infinity Ward, brought the series into the present updating weapons and locations. They also created a multiplayer that took online fun to a new level. This made CoD4 the biggest game of 2007 even surpassing Halo 3. So with Call of Duty: World at War, it only made sense for the series to go back to WWII right? Oh wait, that doesn't make any sense at all.
Once again, you control a solder in the US and Russian armies. For the US, you control a marine that is a part of the Pacific theater which is a change from the typical storming the beaches of Normandy action. On the Russian side, you're a part of the Russian counter-attack that makes its way to Berlin. While the soldier you control is the common muted hero, the narration of the game is done by the soldier's superior officer. On the US side, the Marines are combating an army, the Japanese, using tactics never seen before in a war. The Russian story excels in revenge for the lives that the German army took when they marched into Russia. This fresh approach keeps the story exciting and thrilling rivaling any film Hollywood can create.
The gameplay for CoD: WaW is the same as the previous CoD games. You have your weapon and you shoot at the bad guys. What the CoD series started in CoD4 was the use of the gun's sights. Why they did this, I don't know. Maybe to add a realistic feel to it, but all this has done is slow down the game. Yet with the success of CoD4, all the sudden this annoying mechanic has become almost a standard for FPS games.
Of course with the game taking place during WWII, the weapons are accurate depiction of the weapons used at those times by those armies. Each army has their sniper rifle, machine gun, small machine gun, handgun, shotgun and so on. These guns also share the same mechanic of its real counterpart, and this is reminder of why I grow tired of WWII games. Yeah weapons back then weren't easy to reload or all automatic weapons, but it's no fun having so many guns that take forever to reload. The flamethrower and bayonets make their first appearance in a CoD game but they only improve the variety of weapons by just a little.
Each level has an overall objective explained by your superior officer. To complete that overall objective, there are small objective that has to be done. In most cases, you're part of a squad that's trying to complete this main objective but this leads to another part of the game that has been used to death. That is the developers creating a faux army that seemingly backs you up. They're not there to back you up. The army is there as background action that just so happens to be played out in the foreground. Your squad will only kill certain enemy soldiers and they will die no matter what you do. So why bother having them there? In some cases, solder will actually block your retreat from areas because they're designed to follow you in. While the idea of the superhero solider has been mocked for being unrealistic, having a squad that does nothing but get in your way only killing certain enemy soldiers is just as unrealistic.
To say that the multiplayer of CoD4 and CoD: WaW is similar is an understatement. They're almost exactly the same. For those that haven't played the CoD4 multiplayer, you are in for a treat. You start off as a level 1 solider and by killing your opponents, assisting your team, completing objectives and of course, winning the match, you're given experience points. That's right, it's like a RPG. When you level up, you get access to more weapons, accessories for those weapons and additional "perks". Perks provide added bonuses or give you new abilities allowing you to form you character in whatever way you see fit. It's these additions to the standard FPS multiplayer that made CoD4 the most played game online last year and most of this year.
As for the difference between CoD4 and CoD: WaW, there's very few. The weapons are the big downer with so many crappy choices to choose from. Early on, you will be at a huge disadvantage since your choice of weapons will be limited for awhile. Another downer is the addition of vehicles. Time and time again, gamers have founds vehicles to be less than attractive in multiplayer games because they offer an advantage to whoever gets on them first. CoD: WaW is no exception as the tanks used on certain maps can be an advantage to whichever team has it. On the other hand, a nice addition is the change of locals meaning a change of maps. Treyarch, the developers, make great use of the new locations within the game to create great looking maps that offer a lot of hiding spots to take down your opponents. There's also been a small change to perks and accessories that can be earned while leveling up, in order to keep with the WWII period. Most notably, when on a kill streak, instead of having a helicopter come to your aid like CoD4, you will instead release a group of dogs that will take down enemies around the map for a period of time. This does make me wonder because aside from the Germans, did any army make use of dogs? Scratch that, did the Germans even make use of dogs in the war?
Online multiplayer is not the only mode to make you want to play the game again and again. While the story mode is only a good 7-10 hours, there is an incentive to play through again. Not just all the Xbox achievements but there are also the Death Cards. These cards are hidden throughout the levels and give you access to cheats for single player and co-op mode. Co-op lets four players play the story mode with a lot more enemies to take down. Once you beat story mode, there's another mode unlocked: Nacht der Untoten aka Night of the Undead aka Nazi Zombies. Along the same lines as the zombie minigame of Saints Row 2, this mode is strictly for zombie killing fun. One to four players take on wave after wave of Nazi Zombies with only one goal: SURVIVE. While the killing of tons of zombies has become a bit of a fad for the 2008 holiday season (Left 4Dead, Saints Row 2), it doesn't mean that's it not fun. It's a welcome diversion from the story mode and multiplayer.
It never fails that a CoD game has such an amazing presentation. It has been the bread and butter of the franchise trying to encompass as much of the battleground action as possible. Every detail from the soldier's uniforms to the enemy bunkers has such a great look to them. The lighting of the game is really impressive. One point in particular made me pause a second when I was sniping into a building and saw a perfect shadow come up the stairs and just by the size of the shadow, I could tell where that solider was and how far away he was from the light. It doesn't stop there. The action is the background is not just beautiful to look at but there's a lot of it. Whether it's a building being bombed or fighter jets coming down like a rain of fire, you'll sometimes forget that the important action is right in front of you rather than everything else going on.
Along with the graphics that push the system to its limits, CoD: WaW keep the tradition of excellent voice acting, realistic sound effects, and an epic score. You would typically think that an ensemble cast of great actors make a compelling voice acting team. In this case, it's not a team of actors, just two of them, but these two are some of the finest actors around. Keifer Sutherland plays the superior officer for the US Marines and will narrate the US side of the campaign while Gary Oldman voices the officer for the Russian side. While Sutherland's character is leading the fight in a rough voice a la 24's Jack Bauer, Oldman, on the other hand, is incredible as a charismatic leader providing inspiring speeches for the Russians.
To keep the war experience as real as possible, Treyarch makes sure that you hear everything that would be heard in an actual war zone. From the realistic gun sounds to bombs in the distance to even the sounds of jets flying across the sky, it's all designed to provide the best war experience possible. Like any true WWII epic, there's an epic score to go along with it and CoD: WaW is no slouch. Composed by Sean Murray, CoD: WaW's music supplies that little extra emotion into the mix.
When all is said and done, is this game worth the $60? To me, no it's not. CoD: WaW has too much in common with CoD4 and it returned to a tired genre. The WWII shooter is played out and it's time for developers to stop using it like a crutch. Gamers have seen ever facet of WWII and we are tired of it. Don't get me wrong, the game is great but I can't highly recommend this game because it plays like CoD4 and is a WWII shooter. It is simply an inferior version of CoD4 and should not have the price tag of $60. Instead, it should be only $30, the typical price for a mod of a game.