Gamers aren't a very open minded bunch it seems. From the moment Activision announced that Treyarch, the development studio behind Call of Duty 3, was working on Call of Duty: World at War the game couldn't get a break. Whatever the press saw and reported on in a positive light was spun so much it seemed as though the game was going to fail no matter what. Gamers had spoken (at least those that post on internet forums) and they wanted Infinity Ward or nothing. Thankfully Treyarch clearly felt it had something to prove, with CoD: World at War managing to escape from CoD4's shadow and dazzle us with the most action packed and intense WWII shooter to date.
The move back to WWII after the stunning CoD4: Modern Combat disappointed a lot of fans. Many thought the series was taking a step backwards, and you might think you've had enough of the World War II genre, but give it a chance to show you what it's got and World at War will convince you otherwise. With two concurrent campaigns (one with you fighting for the Russians against the Nazis and another with you as a US soldier fighting against the Japanese) as action packed as this you'll barely have time to blink, let alone breathe. Over the course of a non-stop six-hour game (longer if you play on one of the harder difficulty settings) you'll trawl through swamps, struggle to stay alive during a night-time beach-side attack, burn the enemy in huge open fields, gun down attack boats while high above the ocean in the gunner seat of a plane, crawl through a burning building, and pick off enemies one by one in a dimly lit railway station.
Early critics of World at War labelled it CoD4 with a WWII skin, and in truth that's not far wrong, but it shouldn't be seen as a negative. If you've played CoD4, or any CoD made for current platforms for that matter, you'll know what to expect. In the console games you've got a handy auto-aim when looking down your sight, grenades are mapped to the shoulder buttons, you can pick up and return grenades thrown at you, your health returns over time, enemies frequently re-spawn until you reach a certain point in a level (yes, this still happens), there are the token vehicle levels and there's a seemingly endless number of amazing set pieces. People, understandably, have different opinions on Call of Duty's incredibly linear, heavily scripted gameplay, but when it's in a package this slick it's hard not to enjoy the ride.
'The flame thrower has to rank as one of the best weapons we've used in an FPS and is easily the most satisfying to use in World at War.'
Although similar to other WWII games you'll have played, World at War includes a number of ideas that make this a different experience. The first is the Japanese soldiers and their unique fighting style. When playing as the US you'll come across Japanese soldiers hiding in trees and in long grass, camouflaged or in small hiding holes, or charging straight at you with a bayonet aimed right at your gut. To counter this you get to use the game's second great new feature: the flame thrower. This has to rank as one of the best weapons we've used in an FPS and is easily the most satisfying to use in World at War. The way it flows out of the gun and spreads across grass and through bunkers is a real sight to behold, and almost worth the asking price alone.
It would be easy to give CoD4 creator Infinity Ward all the credit, seeing as it made the engine, perfected the gameplay and essentially made the template for Treyarch to follow, but Treyarch still had to build a fun and exciting game that had some ideas of its own - the fact that Activision could have slapped Infinity Ward on the opening splash screen and no one would have battered an eyelid speaks volumes for the work that's been done here. Yes, it's more of the same, but it's still one of the most thrilling first-person shooters ever released and would have been worthy of the name Call of Duty 5, had it been called that.