Call of Duty: World at War is not your standard first person WWII game.  Each one has improved over the years along with the improvement in the hardware the game is played on, but one after the other is pretty much the same.  1940’s music, overly dramatic voice overs, impossible situations where you nearly win the war singlehandedly, more ammunition than you can shake a stick at and medals, medals, medals.

 

Call of Duty: World at War is none of that.  The graphics and gameplay have gone through the roof with current video game hardware, and Kieffer Sutherland’s gravelly voice yelling at you through game play (and rumors of Gary Oldman as a Russian Sergeant) keep you loosely advised of what is going on around you and what you need to do.  But since this is just the start of my review, I’ll just say my first impression, five minutes into the game. “Wii owners need to go buy a copy of this game.”

I’m not a poet, so my descriptions of this amazing release are not quite up to the work the developers put into the game.  Ragdoll effects from falling/dying soldiers appear to be more realistic than past games, where bodies suddenly would turn into marionettes flung across a room.  Bodies will crumple straight to the ground, they will be thrown a short distance by an explosion, high powered weapons will knock them back a distance even when they are running toward you.  Fields and environments are painstakingly rendered.  I didn’t see the same hunk of steel I-beams welded together every five feet or the same ten foot section of bamboo fence over and over and over.  The developers again put untold hours into creating a unique, detailed battlefield for this game.

 

One error here in graphics is the reloading of a Mosin-Nagant 1891-30 that the Russian soldiers carried. Developers show the Russian soldiers carrying the correct ammunition pouch, but relaoding the rifle one round at a time.  True, spare ammunition can be put in this rifle this way, but the pouches were designed to carry five round stripper clips of ammuntion, and if all the other rifles are animated to be reloaded correctly, why not this rifle?  A small complaint in otherwise superb graphics and animation.

 

Another thought?  I have seen people in real life try to load a magazine backwards, drop bullets, drop firearms, all manner of mistakes.  Not just range novices, but police, soldiers, competition target shooters.  Are we ever going to see this level of realism in a game? what about a .1-1% programming chance that will make your weapon jam while loading, user error in loading, et cetera? Arisakas were not reliable weapons.  Mosin-Nagant’s bolts get sticky and hard to work after 100-150 rounds.

 

All around Treyarch has pulled off an amazing feat using the Call of Duty 4 engine so effectively on the Wii hardware.

Music levels were appropriate.  I usually just turn off the music in a lot of games when i play them for myself, enjoying the effects and voice dialogue more than whatever sweeping score is recorded for the game.  Every now and then, I find a game where the music levels are to my liking, serving only to add a little spice or accent in the game. Leaving your actions and the graphics to move along the story and create the drama and tension.  Between sections of gameplay, we are educated and treated with historical footage from World War II relevant to what is taking place in the game or about to be played through.

 
I rated the sound/music section here a little lower, because while the developers took huge lengths for great voice acting and various sound effects, I was disappointed in a few of the weapons that appeared in the game.The oh-so-familiar “ping” of that last round from an M1 Garand, the steady “burp-burp-burp” of a German MP-40, even the canvas-tearing sound of German machine guns and the angry woodpecker-like Japanse machine guns, but when you pick up the revered Thompson machine gun, what do those fat .45 caliber bullets sound like? I don’t know. Even though I haven’t fired a Thompson, I have extensively shot a .45 handgun, and I believe this sound is off. Again, only one complaint drowned out by stunning achievements in sounds.

I don’t think the controls for this type of game could get much better.  I tried playing the game both with the Wiimote and Nunchuk loose, and I tried playing it the Wii Zapper.  Both worked pretty well and as “realistic” as aiming a four foot long rifle with an eight inch Wiimote could be.  The controls were delightfully sensitive, making for painstaking sniper shots to feel like you were actually working the rifle, and the Nunchuk provides a great interface for moving around in the environment.  Navigating through menus at the start of the game is easily done with the point-and-click interface with the Wiimote.

