Back in WWII...

Monday, February 16, 2009
I picked up Call of Duty: World at War the other day. I figured it's gotten decent enough reviews and finally has that co-op I have so craved. I had my doubts about going back to World War II yet again. As fun as it is to play in that setting it's been done to death. Yet, Treyarch have managed to cobble together a pretty decent game that still feels fresh despite re-treading old ground.

It accomplishes this in two ways, first by taking the player to the lesser explored regions of the war, the pacific and eastern theatres. It makes these two regions the focal points of the game and goes places within them that few others have gone. The final mission of the game has you capturing the Reichstag in Berlin with the Red Army. When I saw the first mission on the eastern front opening in Stalin rad I thought I was in for a serious disappointment. When the next soviet mission had me sweeping the Russian countryside for a fleeing column of German soldiers from the back of a T-34, I peed a little.

The locations aren't the only difference in all of this though. Treyarch made their enemies more than mindless bullet sponges. The way they move, the way they're textured and the way they look puts an all too human element into the enemies. Anyone who knows me understands it's hard for me to get too upset about shooting Nazis in a video game. But after playing through some of the later soviet missions I felt ashamed of myself and my morbid fascination with this part of the war.

The Japanese soldiers and their tactics truly scared the crap out of me while I was playing. Walking through what seemed to be an empty field is suddenly filled with enemy soldiers, all of them bearing down on you at full speed. I don't even want to begin talking about those dark claustrophobic tunnels. *shudder*

Treyarch really had it's work cut out for them with World at War. Call of Duty 4 shifted the focus away from WWII and was lauded for it. To suddenly go back to the old formula and still make the average gamer give a damn was no small task. They made a smart move incorporating the Experience system into their multiplayer. It was such a key part of Cal of Duty 4, it would have been disastrous not to.

Kudos to the folks at Treyarch. I didn't think I could ever like another WWII game . I didn't think I'd ever feel guilt over my actions in a shooter. You've proven me wrong on both counts today, and I salute you for it.

More on World at war to come...