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Call of Duty: World at War; better than CoD4?

Submitted by on Tuesday, 18 November 200810 Comments

Let’s be honest.

The only question everyone seems to want the answer to is whether Call of Duty: World at War is better than CoD4 or not. Right?

Thankfully, the answer is a lot more involved than you might think.

The fifth game in the Call of Duty series, World at War brings us back to the World War II setting that has featured in every CoD title other than CoD4.

The story focuses on battles set in Eastern Europe and the Pacific, involving the armies of the United States, the Empire of Japan, the Soviet Union, and – of course – Germany.

Just as with Call of Duty 4, the story is told from the perspective of two different characters. In this case you flip between a Marine Raider and a Red Army soldier. As you would expect, the action is based on real-life events including the Makin Island raid and the Battle of Peleliu.

On starting CoD:WaW everything feels extremely familiar, although the presentation that explains what is happening has a fresh and welcome style. A combination of 2D and 3D almost-PowerPoint slides and actual footage from WWII tells the story at the start of each chapter, and the effect is both concise and convincing.

The usual CoD4 modes are all here with a single-player campaign and the now legendary multi-player options. A new feature to the Call of Duty series is the co-op mode, which can support up to four players online and two offline. In theory this adds a welcome extra dimension missing from the last CoD title, and in practise it delivers on the promise.

Just like CoD4 before it, CoD:WaW also manages to pack a real punch in the emotion department. There are scenes in the game that some people will find disturbing, but the overall effect is that you get a feel for what war is really like as opposed to a straight run-and-gun experience that has no impact whatsoever. I was certainly left feeling more empathy for those brave people that put their lives on the line for our freedom and safety. CoD:WaW has surely succeeded where other emotionless games have failed for years.

Although there was one area of the game where the ‘endless enemy’ issue cropped up, it was totally necessary since the point of that part of the game was that you were supposed to be moving forward relentlessly. Staying still and counting the amount of enemy soldiers would only make sense if you were trying to pick fault with the game’s programming.

Otherwise, the enemy seemed more – well- sensible than the previous CoD title. I remember from our interview with Treyarch regarding Quantum of Solace that they had made a lot of improvements to the CoD4 engine, and many of those were in the AI department. It would seem that this development has paid off in CoD:WaW too, since enemies attack you in differing ways and with real vigour.

What is markedly different are the attacks of the Japanese soldiers. They have a clearly different approach to fighting, without a care for their personal safety. You are often confronted with banzai attackers rushing, bayonets forward, to claim you as their next victim.

The only area where I have had difficulty with the controls in CoD:WaW is under the attack of these banzai troops or when you are being mauled by an unleashed dog. The ‘press R3 to attack’ option requires deft timing and it is difficult to gauge when to press the button.

One of the main issues fans had about the weapons before the game was released was ‘will they be as much fun’ as the attack options in CoD4. The answer is a straight yes. In addition to a variety of single shot, semi automatic and fully automatic guns you have a range of grenades (frag and special) and explosives at your disposal. The extra kick comes from the flame thrower which, much like Far Cry 2, allows you to smoke out the enemy with propogating fire that reacts to wind direction.

The graphics and sound, for my money, are better than CoD4. Everything seems to have been turned up a notch and great care has been taken with lighting effects, especially when the scenery is lit up by a flare. Environments are more destructible than before, thanks to the aforementioned engine improvements Treyarch have made.

The multi-player experience is exactly as you would expect it to be. CoD4 gamers will be able to leap straight in and play without having to think. The maps I have played so far offer a good deal of variety, not just in size and environment but also in height.

What is good – especially for the less skilled FPS gamers – is that in certain arenas you can now drive a tank and use it to rack up a nice kill streak, allowing you to quickly unleash your radar, artillery or dogs. Releasing a pack of dogs on the enemy is my personal favourite for some freakish reason.

So what is the answer to the one question on everyone’s lips?

CoD:WaW plays as well as CoD4. It seems better graphically, audibly and has better AI. It has a co-op feature lacking in the previous incarnation. The controls are just as assured, apart from the timing of the melee when being attacked by a banzai soldier or dog. The single-player campaign makes you feel real emotion, just like CoD4 did before it. The multi-player is spot on. Even the weapons, which everyone was a little worried about in the wake of Modern Warfare, are varied and fun to use.

And when you complete the game through you unlock a special mode that brings on the Nazi Zombies. That – my friends – is a complete deal-winner every time.

So that is a ‘yes’ then. Call of Duty: World at War is better than CoD4. Hands down.