Call Of Duty 5 - World at War Review 22/07/2009
Not just the best WWII game, but one of the best shooters on the PS3.
WWII games have been flying off shelves since the days of the PS1. EA's "medal of Honour" and Activision's "Call of duty" have been reproducing the most famous battles from the world's most destructive struggle for years now, initially with Call of duty nearly always following in Medal of honour's footsteps. Both franchises have squeezed every scenario and battle from the whole conflict and as a result I'm not quite convinced there is much more either can do to such a franchise. The last Medal of honour game I played (was it "airbourne squadron" or something? See, instantly forgettable) was a bit bland and very repetitive and EA haven't delved into WWII since, with the exception of the odd pretty decent PSP title. The Call of Duty lads ventured into "Modern Warfare", which was a big hit and I still maintain the best shooter I have ever played. The franchise had appeared to have gone stale; however this new game "World at War" has really risen out of the ashes, and makes the franchise the best it's ever been. It is brilliant. You don't even have to be into WWII games to like this, as it is generally one of the best shooters/games on the PS3 at the moment. This game is mostly based in the final weeks of WWII and you play two soldiers, Private Miller, on the front lines of the American's conflict with Japan as they tried to retake territory back from the Japanese, and Private Dimitri Petrenko, as the Russian army invades Germany and takes Berlin. You jump between battles playing as the American and the Russian soldiers as you slowly bring this conflict to an end. Although it is an excellent game, please remember it has particularly stiff competition that it has to live up to, which includes its older brother, Modern Warfare, the excellent Killzone 2 and the hugely entertaining Resistance 2, and they are just the competition of this genre and on this system. How does it stack up then?
The action set pieces are epic, action packed and hugely enjoyable. You pretty much spend the whole game going from action set piece to action set piece, but none of them disappoint. The majority of them are huge on scale with so many troops fighting on each side that it's quite overwhelming in places. You will use machine guns, flame throwers, bazooka's, sniper rifles, tanks and planes to carve your way through this bloody adrenaline filled gun fight. Some of the most memorable moments include your first mission as a Russian, where you have to hunt and snipe a German commander through the streets of Stalingrad, take a Japanese air base, a vast tank mission where you are in control of a Russian tank taking out German base after German base, an airborne raid on a Japanese cargo ship convoy in a sea plane with more machine guns than a battle ship (my personal favourite), and the final epic battle as the Russians descend on the last German stronghold in Berlin, the Reichstag, ultimately bringing the war to an end. All of them are spectacular and Activision have been very careful not to just take you from fire fight to fire fight, as in previous games of this genre, and really vary the action and settings, which they have succeeded at very well. The constant jumping around of locations, missions, guns, vehicles and soldiers mean they have avoided turning a potentially very repetitive game into an addictive exciting one. They have done an excellent job and it is easily the most explosive, bullet ridden and action packed WWII shooter yet.
It's going to show the dark side of war. Something else that stood out for me was that this is easily the most bloody and brutal foray into World War II I have ever seen. It actually warns you that a lot of images will be "disturbing" and that "discretion is advised" before you play it, but naturally I dismissed these warnings. How bad can it be? Well it's not bad in the sense it's not enjoyable but you are instantly thrown into the savagery of war as your first scene in the game you have to watch your fellow soldier get tortured and have his throat slit right in front of you. From this first and brief moment you suddenly realise that this is not going to be for the faint hearted. Of course you have blood bursting out of enemy troops as you shoot them, but there are moments where you will have to stab enemy soldiers in the neck as they try and turn you into a kebab with their bayonets, you can stab people at will with your knife using R3, you can blow off limbs and watch your enemy stand their in shock, blood pouring from where the limb once was and incinerate people with a flame thrower and watch them scream and panic as they try and put the flames out, and not succeed. There is also a scene where you call in a napalm stirke that decimates a Japanese front line. When the smoke clears you can see char grilled troops staggering around close to death, often with various body parts missing. You obviously put them down permanently and it genuinely feels like a mercy killing. You will see executions of troops from all sides particularly the Russians, who want bloody satisfaction from the slaughter of their troops on their home soil at the battle of Stalingrad (which is touched upon in the first Russian mission as well). Your comrades will literally shout "no mercy" as they burn Germans alive with Molotov cocktails and slice them in three with huge butcher like blades and machetes. It is a full test of the strength of your stomach, I warn you, but it fits so well with the game and after all, this is the most devastating conflict in human history, no fairy cake tea party.
