Having not played CoD4's single-player campaign since we were done with it towards the end of last year, it's easy to forget just how great it looked, and still looks - even compared to this year's top titles. The fact that Treyarch has managed to create a game that easily looks on par with CoD4 and on occasion exceeds it is a brilliant achievement. The amount of effects in each scene (this engine still produces some of the best smoke effects around) and the sheer number of things going on really needs to be seen to be believed at times. The aforementioned flame thrower looks incredible, and the ignited buildings and grass look pretty great too. Like with recent Xbox 360 exclusive Gears of War 2, we found ourselves looking around at the hugely detailed environments instead of moving through the game - something that's pretty dangerous considering how nifty enemies are with rifles.
Treyarch's audio department deserves some credit too, for what is at times a rousing musical score that fits the relentless action to a tee. A lot has been made about the A-list Hollywood voice acting, in the shape of Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman, and they perform exceedingly well. We're not entirely sure Oldman was needed to voice a Russian (if you didn't know you'd have no idea it was him), but it's nice to have him in all the same.
For the first time in the Call of Duty series you're able to play cooperatively with up to three other players, either online or via system link - or with just a single friend via split-screen. Rather than up the difficulty through rather cheap means (improved enemy accuracy or less health for your character) you'll face more enemies as the players in your group increases. This makes for some of the most spectacular and thrilling fire-fights we've seen, and yet somehow manages to make a few of the more frustrating parts easier. With four players you can manage battles, with someone focussing on the enemies manning the more devastating weapons, while the rest mop up the enemies causing trouble in the foreground. Add in a scoring system that introduces a competitive element to co-op play (and goes towards your overall multiplayer XP) and you've got a game that is easily on par with the best co-op games on the market - the unlockable death cards that modify the experience and the secret Nazi Zombies mode are the icing on the cake.
Co-op is just one aspect to World at War's multiplayer offering, with a full competitive mode hoping to pick up where CoD4 left off. To say multiplayer in World at War feels similar to CoD4 is perhaps the understatement of the year. We reckon it's a tad slower paced and of course the weapons are different, but you've got what is essentially the same system as in Infinity Ward's game, perks and challenges included. The one big difference is the inclusion of vehicles in multiplayer matches. We're not sold on this, with the core CoD gameplay in our opinion not really suiting the mega power that a tank brings to the table. Still, it's there if you want it. Whether or not you'll enjoy World at War's multiplayer isn't something we can say for sure. If you've grown accustomed to CoD4's modern arsenal World at War may come as a culture shock, but if you've been waiting for the next great online WWII shooter, this is it.
The weight of expectation on Treyarch's shoulders must have been immense. Having seen CoD4 release to near unanimous praise and incredible sales, there must have been a few worried people inside the studio. The WWII shooter suddenly became incredibly dated, yet Treyarch was a year into development. Whether the sheer number of doubters spurred the team on or the extra development time just allowed them to make the game they were truly capable of doesn't matter. What matters is that Call of Duty World at War is a stunning game that doesn't miss a beat from start to finish and includes one of the most feature packed multiplayer components of any game released this year.