Call of Duty: World at War

Call of Duty: World at War Preview for PS3

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9Out of 10
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World at War might not be Infinity Ward but Treyarch seems to be doing a great job
World at War might not be Infinity Ward but Treyarch seems to be doing a great job

World at War might not be Infinity Ward but Treyarch seems to be doing a great job

Treyarch is under more pressure than any other developer right now. The phenomenal success of Modern Warfare has taken the Call of Duty series, as well as the entire FPS genre, to another level. World at War now has to cope with not only meeting the lofty expectations of fans, but exceeding them. Not only that, but the developer has a job on winning over a sceptical fan base, many of whom have bemoaned the return to a WWII setting and lament the fact that it's not being made by Infinity Ward. And people say the Prime Minister's job is a tough one at the moment.

Of course it's unfair to say that World at War is simply CoD4 in a WWII skin, but at times it does feel like that. It's built using Infinity Ward's incredible Modern Warfare engine, and so has an unavoidable familiarity. Left trigger to zoom, right trigger to fire, click the right thumb stick to melee, click the left thumb stick to sprint - it's all in there. There's a perk system that works in much the same way (one of our favourite new perks sees a pack savage dogs hilariously descend on your enemies) and those familiar and satisfying yellow points pop up above your victim's head, too. Yes, the weapons are different - they're less powerful and you won't find any laser dots, no matter how high you climb the level cap (this is World War II baby, it just wouldn't make sense) - and there's some tank driving and shooting, but for all intents and purposes, World at War is Modern Warfare minus about 70 years.

So, why bother then? For us the game is exciting because of the hugely entertaining four-player campaign co-op (four-player online, or two-player local split-screen), a game mode that we're sure will convince Modern Combat veterans to put down their air strikes and pick up a flame thrower, even if it's just for a week. Here there are two options - normal play and competitive scoring mode, which adds a dash of competitiveness to proceedings. At a recent preview event in London we got together with three other game journalists to blast our way through Blowtorch & Corkscrew, a level senior producer Noah Heller (expect an interview with Noah next week) described as one of the hardest levels World at War has to offer. And so it proved.

The level is so named because of the real world tactics Allied troops used against the Japanese in World War II. They would burn the long Okinawa grass with flame throwers inch by inch, weeding out the Japanese troops hidden underneath traps and in trees. It was a painstakingly slow process, but one that had to be employed, if you didn't want to be surprised by a bayonet to the face.

'With four of us hammering our way through the level, the game threw as many bad guys as it could handle.'

Impressively, this is actually how the level plays out. We began with player one (player one is always Private Miller of the US Army, the rest assuming the roles of other non story-based soldiers) taking hold of the flame thrower and torching the grass as we inched towards our target - Wana Ridge. Soon enough, camouflaged Japanese troops popped out of the ground, screaming Japanese battle cries as they head straight for us. Things got very busy very quickly - more Japanese troops flanked us from a hill to the east and soon enough we were taking heavy damage, red markers showing where the hits are coming from. For us it was a scramble for cover, but for player one it was a different story. Spraying everything that moved with pyro death, he sat back and watched the yellow bonus score multipliers pop up all over his screen. The weapon made him feel invincible, he told us. We'd say the flame thrower might be a bit overpowered, but then we were covering his ass from a distance. Without that kind of support you're going to get chewed up by the Japanese horde in the blink of an eye, because of the weapon's short range. This, as they say, is proper team work.

One of the big questions we had going into the four player co-op was what kind of challenge the game would present four decent shooter players. This was something we felt Halo 3 suffered from - even on Legendary difficulty four players are able to breeze through most of the game. Treyarch's answer is to increase the number of soldiers you'll face, rather than change the hit points or accuracy of individual AI. At times during Blowtorch & Corkscrew it felt as if hundreds of Japanese descended on our position. With four of us hammering our way through the level, the game threw as many bad guys as it could handle. And, despite the fact that we were playing an unfinished build of the game, we didn't notice any slowdown, which is great news from a technical standpoint.

After dealing with the initial wave of Japanese, the next objective was to sort out an MG holed up in a bunker on a raised bit of land. He was protected by what felt like an army of troops, which is great for campaign scoring potential point of view but not so great from a staying alive point of view. It was here, under heavy fire from the MG, that we experienced World at War's revive system. When you take enough damage the screen will go black and white and you'll be forced to sit down and take pot shots with your pistol. If left alone long enough you'll bleed to death and fail the mission for everybody (an embarrassing feeling to be sure). That is unless one of your buddies comes along and revives you by jabbing you with a magical syringe, triggered by holding down X on the 360 pad (the version tested) for about two seconds. The great thing about this is that you're motivated to stop killing bad guys and revive your buddies. One, everyone needs to stay alive to prevent a fail and a reload from the last checkpoint. And two, if you have the campaign scoring on, reviving gets you 400 points - a hell of a lot in the context of the rest of the game. That the game slaps a big revive arrow on the HUD, pointing you in the direction of your bleeding mate, makes it all the easier to sniff them out and save their ass.

Multiplayer does feel like CoD4 with a WW2 skin, but that's not such a bad thing.

Multiplayer does feel like CoD4 with a WW2 skin, but that's not such a bad thing.

