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Call of Duty: World at War Package Art
GENRE
Shooter
DEVELOPER
n-Space
PUBLISHER
Activision
LOCAL WIRELESS
MULTI-PLAY
Yes
Wi-Fi/GLOBAL ONLINE
MULTI-PLAY
Yes
MICROPHONE
No
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Call of Duty: World at War

War never changes. War games, on the other hand, do. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a bit of a surprise last year; it was a solid handheld shooter and an admirable counterpart to the incredible console version. The game was still far from perfect, but n-Space and Activision have had a year to think about their errors and Call of Duty: World at War is prove positive they were paying attention.

World at War may return to the familiar territory of World War II, but everything else is a step in the right direction. All of Modern Warfare’s weaknesses have been improved upon and these many small changes have lead to a major jump in quality. World War II is definitely worth fighting again.

visuals

n-Space’s impressive engine makes a return this year. World at War’s visuals are some of the most outstanding on the DS from a sheer technological standpoint. The 3D environments are large, detailed, and varied thanks to the game’s globetrotting campaign; you will see the beaches of the Pacific islands, war ravaged cities in Russia, and wintery forests on the German border as you take down the Axis war machine. A dramatically increased draw distance also helps to make the action feel bigger.

Not surprisingly, the game’s many cinematic moments are what really make it such an eye-pleaser. Calling in artillery strikes, watching tanks break through walls, and reducing buildings to rubble all help to strengthen the presentation. The only really noticeable negatives are the lackluster pre-level briefings, which consist of little more than a text over still backgrounds, and the fact that there are only a small number of enemy types.

audio

There is nothing bad to be said about World at War’s audio. The soundtrack is generally subtle but flares up to add just the right amount of drama when necessary. Most impressive is probably the voicework; it might be a little compressed and the delivery is kind of stereotypical of other war games, but the sheer amount of it is impressive. All of your orders and objectives are delivered through in game voiceover and soldiers are constantly shouting over the sound of war. Finally, the gunfire sounds are much improved over last year’s title because each gun now has a truly distinct sound.

gameplay

Just as was said regarding last year's iteration, Call of Duty plays exactly as one would expect a DS first person shooter to play. The d-pad and face buttons control movement, the shoulder buttons are your trigger and the touch screen is divvied up to handle the other functions. Most of the bottom screen controls aiming, while the three buttons along the left side of the screen handle weapon selection, reloading, and context sensitive maneuvers like manning a machine gun or hopping over an obstacle. One change from last year is precision aiming with the iron sights, which is now done by touching a small icon along the top of the screen. This layout makes aiming super precise, especially while sniping. The only negatives are the occasional hand cramps that occur after long play sessions.

Where World at War really outshines Modern Warfare is in the level design department. The new game is still quite linear but most levels situate larger firefights in areas that open up a little, giving you more room to maneuver strategically and approach situations a little differently. Some levels actually feature multiple paths and objectives that can be completed in an order of your choosing. Overall, World at War still fails to offer the strategic openness of the console versions but the franchise is moving in the right direction.

One area where the handheld version outdoes its bigger brothers is with regard variety. Standard levels are broken up with a handful of minigames that take advantage of the touch screen. A medic minigame, for example, has players applying bandages and using a tourniquet to save fellow soldiers A radio game, meanwhile, plays like a one note Guitar Hero title with players tapping out messages in Morse Code. Also, the campaign main campaign is broken up by artillery and bomber missions let players experience a lot more firepower.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems with Modern Warfare was not addressed quite as effectively -- the AI remains moronic. Enemies still have the nasty habit of always running to the same covered positions, thus making their movements very predictable. At least the bad guys in this game are much more proficient at using cover effectively instead of waiting around for a bullet to hit them between the eyes. Even with the ability to duck behind walls and other obstacles, the enemies still do not put up too much of fight unless if they are encountered en masse, something that happens quite frequently actually. This actually makes World at War noticeably tougher than Modern Warfare.

World at War also has a few additions that are relatively small but go a long way in adding to the title’s replay value. First of all, levels now have optional additional challenges, such as killing a certain number of enemies with a time limit. Second, the game keeps track of a variety of stats including kills, deaths, melee kills, bullets fired, hit percentage, and many more. Finally, players can earn awards for reaching certain milestones, like killing 50 enemies with sniper rifles or beating each country’s campaign. These might not seem like much, but earning them can be addictive.

multiplayer

Modern Warfare offered enjoyable local multiplayer modes, but the lack of online play ultimately hurt it in the end. Thankfully, the great local setup returns and is joined by a fully functional online mode. In either mode, players can select set up game rules drawing from a variety of your typical game types (deathmatch, capture the flag, etc.), choose to play as the Axis or Allies, and finally pick one of several weapon layouts. The battles are as fast and furious as one would expect and the level design is exceptional. The only things keeping World at War from knocking Metroid Prime Hunters off of its throne are the absence of voice chat and the unfortunate fact that actually finding an online game to join can be difficult at times.

overall

Call of Duty: World at War is a perfect example of the well-done sequel. It improves upon its predecessor in every single way possible: the campaign is longer and better designed, the graphics are better, the sound design is brilliant, the gameplay is more entertaining, and online multiplayer has been added. (The only major problem remaining is the poor enemy AI.) If you enjoyed Modern Warfare, then picking up World at War should be a no-brainer.

final score 8.5/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Andy Hoover
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"There's SAND on my boots!"


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