Call of Duty 5: World at War is the 5th game in the venerated series of "real war" shooters. Treyarch decided to take a step back in time, back to W.W.II and doing so, abandoned the momentum of the previous COD release. With the current world climate, Treyarch had a real opportunity to place the new COD in diverse modern conflicts. Somolia, Afganistan, Iraq just to name a few. And they could have done this without ever making it look like they were copying COD 4. Obviously, the Modern Warfare genre is huge and I'm afraid Treyarch might have missed the boat this time. Understandably, coming on the heals of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, 2007 Game of the Year, is a tall order to beat, but I don't know that Treyarch really tried. There are some new game play modes, but for the most part, it's COD 4 without the modern conflicts or the modern weapons.
Set in the closing stages of W.W.II on the German and Japanese fronts, you will play as both an American Marine taking Okinawa and a Russian Private, taking Berlin. There is a bit of real history here, mostly played loose and very one-sided. Opening credits, and cut scenes in-between missions give a pale idea of what was really going on there. And I think that is were the game ultimately left me a little cold.
The two characters you play as are for the most part boring and inconsequential. I just didn't care about them or the story and believe me, I really tried. Treyarch tried to up my interest by making the game a more bloody, trying to ramp up the carnage and playing on the vengance of all the sides involved. But because I didn't really care about the characters, the ramped up bloodshed and vengence, didn't sell it to me.
Part of the problem is the W.W.II genre itself has been so played out in the video game world. There are so many W.W.II games, it's really hard for any one game to stand out. The other problem is I can't relate. I wasn't there and neither were any of the kids playing games these days. Which is why I think the modern games are doing so well. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and even the highly anticipated and (IMHO) worst shooter of the year SOCOM: Confrontation, are based in places and a time that we can all relate to. Just turn on the news and you can see footage of the real thing that looks and sounds like the game you are playing. And honestly, after running around shooting M16's, AK47's, G36c's and Baretta 50 Calibur Sniper Rifles, it's really hard to go back to bolt action rifles and Thompson machine guns.
Single player mode includes 15 missions from running and gunning, to tank and airplane mission. Inclusion of a flame thrower for some of the missions was cool at first, but got old real fast. AI in the new game seems to have taken a step backward from COD 4. Meaning they are stupid and unhelpful. Walking past enemies in the big wide open only to get stabbed in the back by said enemy. Don't expect any help killing all those Japanese and German soldiers either, your comrades are lousy shots, leaving much of the work for you.
Invisible "plot lines" are overly apparent here as well, meaning you have to cross an invisible line in the game to move the action along. Because of this, game play can feel jerky and very linear at times, with periods of crazy action and then nothing, until you trigger the next wave of enemy AI. A couple of the missions did stand out though, including "Heart of the Reich" and "Breaking Point." There is a special 16th mission that opens up when you finish the game, but I won't spill too much about that. Lets just say, it's awesome and should be played at night, with all the lights out and the sound up really high. NAZI ZOMBIES!
All the standard game modes established by COD: Modern Warfare are here in online play, including leader boards and challenges. The coolest new addition is Cooperative mode, where you and up to 3 friends can play the single player missions together, and collect XP that helps you level up for your Prestige in Multiplayer mode. Yep, Prestige mode is still here along with perks for weapons and gear.
Online play is solid and there are lots of game modes to choose from. Another new addition although not nearly as cool, is drivable tanks on some of the online maps. Death Cards are scattered around the maps that let you unlock special game modes in single player. Kill perks are back, get 3 kills and call in the UAV, get 5 and call in the Air strike, 7 kills in a row lets you call in the dogs. I felt a little weird about shooting dogs, but after getting killed by them a couple times, I got over it. Menus are easy to figure out and navigate. Controls are intuitive and unchanged from the last game, which is a good thing.
Graphically Call of Duty 5: World at War is really amazing. With video quality up to 1080p and the right TV, it can and does at times look almost real. The maps are beautiful and expansive from the jungles and tunnels of Okinawa, to house to house fighting in Berlin. If you have a surround sound system, I recommend turning it up, way up. Online play has so far been glitch free with all game modes running quite smooth. It seems Activation learned some valuable lessons from COD 4 and watching Slant 6's botched release of SOCOM: Confrontation. From day one this game worked, and for that I commend Activision and Sony. I just wish I could say the same for online play in Little Big Planet, but that is perhaps another review.
Overall, Call of Duty 5: World at War is a solid shooter and if not for the W.W.II theme, could have been the best yet. SIngle player mode felt too linear, a little rehearsed at times and action is a little jerky, but I still wanted to finish every mission. Playing the single player missions with my friends in Co-Op mode, made the game much more enjoyable. If liking and caring about the characters is important to you, the single player story line might not appeal to you. But stick with it till the end, you will be rewarded! Online play is probably the best out there. With lessons being learned by developers with every new release, online gaming is just getting better and better and Call of Duty 5: World at War is an excellent example.
Call of Duty 5: World at War website
Rated Mature 17+
Published on Dec 18, 2008