Gameplay is smooth and steady.  Mr. Sutherland is extremely impatient as your sergeant, yelling at you when you don’t understand his brief instructions (he and I did not get along.  I’m sure between the scenes, while historical films were playing, he was giving me one serious Code Red), and the possible Mr. Oldman is patient, fatherly and far more of a coach and guardian.  The fog of war is very well rendered in here, with nasty surprises for the game player who doesn’t pay attention to detail or thinks that “cover” and “concealment”  are still the same thing in this rendering.  The first time I was killed in-game by enemy fire through a wall, I thought it was a programming fluke, until shortly afterward, I killed an enemy soldier through a similar wall.  I then spent the next hour or two of game play constantly wondering when an enemy soldier would figure out where I was and simply spray a building with hundreds of bullets to kill me.

 

Ammunition capacity is realistic.  Grenades, guns and bullets are heavy, and a soldier carrying twenty-five grenades, two rifles and 3,000 rounds of ammunition will be staggering off that delivery vehicle, shot and dead in about four feet.  So what happens when you blow off all ten of your clips from your Garand?  Reach over to the dead soldier next to you, enemy or friendly, and pick up his weapon.  Don’t like it? Somewhere nearby you, there will be another dead soldier carrying a different weapon.  You can literally change weapons every time you come across a dead soldier, or if he is carrying the same weapon as you, you pick up a few more rounds.  Nice realism touch here; you don’t pick up the same amount of ammo each time, but an amount that seems realistic to what you would grab running past a corpse in the middle of combat.

 

Enemy AI just continues to get so much better.  Storm a trench, get attacked by three enemy soldiers on that first right turn, then get blown up by a grenade.  Re-storm the trench, and only two will come at you, while the third is waiting a little further down.  The campaign gameplay is excellent.  I can’t say enough. Just go buy the game.

 

Earlier, when said Wii owners should buy the game I came to that conclusion within minutes of playing Multiplayer.  Computer AI will only learn so much, but real people playing will do devious things that my little Wii brain won’t even try.

 

Treyarch included an advancement system to unlocking better weapons, equipment and the like that isn’t so rapid that within two hours of gameplay you have access to the armories of the world, but doesn’t take so long that after a week of gameplay, you are halfway there to unlocking that scope!  Your advancement in multiplayer comes directly from your level of involvement and style of gameplay.  Winning a deathmatch with your team nets you a bonus, assisting in a kill gets you some points, completing the kill entirely on your own gets the most points.  Players get moved from team to team, so no one team can simply dominate and crush another, and players also have the option to vote to skip a map.

 

My only complaint on Multiplayer is when I would put a whole magazine of .45 bullets into a charging player, only to have him run right over me and kill me with one shot of a knife.  Yes, people have been shot dozens of times and survived, but if the in game character can take that many bullets, why does a single knife wound kill me instantly? Hmmm….

 
There is high replay value here.  The single player game itself will only go so far.  Improved AI can only make a level infinately replayable, enjoyable graphics and sound effects can only entertain you to a point.  Where does the replay value come in?  Multiplayer. I really enjoy any multiplayer game where I can work with friends or people I just ran into online, and the Multiplayer function here provides hours and hours of replay time.

I can find fault with anything.  It’s easy to tear someone’s work apart, be it dinner, yardwork, game creation or public speaking.  However, Call of Duty: World at War had so little to point out that was wrong, it seemed like I was trying to write a sales pitch for the game.

 

Advice for parents: the rating on this game is NOT simply because it is a war game.  The introduction film shows real historical footage of soldiers being executed, and what I suspected was footage of people being buried alive.  Kieffer Sutherland’s character swears exactly like you would expect a Marine to swear in combat.  This game has definitely earned it’s Mature rating, but do not let that deter you from buying the game for that reason only.  Call of Duty: World at War is a painstakingly well rendered, well written, well acted game that can provide hours of solid entertainment, but purchasers should be aware of who will play it and who will be in the room while it is being played.

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