The graphics are excellent. Although the character animations are not brilliant in this, as they look very wooden and solid, Activision has poured its effort into the scenery and settings of battle. Most of the battles fields are so detailed especially the ruined towns of Germany and the jungles of the tropical islands the Japanese inhabit. You progress through several towns in the game and they are amazing to behold and every tiny detail has been accounted for. The buildings are all half destroyed and completely dilapidated but you can still see remnants of kitchen tables, cupboards, radios and general hints that these places were once inhabited. The Reichstag at the end has been very carefully re-sculpted and has all the remnants of Nazi Germany as though it happened yesterday. The tropical islands, inhabited by the Japanese, have every blade of grass and palm tree that you would expect. It really does not miss a beat.
The sound and music is also excellent. The sounds of battle are very immersing here. You will hear the snap of bullets and explosions all round, whilst every character voice sounds realistic and never inappropriate. One of the things I didn't like about Killzone 2 was the random crap the characters would come out with at very inappropriate times, which luckily doesn't happen here. They include voices by Keither Sutherland, who plays American corporal Roebuck, and Gary Oldman who plays Sergeant Reznov. As you would expect these two are brilliant. Japanese soldiers, heavily camouflaged, will spring up from the grass and scream "Banzai" as they attempt to impale you and it's so shocking to your ears it will make you jump. Through all the explosions and gun fire there is excellent background music that ranges from orchestral sounds with heavy metal riffs to full Russian anthems blasted by what must be a full choir. Having this blaring out your sound system whilst advancing on German bases in a tank, blasting shell after shell and flaming all Nazi troops around you is exhilarating to say the least. My favourite though, was a traditional Japanese drums mixed in with a dance beat when playing through the air raid on Japanese convoy boats. It's very infectious and really adds adrenaline to that particular scene, one of the best in the game.
These are the best controls for first person shooter games. The controls are absolutely perfect here (they are identical to Modern warfare's btw), and that's not a word I like to use often. Your movement, firing your gun, zooming in, selecting an air strike, throwing a grenade, everything is exactly where it should be. You don't even have to look up the controls in the manual or on screen as everything is exactly where it should be, to the point where it is scarily instinctual. Your knife (R3) is as quick and easy to use as it should be and there is not one bit of confusion or unobvious button usage. It even has the excellent "snapping" system used in Modern Warfare, where if you aim down the scope vaguely at the enemy it will automatically snap onto him, allowing multiple kills by repeatedly and quickly aiming and firing. I do get a little confused when you have to throw a grenade back, when the enemy throws one at you, but it's the same R2 button used to throw your grenades, so I can easily put this down to panicking and lack of quick thinking. All shooters should have these controls and they should not change, as they will not ever be bettered.
The Nazi Zombie level is really good fun (you thought zombies were bad but these are Nazi zombies!). The chaps at Activision have decided to add a little bit of fun to this game and created a weird survival level that requires you to slaughter many Nazi Zombies. When you complete the game for the first time you are rewarded with this level and it basically involves you occupying an old tumbled down house with boarded up windows, in the middle of a misty setting. Nazi zombies will start appearing out of the mist and attempt to break into this house and get you. You have to defend it with your gun, by killing them and repairing your defences. It's surprisingly scary and just like playing a 70's zombie movie, ala "Night of the Living Dead", except set in WWII. They have glowing yellow eyes and scare the crap out of you if you're repairing the boarded up windows and whip round to have one right in your face. The waves of zombies gets more and more intense the longer you survive until eventually you are overwhelmed. You get bonuses as you persevere, such as "one shot - one kill" and an explosion that kills every zombie in the building, and better guns that you buy with points. The more you kill and repair the more points you get and you simply have to survive as long as you can. It's quite addictive and intense with a comedy arcade like style and its really good fun to play with your mates.