After sorting out the MG (via many revives - thanks guys!) the next objective was to destroy three heavily manned bunkers marked on our mini-map nearby. You might think that without communication we would have separated and spread our attack across the three objectives, but all four of us naturally gravitated to the same bunker at the same time, which is a testament to the quality of the level design. One by one we assaulted them, slowly working our way through the waves of Japanese soldiers, one player using the flame thrower, the others providing support from behind. Kamikaze Japanese soldiers who prefer to charge at you with bayonets than retreat do make you jump, especially when clearing out tunnels built into the hillside. Once the bunkers are cleared, you have to chuck a satchel charge inside (press left on the d-pad to select then press left trigger to throw) and detonate from a safe distance (with the right trigger). With the three bunkers sorted it was on to a final bunker, manned by a number of MGs. Weeding out every bad guy was a slow but intense process, and a dangerous one at that. The fire from the flame thrower damages friendlies as well as enemies, and it's often a difficult job not flaming your co-op buddies by accident (when you shoot a squad mate you get a minus to your score). And the Japanese troops themselves are very well disguised, making it hard to spot them in the tall grass. This isn't something we're complaining about, it's just one of the many reasons why the level is quite hard - and we were only playing it on the regular difficulty level.

It's great fun though, and something World at War can brag about in the battle with Modern Combat for gamers' hearts and minds. The competitive scoring adds a great deal to proceedings, and at the end of each level you'll get a leaderboard which shows who's top dog. Yes Blowtorch & Corkscrew plays out much like a level from Modern Combat, with spectacular scripted elements coupled with intense fire fights, but doing it with three friends is, frankly, better.

With the open beta in full swing the focus is squarely aimed at World at War's multiplayer. But we've got one eye on the campaign co-op too. For us, it's this feature that could convince Treyarch's critics that the developer's got what it takes to surpass the brilliance of Modern Warfare. You heard it here first.

Call of Duty: World at War is due out for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS2 and Nintendo DS on November 14.

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d4nx2y's Avatar
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d4nx2y

I've been playing the mutliplayer beta test game for a week now and I say It's rotten. It's just a WW2 mod add-on and it's rotten. Not much 2 say about it. It's no longer on my Xmas list!
Posted 18:12 on 21 October 2008
Ari's Avatar
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Ari

one more thing the PC version of this game is retarded

the character you make on the computer is saved on the computer

so i just changed some settings on the file and i had an instant 50
then i deleted him and there is no way of getting it back
Posted 18:31 on 19 October 2008
Ari's Avatar
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Ari

this is bull crap Call of Duty did not raise the bar for FPS all FPS are the ****ing same yes i plaayed it its good but its not GODLY its alot of fun like any other fps and im sick and ****ing tired of world war games

The allys win sorry for ruining it
Posted 18:29 on 19 October 2008
Pétur Sveins's Avatar
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Pétur Sveins

From Iceland..I must say that it´s great that it´s looking good so far, but man am i getting tired of fps form this era...WWI or WWII...doesn´t matter...so old and finally a fantastic game, cod4...a shooter not happening far back in time or in distance future...a game we can all relate to:) but hopefully it´s not a step backwards....
PS. Resistance Fall If Man is not in this category, even though it happens during that time period...because the weapons are not acient...and that is what I find most boring about those games
Posted 00:06 on 19 October 2008
Goldstone's Avatar

Goldstone

I just pray its longer than 5 hours gameplay in single player...its its not a lot more than that..I wont be buying it, no matter how good it is. £40-£50 is a lot for just 5 hours of gameplay.

I am sure online play would extend its life by millions of hours...but some of us dont get a chance to play online much so single player is important and I think the developers are actually learning that they can still charge £40-£50 for a game with less in it...because...online play gives the illusion that they have packed loads into it...when they actually have not.

CO4 was amazing...just very short and as good as it was I am not going to spend £40 on a game that for me essentially lasts 5 hours, when other games can last 10 to 30 hours for the same price...its not like COD4 was sandbox..it was still on rails pretty much so it did not take a massive leap to get the game done...therefore somehow excusing it. There was no excuse.

This time I hope they do it justice
Posted 23:27 on 18 October 2008
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Shame on you! lol nah its ok shall look forward to it.

Hmmm the leveling up seems to be a miss and hit really, as of competitive multiplayer is tonnes better getting your rank up hence COD4. But on the hands on, somewhere on there saying that there is more enemies on the screen then singleplayer. It sounds great! So I shall get this when on launched day, I have been sold since the first information about COD5 these are good times... :D
Posted 12:15 on 17 October 2008
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Obsidian

I wasn't to interested in CoD4 campaign it was the multilayer game that had the lasting appeal and this game doesn't seem to be that interesting in that respect...old unsteady weapons that had bad aim and no real upgrades, maybe variety could fill the gap who knows.
Posted 21:46 on 16 October 2008
wyp100's Avatar

wyp100

@ Wido

Yeah, levelling up in campaign co-op crosses over to competitive multiplayer.

And unfortunately we've already asked the developer questions, you can expect the answers early next week. :)
Posted 21:12 on 16 October 2008
Wido's Avatar

Wido

My god! tis the best hands on preview I have read this year from you Wes!

Four player co-op is going to be wicked alongside with the 2 player split screen, as my Dad would like to fry some japanese. If your playing co-op online does that get your rank up as well? (Because that is what it sounds like) It would ruin it I think as of getting your rank and killing the other players is way worth it. Well if there using the Modern Warfare engine then its going to be the best WWII FPS game for decades.

Tell me when your asking questions to the developer! :)
Posted 19:33 on 16 October 2008

Game Stats

Release Date: 14/11/2008
Developer: Treyarch
Publisher: Activision
Genre: First Person Shooter
No. Players: 1-16
Rating: BBFC 15
Site Rank: 6,912 14
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