Call of Duty: World at War review

  • Extremely brutal gunplay
  • Great weapon variety
  • Pacific and European theaters
  • Nothing new
  • It's no CoD4
  • Sometimes shoddy level design

If there’s one word that sums up World at War for us, it’s ‘brutal’. The latest Call of Duty, developed over the last two years by Treyarch – not series creator Infinity Ward – is a brutal slog through a WWII setting unlike any other. You may think you’ve ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ when it comes to this particular global conflict, but after five minutes in either the blood-soaked single player campaign or the frenzied multiplayer you’ll realise that this is far from your average, tired WWII shooter.

However, whereas it changes the setting from the last Call of Duty outing, Modern Warfare, one thing that hasn’t been altered is the core gameplay. The tools of war may be different, the uniforms more old fashionned and the settings less current, but beneath the surface of World At War lies the oh-so-silky smooth gameplay we were treated to in CoD4. Yeah, that’s probably because the game runs on the same engine, but to try and alter such an awesome shooting formula would be nothing short of madness.

Even with the same equipment mistakes can be made (Quantum of Solace runs on the Call of Duty engine too), but the boys at Treyarch have done a fine job, adding sweet new effects here and there, making small modifications, and adapting the gunplay to work with all the authentic WWII ephemera. The weapons, for example, are mostly those you’d find in Call of Duty 1-3, but they feel more solid and lethal like the advanced weaponry of Modern Combat. Even the melee attack (which can either be a knife or a bayonet) seems meaty as you jab your pig-stick into the neck of any charging Japanese Banzai or Nazi soldier.

And that’s before you get your hands on a flamethrower. Although it has plenty of competition we reckon WaW’s instrument-of-fiery-doom is far superior to the ones you’ll find in Gears of War 2, Far Cry 2 and Dead Space. Why? Well, the devil is in the detail. Not only does it look and sound like you’re unleashing high-pressure propellant at your enemies, it also causes the world around you to react. Enemies will desperately try to pat out fire on their clothes, or will flail their arms screaming before collapsing in a smoldering heap. Tiny embers will float through the air, and nearby grass and trees will curl up and singe. Our only issue with the flamethrower? Well, can get a little boring to use. Hosing trenches filled with Japanese soldiers is great to start with, but the lack of required skill gets to be a turn-off after a while.

So, the weapons are brutal. The environments you find yourself fighting in are brutal. Even the storyline, with its strong focus on hatred and revenge is brutal. The Soviet campaign is especially harsh and you genuinely feel as if you and your comrades are fighting for vengeance instead of personal survival. In fact there were moments in the Russian campaign (watching a terrified German POW getting a hole shot through his skull in the Eviction stage stands out) when you’ll genuinely start to feel pity for your enemy. Treyarch may not have changed the core gameplay much (and in some cases their level design leaves much to be desired – two or three times we found ourselves wandering aimlessly looking for the spot that triggered a new event), but the developer does know a thing or two about telling a compelling story.

If anything the Red Army stages make the American ones seem a little tame, and it’s no surprise that the game ends with an all-guns-blazing assault on the Reichstag, the very heart of Hitler’s Germany. Well, that’s where the single player campaign ends at any rate. World at War’s single player campaign, although solid, was always meant to play second-fiddle to the multiplayer options and you’ll need to engage with these to get maximum bang (or indeed squelchy stab) for your Call of Duty buck.

Multiplayer is split between adversarial (deathmatch etc) and co-operative play. Co-op, although not as popular as the versus multiplayer right now is a solid experience. Finding a game is easy enough and once you’re hooked up there’s plenty of fun to be had. Our favourite has to be the competitive mode that allows you and friends to battle over a number of levels racking up high scores. Providing you don’t end up with a bunch of jerks who spend their whole time nabbing the best weapons, you’ll be able to sink just as much time into this as the main single player. The ace card World At War has up its sleeve is the Nacht der Untoten mode that allows you and your buddies to defend a creepy house against waves of Nazi zombies. Yes, it’s a bit silly next to the oh-so-serious setting of the main campaign (in fact, we think it’s a little insensitive) but after hours of blissful zombie-dismembering we’re glad the mode is there. And you will be too.

However, the thing you’ll be logging on to long after everything else is the versus multiplayer, which is – as you’d expect – very much the same as it was in Modern Warfare. One concern many had before the game was released is that die-hard CoD4 fans would be reluctant to migrate over to World At War. Well, for now at least, these fears should be swept away. Servers are always busy (especially if you want to play popular modes like Headquarters, Sabotage and regular team deathmatch), and maps are mostly simple enough to allow new-comers a fair shot at the guys who have already ploughed hours into multiplayer, learning every level inside out.

Having said that, genuine Call of Duty virgins will find it tough to make headway in the multiplayer as all the skills learned in previous CoDs are very, very transferable. We’re no slouches with a rifle, but we had our asses handed to us time and time again for the first couple of hours. And there’s only so much angry Keifer Sutherland voiceover (he voices Sergeant Roebuck in the main game, and is therefore the chap who barks orders at you in multiplayer) you can take before getting a little upset. Some of the unbalanced Perks certainly don’t help - the attack dogs spring instantly to mind - and the fact that powerful short-range weapons like the trench gun and double barreled shotgun feel extremely underpowered is frustrating.