Rather predictably of Call of Duty games, the most annoying thing is the eternally re-spawning enemies. I really can't get my head round why COD games persist with this idea. For those not in the know, this game relies on you going from battle to battle but the enemies will just keep coming forever and ever until you advance past a certain invisible line or check point, or run out of ammo and die. It's interminable. There are often so many enemies constantly re-spawning, no matter how many you gun down, and you are expected to sprint towards the hundreds of machine gun wielding troops simply to cross an invisible line that will stop them from appearing. It's just stupid and on the harder difficulties it becomes ludicrously difficult, as one shot kills you. Plus you have to do all the work/advancing as your AI pals will just sit there for an eternity until you advance. Further still, the enemy will sometimes literally magically appear next to you, if you accidently decide to take cover at a spawning area and haven't quite crossed the invisible line, and kill you. Now that really winds me up as it's completely out of your hands! Why do they do this? I can sort of understand that it constantly keeps you advancing to stop the game going stale, but if this will inevitably result in death then it doesn't help matters let alone increase the enjoyment of playing. I have read that Activision are aware that this aspect of their COD games (as it happens in all of them) is unpopular and have fixed it for the up-and-coming "Modern Warefare 2", but that means sod all in World at War so this stays at the top of the "things that annoyed me" list.
It's contradicting and inconsistent in how you progress through the stages. Normally you will simply come to an action set piece and your commander will bark orders at you that you have to achieve. Generally though you are constantly being told to "advance" and "push on" where sometimes you actually have to hang around killing enemies for a few minutes before something happens, like a tank blowing a hole in something for you to get through. But there's no indication of what's about to happen at all or how long it will take, so you hang back for ages getting lower and lower on ammo, also taking into account the enemy will re-spawn forever, upon which you come to the conclusion you are supposed to try and advance. However, when you do you find there is no where to go and you simply get your head blown off. It does keep you moving constantly and I agree that it stops the play from going stagnant, but it needs to be a little clearer as to when you hold still or advance.
It's hard to tell when your about to die. There's no medi packs or first aid kits here, as, if you take a few hits, you are expected to take cover behind something and wait a minute while you recover. That's fine except you don't really get much of an indication when this is about to happen. Taking hits is part of the game and will happen a lot and other games such as Killzone 2, Resistance 2 and Modern Warfare the screen goes red, fills with blood, goes grey, the sound of a beating heart is increased in volume, your breaths become short etc. It's very obvious that you are in trouble basically. This doesn't do that, as it goes a bit red, indicating that you have taken a hit or two, but then a second later you will just drop dead. Its not nearly urgent or attention grabbing enough and its too easy to dismiss. When making a dash for cover or trying to advance it can be very deceptive and will often lead to your demise without seeing it coming. This is not much of a problem on the two hardest difficulties, as generally one shot kills you, but you are a fool if you try to take this game on straight in to "Veteran" mode.
The AI only ranges from bog standard simplicity to the downright retarded. You will have many AI friends through the whole of this game and about 70% of the time they back you up and help you out, which is good. They are good at taking fire away from you but sometimes they really screw you over with sheer stupidity. One thing they like to do is block you in a corner. It's really annoying. On several occasions I have run up to a sand bag wall or cover in general and been firing away at the enemy, when I will spot a "Panzershrek" (German for f*****g great big missile launcher) being readied to aim in my direction. If this thing explodes anywhere near you you're done for. Naturally you have to sprint for cover but as you try to move, you find you can't! As you turn around you will notice a pal of yours has taken to standing basically on top of you and blocked you in completely. The AI is not intelligent enough to realise death is imminent and you can't run through him either. Plus you can't shoot him or slice him with your knife as firstly, the game doesn't let you, and secondly if you do manage it you will restart from the last check point as "friendly fire will not be tolerated". Death by Panzershrek is inevitable for you and your, very unaware of personal space, friend. It doesn't happen constantly but they regularly just get in your way and bungle around often enough for it to be annoying. It would have been better off for you to be able to run through your pals, not realistic I know, but it would stop such things from happening. The AI does further stupid stuff as well as sometimes enemy "Banzai" troops will jump up out of hiding and run straight past you going for one of your pals who's quite a way behind you. It's good that they decided to ignore you but it just looks daft. They can also be utterly useless at some points, for example, as several snipers are shooting the crap out of you they will stand there and watch you get turned into Swiss cheese until you sort the problem or get killed. There are little glitches as well such as sometimes you will see two enemies standing a meter apart unable to fire, just pointing their guns at each other, neither moving. I know it doesn't really matter but considering all hell is irrupting around them and there's two people locked in an intense staring competition standing in the middle it just looks stupid and ruins the atmosphere a bit. Having just played Killzone 2, where the AI is superb, you really notice how dumb it is in World at War.
