Call of Duty: World at War was a game that, even after Modern Warfare 2 blew my mind, I had no interest in going back for. It had two major hurdles: it was a World War II shooter and it was made by Treyarch, whom I’ve been lead to believe made the “not-so-good” Call of Duty games.
Well, I decided to give World at War a shot when I saw it on sale at a price I couldn’t refuse. Did it earn a Purple Heart, or make me wish I was killed in action? After finishing the solo campaign, I would say a little from column A, a little from column B.
Lets start on a positive note. Since this game runs off of the Modern Warfare engine, it looks great. The environments are very detailed and some of the set-pieces are very well done, especially towards the end of the game. It controls exactly how you would expect it to, which was great for me. The only adjustment for me was getting used to the World War II era guns, but once I got the hang of iron-sights I was fine. Unlike Modern Warfare 2 though, it does have a few frame-rate issues, particularly when you’re using the flamethrower. It’s a fun weapon to use, but like pretty much every other video game with a flamethrower, the frame-rate does dip a bit. It’s never unplayable, but clearly noticeable.
The battles are fought in two different fronts. You play as an American soldier for half the game, facing off against the Japanese while the other half of the game puts you in the role of a Russian soldier fighting the Germans. Both of these conflicts take place at the end of World War II. I really liked how the Japanese fought, as their style is very different from anything I’ve encountered in a shooter. Their unique tactics include hiding in the grass, sniping from trees and just going kamikaze on you by running straight at you to stab you.
The story is…well, it’s World War II. Not too much room for deviation there. It has its exciting moments, but it never captured my imagination like Modern Warfare 2 did. You never get attached to any of your characters in this game. All I knew was I was either American or Russian, and my goal was to run around and shoot dudes.
I have yet to try co-op, Nazi Zombies or online multiplayer, so I will hold my judgment on those parts at a later date.
Now here’s where these impressions take a turn for the worst. At the start, I thought this game played really well. But as I progressed, it really started to show some warts, some of which would have made me quit any other game if I wasn’t so close to the end (which doesn’t take long, because this campaign is crazy short).
Even though the game is really short, I couldn’t shake the sense that I was doing the same thing repeatedly. Outside of the vehicle-based missions, everything on foot boiled down to getting to an area, stop to shoot dudes, and get to the next area. The scope of the game is very narrow and the game forces you down what feels like a tight tunnel. To make matters worse, most of these battles feature infinite spawning soldiers. I hate that. It totally breaks the experience to see wave after wave of guys magically spawning from the same hallway.
Therefore, in cases where the logical thing to do is shoot guys until they’re gone, you’re then forced to constantly press forward in order to trigger the next checkpoint or sequence of events. Oftentimes, you will have to do this with a ton of enemies shooting at you, and odds are you will die, a lot. Unfortunately, it’s either you make a break for it, or the game never ends.
Speaking of dying a lot, I died way more in this game than I did in Modern Warfare 2. Not to say that this is necessarily a harder game, but I felt that a majority of the time I died was due to cheap deaths. In particular, roughly 80% of my deaths came from grenades, which I don’t remember ever dying from in Modern Warfare 2. There are a number of reasons for this happening. For one, the enemies throw a ton of grenades. Two, 98% of the time a grenade was thrown, I never heard the grenade hitting the floor noise. Three, that indicator can be really hard to see when you’re just within range of the grenade. Four, even when you see the indicator and you run out of the way to the point that the indicator is gone (which is supposed to mean you’re safe), you can still die. Five, the computer will throw grenades at you during the absolute worst times. In the second last mission, I repeatedly died, because the computer would place a grenade directly in front of me as I was running away from explosives I had just planted. I had nowhere to go but kaboom.
The excess of grenade deaths was a constant annoyance throughout my time playing this game. However, the three moments that really put a damper on the fun happened because of poor game design and scripting issues.
The first happened early on in the game, where the emphasis was on sniping. At one point, I was on a balcony with someone else and he told me to provide support for the guys below. I stood beside him and shot dudes for 20 minutes, eventually realizing that this would go on forever until I did something specific. What the game didn’t make clear, is that I wasn’t supposed to snipe with my partner. I was supposed to run into the room beside us, man the turret, and shoot all of the other snipers, some of which I couldn’t see from by standing beside my partner.
This second one is a two-part moment. In the same sniper level, it is totally possible for you to be forced to make a long distance shot without any bullets in any of your guns. I wasted all but three sniper bullets and the auto-save carries over the number of bullets you have left. If I didn’t make that shot in three bullets, I would have been screwed and had to restart. I wasn’t as fortunate later on, when the game required me to use a special type of explosive to blow up three bunkers. By accident, I wasted one explosive, which left me with two explosives for three bunkers. I blew up the first two, and died as I approached the third. Unfortunately, auto-save carried over my lack of explosives. With no other means of blowing up the bunker that worked, I was literally screwed out of beating the level, which meant I would have to restart.
The final moment really set me off. It was the second last level, and the game had told me to enter this building. I had died dozens of times due to intense enemy fire and an insane number of cheap grenade kills. I finally make it to the front of the building, and fought wave after wave of Nazi soldiers holding their ground. After 20 minutes, they stopped spawning. The problem is, the game didn’t remove any of the barriers preventing me from actually entering the building. I wandered everywhere to no avail. After consulting with a YouTube video, I saw that a column of the building was supposed to collapse, which would open up the path. That never happened. I was forced to restart the level in order for this event to trigger properly. After another 25 minutes of fighting through that level, I finally got the column to collapse. Excited, I was right at the front with the guy holding the flag moving forward. What I didn’t know was that a guy with a flamethrower was scripted to spawn right there and burn the flag guy. I burned with him.
This roughly 90-minute ordeal has disgusted me to the point where I don’t ever want to play this campaign again. I may try it co-op with my brother, but there’s no way I’m ever going through that alone again.
Objectively speaking, Call of Duty: World at War hits most of the right buttons. However, it’s definitely not the apex of the series, and if you run into the same issues I did (I may be in the minority with those), then prepare for an experience that while short, can feel excruciatingly long due to cheap deaths, poor game design and broken scripting in spots.