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:


  • pjbuhl - December 18, 2008 12:13 p.m.

    are you kidding?!?!? who cares who its made by this game still looks great none the less and i might ad though that i would rather have gears of war 2 than this, it still looks like a fantastic game....and to jimsondante um.....there is no way a game has 100 hours of story mode......8 hours is good.
  • XiXPapaMoonXiX - December 26, 2008 5:28 a.m.

    Phenomenal game...More gritty than others and great story...a longshot from COD4 though
  • ghegin - December 26, 2008 3:48 p.m.

    sorry i mean next april
  • Rhesus - December 30, 2008 1:19 p.m.

    It's not a bad game. It's just all the hype from Call of Duty 4, makes it look worse in comparison.
  • CaptainDucktacular - January 3, 2009 10 p.m.

    You know, when I first found out that this game would be another worthless WWII shooter, I was dissapointed. But after owning it for around two weeks, I couldn't be more enthusiastic. It's gorgeous, realistic, and WAY more dirty and destructive than its competition. I love this game so much. It really captures the violence and suffering of WWII, and I think the story is great. Memorable moments like a certain Sgt.'s death, along with the choice to save a certain t.v. star are amazing to me, as I came to enjoy the two characters. Also, the final moments of the game really stuck out for me. And the one thing that makes this game a great addition to the series? Simple. News that this ISN"T Call of Duty 5, and there is a sequel to COD4. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Happy hunting!
  • gamer49 - January 11, 2009 10:32 p.m.

    i can't stop playing the zombie game. the story mode is realy fun.
  • TheMasterBroque - February 7, 2009 2:29 a.m.

    This game is freakin AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The way the game makes you feel is awesome because you never know what's around the corner. :-)
  • osmokes - February 18, 2009 8:58 p.m.

    This is probably one of the worst rip-offs in the history of videogames. Call of Duty: World at War was made by Treyarch. A terrible game developer company that is making money by ripping off Infinity Ward's initial success with the original Call of Duty. Call of Duty: World at War uses the same engine as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (the only difference is now limbs can come off). Therefore you are playing COD 4 with a World War II skin. You would therefore think that the gameplay is totally identical. It truly is not. The guns feel weak and crappy, the animations are slow, the textures change from light to gray, the dialogue is just awful (I hate Jack Bauer). The AI animation is awful. Also why the fuck does every Nazi have rolled up sleeves? The Tank combat is a joke and full of glitces. Fire (the one new feature worth any note) doesn't work half the time. The second to last mission is one of the few that requires smoke grenades, however, your russian allies didn't see fit to allow for those, instead they are replaced by shitty molotov cocktails. Multiplayer is a bastardized version of Call of Duty's excellent multiplayer. Tanks add to it, but they are clumsy at best. The Dogs are cool. What the fuck is Tabun gas? No soldier carried that like they would carry frag or smoke grenades. OVERALL - Call of Duty: World at War is terrible version of Modern Warfare. I blame everyone who has purchase any game from Treyarch for this mess. I am BOYCOTTING Treyarch and anything involved with their company. Infinity Ward's Call of Duty games are the only true Call of Duty games.
  • m4ggot - March 30, 2009 5:09 p.m.

    The people saying this is crap are harsh. Yes, CoD4 is much better, but this is easily the best WW2 game ever made. i thought (before I played the demo) that it would be utterly crap, but it's brilliant!
  • SoleDash - April 16, 2009 4:11 p.m.

    This game is great! The story missions are very realistic, it almost feels like your there! The multiplayer is totally awesome with the hardcore mode on (No hud on your screen)! This game is worth buying!
  • SoleDash - April 16, 2009 4:12 p.m.

  • thatonekid1995 - June 23, 2009 5:31 a.m.

    i think the game is shaky but really Oreomaonkey? comparing this masterpeice to BF: bad company? i bet you're a crackhead. BF sucks more than a 90's live action game from top 7
  • yyz131 - July 15, 2009 12:08 a.m.

    You really can't compare this game to Far Cry 2 or Fallout, those games are free-roam, so you play them completely differently. So, the ratings aren't entirely accurate. Cwf, the reason Treyarch doesn't make a Vietnam game is because there are so many veterans alive today, a lot more than WWII veterans. They saw people get blown to pieces, and Treyarch correctly decided to not put them through it again , even in a game.
  • slipknot555and666 - July 15, 2009 4:40 p.m.

    yea man im willston chirchill and the english won
  • Thegamingkid - July 22, 2009 5:30 p.m.

    HA! People say that World war 2 as a game had its jucies sucked dry! Well wait till they play this game! WWII still has it!
  • GamerTagsSuck - August 9, 2009 9:16 p.m.

    Read all the comments on people saying that zombie mode would suck and that people would hate the game. Haha. And IW will never make another CoD game. If I'm right, they sold the rights to CoD to Treyarch.
  • ghegin - December 26, 2008 3:47 p.m.

    i think that cod4 is better, as the guns in world at war suck ass. The missions are longer and better in world at war. Oh and by the way, world at war is not cod5 it is only world at war. They are making cod5 next January.
  • GaMeZ4LiFe - January 2, 2009 6:19 a.m.

    I think this game looks like it is going to be quite fun, I really enjoyed COD4 so I will most likely love this game as well.
  • Daywalkr - February 2, 2009 9:06 p.m.

    This game isnt as good as COD4 but the basic idea is the same, the ranking system is almost identical,65 levels,prestige. You unlock weapons and perks(abilities) as you rank up in a wide variety of game types. The only new one I can think of is War but they just added Merc TD and Team Tactical. The Campaign only was interesting because I kept getting closer to unlocking Zombie mode,which now is for everyone. The Missions were pretty boring, and since everyone is in NXE parties, forget team coordinated attacks in Camp. or MP. There are a few weapon flaws such as, with stopping power on, you can kill someone in a one bullet headshot with MP40, however an extremely high velocity Bolt action rifle cannot.Care to explain Treyarch?
  • BurntToShreds - February 24, 2009 11:56 p.m.

    I love how they added the gore. Makes it more realistic, no? Seeing a soldier in a landing craft getting a chunk of his skull blown off, dismemberment from a bouncing betty, watching Japanese soldiers crawl away legless from a rocket strike, watching Nazi soldiers being burned alive, and a stream of blood as your knife leaves someones body. Treyarch really went out of the way to show us the true horrors of war.

Showing 1-20 of 63 comments

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