Newbies will be pleased to hear you can level up your online profile by blasting through the co-op multiplayer as well as the versus, so if you’re struggling to hold your own, it’s best to hunt a few zombies or sorch the odd Banzai warrior with friends before heading back in with the big boys.

All in all World at War delivers. It isn’t a revolution in Call of Duty gaming, but neither is it a step backwards, like some have claimed. Right now, it’s the best WWII shooter we’ve played, largely because it’s got a solid (if unoriginal) single player, some spectacular multiplayer, and oh yeah: because it’s brutal as hell.

Nov 11, 2008

More Info

Release date: Nov 11 2008 - Xbox 360, PC, Wii, DS, PS3 (US)
Nov 14 2008 - Xbox 360, PC, Wii, DS, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, Wii, DS, PS3
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Activision
Developed by: n-Space, Treyarch
Franchise: Call of Duty
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
PEGI Rating:


  • psycho ninja 4 - September 23, 2011 5:45 a.m.

    I ended up getting this game for my brothers birthday. sounds like he may lake it. :)
  • TheTrooper424 - November 26, 2008 2:33 a.m.

    I truly regret ever buying the game. The single-player is amazing but the multi-player is the worst (in the series) by far. I cant play it for thirty minutes without quiting in frustration. Treyarch really messed up on this one. Why wont they set the next CoD in the future...lmao!! Light-sabers anyone?? : D
  • Defguru7777 - November 16, 2008 11:51 p.m.

    I think that they used the word "brutal" in this review more times than in an episode of Metalocalypse.
  • Viggars - November 16, 2008 9:20 p.m.

    Many people have spent the last year being playing COD4's repetitive multiplayer. If you ask me people will get bored of COD WAW very quickly, especially with so many other high quality games on the market at the moment. If you want an alternative, I recommend Far Cry 2.
  • MadCowDisease - November 16, 2008 5:29 p.m.

    ^EPIC WIN.
  • Spartan523 - November 15, 2008 4:17 a.m.

    Common give treyarch a chance, they are a solid dev. with a lot of exp. COD3 sucked but they had slightly over a year to do it, they couldnt do much of what they wanted. with more time COD3 could have been alot better,W/ COD:WAW they had alot more time.
  • jamesnash - November 13, 2008 5:01 p.m.

    I love short games, why drag a game out? short sweet games like cod4 made me want to go back for more! id never play a 30+ hour game again and a lot of the gameplay is repetitive anyway
  • GodlikeApe - November 13, 2008 12:31 p.m.

    I'm looking forward to a COD game set in say, the Boer war, muskets and cannons with a touch of spear-throwing! What could be better than that?!
  • evilsanta23 - November 13, 2008 1:36 a.m.

    seriously. this game looks great. who cares if its not as good as cod4 cause it'll be hard to make a game as good as cod4. y r people hatin on treyarch and anothr world war 2 game? treyarch made a good game. cant people accept that?
  • Cwf2008 - November 13, 2008 12:26 a.m.

    Well a 9 huh? 3 more than it should have got...seriously is Treyarch too scared to make a Vietnam game?
  • oreomonkey - November 13, 2008 12:12 a.m.

    Far Cry 2 is not as good as this dont listen to him its garbage... well not THAT bad but its not as good as this if ur deciding which one to get..GET THIS!
  • oreomonkey - November 12, 2008 1:03 p.m.

    double post?
  • oreomonkey - November 12, 2008 1:02 p.m.

    wow... i have this game and i rented far cry 2. how does this get the same frekin score as far cry 2. yah i an understand this getting a 9 because its not as cod4 but c'mon its way better than far cry 2 and battlefield: bad company is better than it and got a worse score?!?!?! what is up with that
  • jimsondanet - November 12, 2008 10:50 a.m.

    8 hours?! that sucks no game should be that short i really dont think il buy gears now oh well fallout has over 100 i hear, but then again im no completionist stat buffin too that of a demi god however
  • MobstahLobstah - November 11, 2008 11:56 p.m.

    ^ YES.
  • purpleshirt - November 11, 2008 9:33 p.m.

    the demo scared me sitting in a bombed out building artillery shells landing all around, bullets flying through the windows it was gritty and was quite shocking
  • bron1417 - November 11, 2008 9:17 p.m.

    different is better. getting it.
  • the_real_fluke - November 11, 2008 8:59 p.m.

    so basically, its more of the same, but different? cant wait
  • Cwf2008 - December 7, 2008 7:34 a.m.

    Lol the next Call of Duty game should be COD: The American Revolution. Now you too can experience all the thrill of standing in formation while getting shot at by redcoats, being able to fire off 3 rounds a minute, and having a reload time of about 20 seconds! You and your enemy shoot at each other only to miss? Dont worry: Just reload and stare at each other. Maybe by the time you reload your enemy will have died of boredom!
  • R38P3R - December 7, 2008 5:26 a.m.

    still by far the best WW2 shooter ever, but definitely not as good as CoD 4.

Showing 1-20 of 63 comments

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