Your movement is far too slow. It may be just me but I really noticed when running along normally you are interminably slow. When going up hill this becomes even slower and it's really infuriating. You can sprint but you barely increase in velocity at all, you just lose the use of your weapon and you can only keep it up for about 5 seconds. Crawling is even worse as you move at the speed of the most asthmatic snail and movement is generally really noticeably slow. This is irritating for several reasons as sometimes you have to walk for a minute or two to get to the next battle, and it takes an eternity, and when dodging or diving for cover you are like a giant fat moving target, with "shoot me" written on you in neon lights. It's far too sluggish. Aiming and moving your point of view is fine, its just walking/running feels so cumbersome.
The flame thrower is crap. A new weapon to WWII games is the flame thrower in world at war, and, although it looks pretty good, it really is pretty useless. I always drop it and pick up a rifle. The problem is its range and endurance as unless the enemy is really close you won't get them and you can barely shoot any fire at all before it over heats. It takes a really long time to cool down and it's un-useable until it does. There is not even a single scenario in the game where the flame thrower is vital and you will nearly always have to charge in and run right up to the enemy in close quarters for it to actually work effectively, like a shot gun. It's quite good fun on the easier difficulties where you can take loads of hits and enemies die easier but as you get onto the harder difficulties I would just drop it for a rifle or machine gun if I were you.
This is a seriously entertaining title. Just as I thought WWII games had become tiresome and repetitive this turns up. The epic battles and relentless action packed set pieces will leave you wanting more and more, coupled with the excellent visuals, sound, music and the constant reminder of how brutal such a war was make this one of the best shooters/action games out on the PS3. There are a few gripes and grumbles that could have been avoided, but if you're a fan of WWII games, this will easily be the best one you have ever played, and if you're a gamer in general you would be wise to give this a go. I was sceptical as I wasn't convinced anything more could be added to WWII games but they really have pulled this one out of the bag. It's really good. How does it stack up against the competition though? Killzone 2 and Resistance 2 are also excellent games in their own right and I really couldn't pick between them and World at War. If I had a gun to my head and I had to pick one of the three I would probably go for Killzone 2, as it is such a well developed and entertaining title, but generally none of these titles will be a let down. Is it better than Modern Warfare however? No. Modern Warfare is still the king and is always the first shooter I would visit before anything. World at War just isn't as sharp, entertaining and flawless and has to play second fiddle to its bigger brother, albeit by very tiny margins. But such small details always make the difference between a really good game and an excellent one. CA.
Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? - 9.5
Everything is simple and easy to use and the control scheme is perfect and strangely instinctual.
Is the story any good? - 8.0
History has already revealed what happens, but it adds some Hollywood blockbuster drama, with some big name actors, to good effect. Entertaining, but not exactly intellectual.
How does it look? - 8.5
Generally very good. The stages are of an excellent quality, particularly ruined Germany, but character animations look a bit solid and wooden and several effects such as water and shadows are a bit pixelated.
How does it sound? - 10.0
It's excellent, savage and a full on bombardment on your ears. All voice acting, sound effects and background music in particular are of a very high quality, and suit the action perfectly.
Is it good to play? - 8.0
It's the most epic, brutal and action packed WWII shooter yet. The air raid stage, and several others, will get your adrenaline going. Eternally re-spawning enemies, unclear objectives, slow movement and dumb-assed AI bring it down a little though.
When will I get bored? - 8.0
It will definitely last 5 or 6 play through's. Online play will drag interests further, and yet still you have the Nazi zombie survival level. It does not have any longer lasting appeal than other simplistic FPS though.
OVERALL - 8.5
Review created by C. Armstrong.