IGN Review of Call of Duty: World at War
Last year Call of Duty 4 took over the genre of first-person shooters on next-gen systems. Infinity Ward produced a game that was in the running (if not the #1 selection) for Game of the Year across the industry, driving forward with not only a cinematic single player offering that brought the series to new heights, but also unparalleled multiplayer in the form of the level-based challenge/class system. First-person shooter fans knew a change was in the air, as the game quickly raised the bar in nearly every respect. On Wii, COD4 didn't make an appearance, but now that Treyarch - the team responsible for COD3, and the current "underdog" of developers when it comes to Call of Duty - is back to deliver the next in line, we're again getting a Wii effort, and it's one to be pretty proud of. Whether your perception of World War II games isn't as hot as it was during the Medal of Honor Frontlines era (we agree, there's only so far one era can take us in the span of two generations and dozens upon dozens of games), or if you're among those skeptical that Treyarch would bring any fun to a Wii port of an "in between" year of Call of Duty, think again. This team has kicked some serious ass not only on 360/PS3, but also in bringing that cinematic feeling over to Wii. Call of Duty: World at War is a serious contender in the world of Wii first-person shooters.
Activision has been pretty clear in its desire to have a new Call of Duty every year from here on out, which means we'll be seeing alternating efforts from Infinity Ward (Call of Duty 1, 2, and 4) and Treyarch (Call of Duty: Big Red One, 3, and World at War) on a yearly basis, allowing two years for each of the game's development. So far we've seen both COD3 and World at War come to Wii, and hopefully regardless of core SKU team Nintendo's system will see a release every year from here on out, as World at War is a testament to how impressive these games can be on the platform. World at War uses the same levels, the same character spawns, and overall the same core campaign as the 360/PS3 versions do, and with the title running off an adapted COD4 engine on Wii, Treyarch's combined efforts with IW's core engine means Wii gamers are getting something pretty special on their system this year. It isn't always the highest-frame game (it never gets too annoying, but you will see a few dropped frames here and there), and World War II not only brings many of the same guns from dozens of games previous, complete with the same, drab green/brown/gray color set, but in the end World at War is a title that surpasses every other FPS on the system in terms of pure cinematic flair, on-screen action, and open worlds.
World at War may be yet another World War II game - and as we said before, that era is running thin - but it delivers in a big way. The game's core campaign is obviously inspired by Inifnity Ward's latest game, so the action moves from place to place in slick cinematic videos, following Miller on the US side during direct attacks on the Japanese, a Russian soldier by the name of Dimitri, and so forth. The game puts a specific emphasis on the Pacific Theater this time around, as it's an area World War II games usually don't focus on, so you'll be directly invading Japan, and playing the very different, very intense jungle combat that came with those fights. Rather than moving from building to building like in Call of Duty 2 or 3, jungle combat is all about pushing through forests filled with ghili suit enemies, blasting the hell out of caves and bunkers with flamethrowers (the only real advantage the US had over the Japanese during those battles, who were of course familiar with the terrain, and knew how to dig in and defend). This isn't just another "run to the next room, shoot, and move on" game, which is why it's so damn appealing.
One of the main shockers on Wii though - and really across any of the systems - is just how brutal the game can be in its story telling. True to the COD form, real locations, facts, and situations are used to pull the player in, and World at War is no different, with pre-level cinemas showing real footage of World War II, and in-game scripted sequences going well beyond the norm as far as situational maturity goes. You'll see allies getting their faces burned with cigarettes, countless friends getting shot point blank by both Japanese and German forces, soldier after soldier lit on fire with flamethrowers - both allied and axis-manned - and even spend an entire mission with a wounded sniper who is your eyes and ears on the battlefield. It's a very dramatic, engaging story, and one that really surpasses any FPS effort on Wii in terms of hard-hitting themes and execution.
