By now, gamers have fought World War II on every major front and probably been part of every battle the US was involved in. It’s gotten pretty tired, and last year’s mega-hit Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare with its, well, modern warfare didn’t make us yearn to return to the Big One. Yet here we are, drafted once more to fight the Axis in the DS version of Call of Duty: World at War.
First things first, the DS isn’t always the best place for a first-person shooter. Very few titles really get the necessary level of control and simplicity right. This isn’t the first CoD on the DS, so the developers had something to build on, but the controls are still barely acceptable. You move with the d-pad, you control your line of sight with the stylus and shoot with the L-trigger, which takes a while for your reflexes to really accept as the way to play. Plus it’ll hurt your hands something fierce.
“Barely acceptable” would describe the level design as well. Soldiers just pop up like Whac-A-Moles, begging for you to shoot them, though they do have enough smarts to attempt to flank you or throw back live grenades. And moving between each mechanical shootout involves passing through hallways poorly masquerading as “open” areas. But it all looks as good as can be expected on the DS, with lots of voice-acting no less.
To shake things up, the creators also added activities solely for the touch screen. Sometimes it’s as complicated as the multi-step disarming of a land mine. Other times it’s as simple as tapping out Morse code, which only helps WaW feel as stale as WWII field rations. And some are just aggravating, like turning wheels with the stylus to blast a cannon at offshore boats. The N64-level graphics in these sequences aren’t so good at showing exactly how close or far away you are from your target before it shoots back, instantly killing you and sending you back to the last checkpoint.
However, World at War does have fine multiplayer, even including four-player online death matches. Though the maps feel a little small and spawn points are poorly placed, it’s executed well enough that you’ll wonder why more DS shooters aren’t this competent. Ultimately, however, the setting and controls still hold back this war without end from being anything but a quick tour of duty.
Dec 5, 2008