Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Activision Blizzard
Release Date: November 11, 2008
One of the biggest reasons for Call of Duty 4's success was its multiplayer component, which to this day is a juggernaut that rivals the player base of any other 360 game. When Treyarch took the helm for the development of Call of Duty: World at War, there were some fears that they would botch that carefully made formula, and of course, there were complaints about the return to a World War II setting. Based on our experience with the multiplayer beta, however, it is pretty clear that Call of Duty: World at War is shaping up quite nicely, taking the fluid multiplayer gameplay found in the prior franchise offering and applying it to the Big One.
The multiplayer beta for World at War consists of three maps, with two set in the Pacific Theatre while the third and final map takes place in a bombed-out Eastern European train depot. Each of the maps is filled with cover, concealment and alternate routes to a much larger extent than in the previous game. Each of the three maps is laid out in such a way that no one weapon is completely dominant, and there are areas perfectly suitable for a variety of weapon types. Sniping across half of the map in the train depot may net you some kills, but you'll be sniping from areas that are best suited for infantry armed with shotguns or SMGs.
Call of Duty: World at War uses the same engine as Call of Duty 4, and with a few noteworthy exceptions, gamers will have a very small learning curve to adapt to the new multiplayer portion. As you play in the multiplayer you gain experience, and by gaining enough of it, you will increase to the next level and unlock new weapons, perks or equipment. You can create your own class by selecting your primary weapon, sidearm and grenade type as well as your custom perks. A swath of weapons from the era are available, with a range of bolt-action rifles, semi-automatic rifles, SMGs, LMGs and shotguns cherry-picked from the arsenal of the Allied, British, German and Japanese armies.
Due to the technology shift, you won't find flashbangs or night vision goggles available, though throwing a signal flare will definitely hamper the vision of an enemy. Other things, such as claymore mines, aren't available, but in their place are the much more fun Bouncing Betties, an explosive charge that, when approached, pops into the air and explodes at waist level. Also new to the series are vehicle perks, which allow you to operate tanks more effectively, such as a faster turret rotation speed or faster movement.
Only the train depot level featured a tank, and though it is powerful, it is incredibly vulnerable. When fighting an enemy tank, it is all about making your shots count while attempting to make it difficult for the enemy to do the same, but it was surprising to see how effective infantry is at taking down a tank. Anti-tank charges and bazookas are available as custom class options, and any tank driving near cover is easy pickings for some anti-tank infantry to punch its clock. A tank driver controls the movement of the vehicle as well as the turret, while a second player can man the machine gun on the top. This player is exposed to enemy fire, though he does have the option of ducking down into the turret to exchange the ability to fire for some relative safety.
The multiplayer segment features a kill streak system not dissimilar to that of Call of Duty 4, with three kills calling in a recon plane, five kills calling down artillery, and seven kills unleashing dogs. The recon plane sweeps the map in pulses for a little while and exposes all enemy unit positions that don't have the Camouflage perk that hides them from planes, and the artillery strike lets you pick a spot on the map and hammer it with shells. The dogs, however, put the silly helicopter from the previous game to shame, spawning a series of aggressive dogs that hunt down and attack members of the enemy team. Killing these dogs nets you a small amount of experience, but it really sucks to hear that the enemy has used dogs and to hear their distant barking. It's even worse when three of them jump through a window and leap for your throat. There are very few areas in a map that the dogs cannot get to, and though they can't climb ladders, they are usually adept at finding an alternate means to get to you.
As far as presentation goes, World at War doesn't differ much from the previous game in the series, as it is essentially using the same engine with a few upgrades just in an entirely new setting. Movement and combat both looks and plays as smooth as ever, and between soldiers screaming among the sounds of discharging weapons and barking dogs, the audio spectrum hasn't suffered at all. Dismemberment isn't prevalent in the game, but it does occur, most often due to a Bouncing Betty or similar high explosive. It is very easy to tell that it is still the same engine under the hood, but given how polished and refined the result is thus far, it is hard to find fault with the decision to use it.
Though Treyarch's last outing with the series in the form of Call of Duty 3 struck some sour notes with franchise fans, there is a lot to like about how they have handled the development of Call of Duty: World at War, if the multiplayer is of any consideration. Though it is based upon the same engine and gameplay mechanics as its predecessor, the game still comes across as fresh and exciting, never mind that it is yet another World War II game. The new era and setting, along with the balanced inclusion of tanks and dogs, make for compelling gameplay, and it's simply too difficult to peel your eyes away.
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