Call of Duty: World at War

Multiplayer-wise PC gamers will be treated to 32-player free-for-all battles (much larger than on World at War’s console versions). That means, with the promised dedication to mappers and modders, we can expect some epic combat scenarios. Also new to the multiplayer is the cross-map squad feature. Rather than just letting players stick together, you can now have built-in squad benefits – we predict better accuracy will be one example – that work across the team. These are still a work-in-progress, but promise to reward players for sticking together through Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Vehicle Deathmatch and other returning modes. They may also lead to some interesting clan-based scenarios, with particular load-outs leading to monumental clashes.

The maps have all been forged using readily available tools and have been tested and tweaked since development began, allowing Treyarch time to create convincing line battles, fast-paced fights (so that you’re no more than five seconds from a fight at any given point) and some individual and interesting maps for the multiplayer modes. We watched a game played by a group of testers. The play was every inch as action-packed as a CoD4 game, with one player shooting through a hut wall and leaping through the hole to escape a grenade, while others joined in a pitched battle that appeared far more fast-paced than earlier WWII notches on the Call of Duty bedpost.

It isn’t all Pacific either, Treyarch are still to reveal the European campaign – the Road to Berlin – where you are part of the Russian advance. This part of the war, previously only covered in depth by strategy titles, saw embittered Russian forces pushing the Nazi forces back into their home country and on to Berlin. Here the Third Reich’s army fought a street-by-street battle to slow down the Red Army’s advance, in a bid to give civilians a chance to escape the brutal vengeance of the Soviets.

We went into Treyarch’s offices cynical, and came out cautiously excited. Call of Duty: World at War looks truly different. While it’s still a World War II FPS, it has new enemies that react differently and, as Treyarch and their war researchers repeatedly say, entirely different battles. Sure, we’ve been burnt by this sort of thing before with the mediocrity of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, but even in EA’s botched effort there were moments in which the variety, spectacle and terrifying ‘trees have eyes’ tension as you snuck through the undergrowth, gave us something new.

What is remarkable is that despite the preponderance of action games set in World War II, the bits we’re all-too familiar with remain the thin-end of a particularly horrifying global wedge. The day people truly run out of things to say about the conflict, or ways to portray it, will be the day that it’s revealed that historians haven’t been working hard enough. Say “It’s not Infinity Ward!” all you want, but let down some of your defences as Call of Duty: World at War could be massive.

Jul 18, 2008