What it's really all about though on Wii, is control. Does the game hold its down against the top of the Wii FPS stack, and in the end, is it worth playing? After taking some serious time to tweak controls and really give the game a fair shake, it's fair to say that World at War is far from the best controls on Wii (that still goes to Medal of Honor Heroes 2), but that in the end, yes, it's a worthy contender. The game has a custom bounding box, lots of options for smooth or forgiving cursor movement, and different sensitivity for turning and ADS movement (ironsights and scopes). Even in its best form we would have liked it to move a bit quicker, and vertical movement never feels as good as the quicker, responsive horizontal movement, but even with it less-than-perfect the game overall still feels great. Sniping can take some practice, but is easily better than Medal of Honor, and it makes some of the missions in single player, as well a multiplayer's vs. gameplay all the more rewarding. Motions can be turned on or off (in the end, we turned them off for a stronger emphasis on IR-based gaming, and traditional button control outside of it), and if you want to try out the zapper, there are options specifically for it, though we didn't enjoy it in that mode.
What it really came down to is that the game is just fun, and it's a mix of the pretty strong controls, the amazing mission diversity, and the presentation all wrapped together. You've got sniper levels behind German lines - giving off a serious Enemy at the Gate vibe - areas where battles continue in burning forests, which we're amazed is running with such fluidity, beach storming, mounted machine guns to blast around with, target painters for off-shore attacks, entire flamethrower areas, bombing runs, anti-air guns, and much more. It's just packed. Control is strong for the most part, but even if it doesn't play quite as tight as Medal of Honor Heroes 2 on Wii, it blows every other FPS out of the water in pure cinematic wonder.
As a testament to this, we even had non-Wii gamers (guys that don't care about the system at all, instead sticking to PS3/360) in our office stop and check out the Wii version, commenting not only on its visuals, but also on how fun it looked, and how brutal it was in some instances. You don't get dismemberment like on 360, but you will see random blasts of "meat chunks" and you shoot enemies, so while the model isn't actually breaking apart, you get a sense of total brutality along the way. The drop-in, drop-out cooperative play (we call it "Yoda Mode," Activision playfully refers to it as "Girlfriend Mode") has a second player essentially pulling a "Jedi Master with guns" experience, as a second cursor can be called in, ammo for player 2 (as well as new guns) can be picked up, and then it's all about blasting away to help your buddy through the campaign as if you're riding on their back. It isn't essential, and you won't get the same feeling as playing through co-op on other systems - this is Wii's only co-op mode - but it is a nice little "Why not?" kind of mode. Hell, in a game with IR control, you might as well make a light gun 2nd player mode. While we see no way for the Wii's tech to handle for (or even two) screens split with the COD4 core tech and as much on-screen action happening as there is in this game, there's at least a cool way for an ambitious buddy to pick up a controller and just jump on in.
As far as online goes, Wii gamers are getting a great little package, but it won't include everything you'd get if you were playing World at War on another system. The objective matches and vehicles are out, so you won't get tanks, any of the CTF, Search and Destroy, Headquarters, or War mode, but what is in there runs smooth. Basically you've got beginner and veteran areas for free-for-all, team deathmatch, hardcore free-for-all, and hardcore team deathmatch. It's all kill-based, which we assume partially has to do with the fact that there's no team communication (no voice chat in this one), but while the game has been scaled down quite a bit, it also runs very well, as we've literally had no lag or slowdown in any match. Yup to eight players can get in on any of the modes, and the game includes the full create-a-class and challenge barracks as the other versions of the game, so if you want to prestige through 65 levels over and over again, getting new weapons and accessories, perks, and special weapons along the way, it's all there. That's a serious feat, and if Treyarch - or Infinity Ward, though we'd assume the team that did COD3 and World at War will continue with the Wii version each year - can start adding more on top of what's here this time around for the next COD, it should turn out to be a pretty impressive online offering. As it stands right now, everything works, and it's one of the strongest offerings online so far for Wii, but it's also limited. If you want the same type of multiplayer that brought Halo 3 to its knees last year, you'll need to invest in PS3 or 360. On Wii though, it's a fun, well-managed, working online mode, and still a fun one to grab a few friends and rip through.
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