New Year's Day
Lengthy single-player campaign is engaging; fun co-op mode.
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Unimpressive AI; tired setting; makes us long for Call of Duty 4.
The odds have always been stacked against Call of Duty: World at War. This sequel revisits an undeniably exhausted FPS setting—World War II—and wasn’t designed by series creator Infinity Ward, but Treyarch has delivered a sufficiently compelling shooter. World at War doesn’t bring any lasting innovations to the FPS genre, but it has enough unrelenting shootouts and dramatically scripted events to keep us immersed in the action.
Like Call of Duty 4, the seven-hour single-player campaign is split between two parallel plotlines, each showing a different theater of war. Wading through the swamps and jungles of the South Pacific to rescue POWs and raid airfields in one campaign is very different from sneaking through the ruins of Stalingrad to stalk Nazi generals. Though these battlefields feel a little too familiar, the missions are filled with enough gritty and explosive set pieces to keep us distracted from the feeling of déjà vu.
Just don’t expect much resistance from the AI enemies. Your foes are easily dispatched and don’t react realistically in combat; the concept of suppressing fire, for example, is nonexistent. Waves of enemy grunts will perform kamikaze rushes or snipe you from trees, but their behavior feels like that of theme park automatons (albeit with bayonets). Still, the large-scale firefights are varied enough to be memorable.
Cooperative multiplayer with three other players is the best way to play through the campaign, though the competitive co-op mode wasn’t as fun since players don’t have much incentive to help each other. We also couldn’t warm up to the new vehicle maps or the new set of multiplayer in-game perks. An unlockable Zombie game mode is a pleasant surprise, but it won’t take the place of Left 4 Dead.
Call of Duty: World at War doesn’t disappoint us, but it never matches the riveting excitement of Call of Duty 4. It’s worth your gaming dollar if you like first-person shooters; just remember to manage your expectations.