Call of Duty World at War is the fifth entry into the franchise and takes us back to the WW2 setting after the series very successful romp into the modern setting a year prior. This time around we follow the journey of two soldiers, an American named Miller and a Soviet that goes by the name Dimitri. Each takes part in battles against the Japanese Empire and the Nazis respectively in two very different type of wars. The Americans are taking on the Japanese who use their cunning and ingenuity to wage guerrilla warfare in the dense jungles of Japan. Soviets against the Nazis, on the other hand, starts us off in Stalingrad with all of our comrades’ corpses around us and near dead ourselves, only to later return the favor in a brutal march toward Berlin.
World at War has a very different tone from any other Call of Duty game. They are all serious in their own rights though the brutality and dark tone in store here really help differentiate it from the rest. The first thing we see is an ally tortured to death in front of us and narrowly escaping that situation yourself. It really sets the theme that this is not a war of honor and glory but of survival & revenge. This entry also introduces a gib system that allows limbs or chunks of a foe’s bloody head to come flying off with explosives or a powerful enough gun. Mowing down enemies as they get horribly crippled and often times survive to agonize having their legs blown out from under them is both satisfying and a neat way to remind you that you are not fighting monsters but human beings.
The gunplay is just as great as ever with very few changes to it aside from the gibs. Its most prominent addition is the flamethrower weapon that you can wield in the American campaign to burn both foe and vegetation alike. Burning down trees and the like is fun to do though also necessary since a Japanese soldier could be hiding in it, just waiting for the opportunity to catch you off guard or pop out of a hidden hole in the grass. Fighting the Japanese is a very interesting change of pace for the series as these are foes that know they do not stand a chance in a straight fight and will come up with many ways to kill or weaken you before engaging. They’ll blind you with sudden flashes of light at night, they will play dead, patiently lie in wait until you come near, desperately charge at you with a fixed bayonet and anything to give them the advantage over the Americans.
The Soviet side of things is a stark contrast to the lush, wide open levels of the American troops. These are your more traditional urban battles that feature two comparably strong forces. As previously stated in the beginning you start off with things at their absolute darkness as Nazis commit all sorts of war crimes in Stalingrad. There is no way we can take them on, instead we meet a wounded comrade that suggests you take his sniper rifle and hunt down the Nazi general behind this invasion. That, as you may imagine, is easier said than done when the enemy has essentially completely conquered that area and are very alert. We start off crawling around buildings like rats with little in the way of fighting off the Nazis, but things quickly change when you succeed in your task. The hunters will soon become the hunted in this side of the campaign.
It quickly starts feeling less like a war and more like a slaughter as the Red Army keeps pushing the Nazis back further and further. Our comrade from the first mission is a Sergeant and understandably has a deep hatred for his enemy. He will not allow any mercy upon them or will not take any prisoners. On one occasion he even lets us decide the fate of a few Nazi soldiers that have surrendered, and to no surprise, they will meet their end by either your hand or his. This is one of many memorable moments from the Soviet’s story, and it is easily the star of the show. They did an excellent job in not making you feel like a hero in both sides of the campaign. From mercilessly killing the wounded with the Soviets to setting scores of Japanese on fire as the Americans, there is no glory to be found.
In a few levels, we will not be on foot like usual. Instead, we will either commandeer either a Soviet tank or be a gunner of an American plane. The plane level while cool is essentially a glorified turret section though it does break up the pace of your usual bits. With the Soviet tank, however, you can actually drive the thing and use both your shells & mounted flamethrower to flush out the Nazis. You’ll face many an enemy armored vehicle and must keep an eye out for infantry with RPGs that can actually cause damage. The most damning part of this level is that you are leading a small entourage of tanks which do not help in the slightest. You are a one man army and your allies here may as well bugger off and explode in dramatic fashion elsewhere. The men commandeering those tanks may as well be riding tricycles for how useful they are.
An awesome first for the series introduced here is the ability to go through the campaign with a friend, either online or off. This makes it so much more replayable and gives you that much more motivation to play on a higher difficulty mode. I would personally suggest avoiding the highest difficulty called Veteran since the enemy AI throws a ridiculous amount of grenades killing the flow of the game and feels really cheap. Also worth noting is that the PC version for whatever reason does not have split-screen coop which may be a pretty big factor for some people. On a positive note, the PC version does include all of the DLC as well as supports custom zombie maps. The online community for it on the PC is also fairly large at the time of this review, and you will not have much trouble finding a match as long as you are looking for those with the Team Deathmatch mode.
Now time to talk about the Nazi Zombies bonus game mode. With as well known as it is you probably already know about it but for those that don’t it is a mode in where you fight until your inevitable death. It looks like the Nazis did not take too kindly of being slaughtered by the Soviets and have risen from the dead to tear apart a group of four people that landed near them. You will find yourself inside of a barricaded house and have to fend them off the best you can. Ideally, you want three other players, be they friends or random people to have your back, but you can still do rather well if you decide to solo it. They will tear off the boards from the windows and create holes in the walls while you both try to kill them once more and repair the damage they cause to the building.
Fixing stuff is as simple as standing near the place and holding a button as your character begins to patch it back up. The real problem is the sheer amount of them trying to get in from all sides of the house until they eventually succeed in breaking in. These are not your traditional kind of zombies. Body damage will do them in just fine without the need of a headshot, and some can even sprint at you. It is still very much recommended to aim for the head, however. Ammo is typically in short supply, and there is not much time for you to waste in this mode before things go south real fast. Each zombie you kill will give you points that in turn can be used to open doors that lead to new areas or purchase new weapons. We start off with a simple pistol and work our way up to better weapons if we survive long enough.
Occasionally a zombie will drop a power up which can either be double points, a nuke that obliterates all nearby zombies or an insta-kill icon that allows you to kill them with a single shot or knife jab. All of them are temporary and are dropped at random, so they are not overpowered. In a certain location, there is a Mystery Box that spawns a random weapon in exchange for some points. This allows you to get weapons not found on the map such as a flamethrower, RPG or even the alien gun. You can get an amazing weapon or a near useless one depending on your luck though the only way to get more ammo for them is to hope a zombie drops a max ammo power up. The amount of zombies that will appear and how aggressive they get increase each wave until you get overwhelmed and can do no more than choose where you stand your ground and die.
You can only withstand two hits from them and with the amount of them that swarm the place, getting in melee range is usually a death sentence. Another player has a brief time period to help you back up if this happens but if you are alone, that is the end. Nazi Zombies is a really addicting blend of time management, strategy, skill and a bit of luck. Nacht der Untoten is the single map that is included with the game, but if you own the PC version, you will have access to three other maps due to owning all the DLC packs. These are just as good if not better than the original map and feature more objectives than simply surviving. This entire mode is pure gold and one of the most intense zombie experience out there.
Call of Duty World at War has a ton going for it. Its biggest issues were releasing so soon after the juggernaut that was Modern Warfare and then tossing the player back into WW2 when people were sick to death of that setting. As of this review, this was the last time a Call of Duty game has been set in World War 2 making this title that much more attractive for fans of the series. It features a great campaign that can be played alongside a friend, a dark theme to amplify the brutality taking, an amazing soundtrack and marked the start of the much beloved Nazi Zombies mode to name a few of its strengths. This is a great game with plenty to offer for every type of gamer whether they love coop, multiplayer or tackling it solo. Call of Duty World at War is definitely a title I’d recommend to any fan of the FPS genre.