After taking a spin in the modern era, Activision’s wildly successful Call of Duty series heads back to 1945 in Call of Duty 5: World at War (COD5). The game is an FPS set at the end of World War II which offers an unrestricted experience of war at its worst, featuring harrowingly realistic game play and intense campaigns.
The single-player campaign divides the game time between American and Russian forces, each making their last push at concluding WWII on the infamous Pacific Island and Berlin fronts against the Japanese and German armies respectively.
In a similar fashion to its predecessor Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the story tracks and weaves between the perspectives of two separate soldiers trying to fight their way back home, each of whom ultimately face several personal and tactical challenges throughout the campaign.
Interestingly enough the American character, Sgt Miller, is voiced by 24 actor Keifer Sutherland (who doesn’t hold back on the dirty language throughout the game) while his Russian equivalent Private Dimitri Petrenko finds his beginnings in a scene reminiscent of something from Enemy at the Gates which adds a bit of a Hollywood shine to the game.
The campaigns offer wide open first person shooter opportunities as numerous as they are relentless, where the player is expected to mow down legion upon legion of Japanese/Nazi “cannon fodder” using several different weapons. Ranging from the more predictable WWII rifles and automatic machine guns to new additions such as the flame thrower and devastating air strikes, there is no shortage of variation when it comes to available weaponry.
On the American front the COD5 team has chosen to highlight the suicidal “Banzai” technique of 1940’s Japanese infantry which adds a level of unpredictability and excitement which might have been lacking in previous versions of the game. The frequent usage of the Melee attack in these instances certainly offers a new dynamic to the game.
World at War makes use of the same graphics engine as its predecessor, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and offers a thoroughly breathtaking visual depiction of WWII. The excitement generated by burning out a nest of Japanese infantry or cleaning out the few soldiers still left in the infamous Reichstach is magnified by highly detailed and brilliantly rendered visuals. HDTV owners are in for a treat, as the Xbox 360 installment offers crisply rendered and vivid visuals in fluid 720p.
When comparing the PS3 version to the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s machine edges ahead with slightly crisper visuals and more consistent frame-rates. The PC version looks and runs the best with the right gear. An Nvidia 8800GT, dual-core CPU with 2GB of memory will render the game beautifully at medium to high settings on resolutions up to 1680×1050.
Unfortunately the entire experience tends to go on a bit, leaving the player feeling as though they have seen it all before. With most of the missions resembling the roller coaster ride style game play we have come to expect from action FPSs, it feels like developer Treyarch skimped a bit in terms of variety.
There could have been more of the varied mission types that the Call of Duty brand has become so well known for, and that buyers have come to expect. Admittedly, driving a tank and manning a B52’s gun turret is an awesome experience, but sadly, apart from these two cases, the game limits the action to hour upon hour of faceless Nazi infantry “fodder waves”.
The real value in Call of Duty 5: World at War will undoubtedly be found in the multi-player arena. With several fully customisable multi-vehicle and multi-party maps and the well trusted Call of Duty name in terms of online play, gamers are likely to find hours of interesting game play and variety that is so sorely lacking in campaign mode.
Overall, Call of Duty: World at War is an exciting and entertaining experience. It manages to pull off a solid, if repetitive, single player experience and makes for a much needed decent WWII multiplayer experience.