“CoD has always been about authentic and cinematic battles,” he continues, “and as we learned about this enemy, we knew we had to change the game we were making. The Imperial Japanese weren’t like any modern fighting force you’ve ever seen. They were a gritty, ruthless, non-traditional opponent – stuff like guerrilla warfare and the Bushido code were completely alien to the Americans at the time.” Japanese soldiers would hide in undergrowth and slit the throats of sleeping soldiers and snipe from trees, using every trick they could to bewilder the allies. We later witness this in-game, near the end of the Makin Raid, as we trundle past a seemingly benign set of bushes. Flashlights suddenly blind us and a bunch of manic Japanese soldiers leap from the foliage. One primes a grenade and grabs a soldier in a suicidal embrace, winning a grim victory.
World at War’s stated aim is to move away from convention, removing the stodge from a tired genre with new vistas, under-exposed theatres of war, and a new angle on storytelling. As such, London-based video maestros Spov, best-known for their excellent mission briefings from CoD4, have returned to the franchise to create WaW’s campaign FMVs. They go beyond the simple briefing format with amazing combinations of slick graphics and facts about the mission you’re sent on.The Makin Raid mission is pre-empted by giant floating ribbons, an introduction to Emperor Hirohito and a visual representation of Japan’s invasion of Asia, with historic footage mixed in for good measure. It’s a fascinating mix of Bond-style credits and stock footage, which gives meaning to the action as well as the necessary pep and excitement.
Treyarch have had two years to create WaW, and Lamia is proud to say they’ve used it well: “We’ve created something that’s a great deal edgier, and with that edge the whole thing feels different. WaW will feel nothing like any other WWII game you’ve ever played.” And behind the optimistic waffle, he could be right – while we’re used to slow-paced crawls that eventually lead to hiding in ruined houses and bunkers, with the occasional tank thrown in, the Makin Raid appears to be pulse-pounding, erratic and wildly disorienting. Enemies seem to come from everywhere and nowhere, sneaking through undergrowth before charging at you, or hiding in seemingly cleared areas, waiting for you to pass by. “We’ve found, thanks to the AI, that testers are naturally using the tactics soldiers worked with,” interjects Noah Heller, the game’s senior producer. “Like throwing grenades into empty bunkers just in case there’s a soldier waiting to jump you at the next opportunity. It’s all pretty amazing.”
New to the series is the four-player co-op mode, allowing you and your friends to waltz through WaW’s conflicts, dropping in and out at the beginning of levels. We are given a demonstration of just how effective this is when the action skips to covering an encounter with a huge armoured division on some exotic-looking farmland. With two players on hand, one takes on the tank battalions by ducking into foxholes and launching barrages of rockets, then by going hell-for-leather and leaping on top of them, dropping a grenade casually into the metal beasts before scarpering.