Call of Duty: World at War

Mikey 4 comments
Call of Duty: World at War

I thought long and hard about how I was going to approach this review, but in the end I conceded there was no way I could get around the simple fact that I am going to have to compare not only to Call of Duty 4, but also Crysis.

Now calm down, I can hear you choking on your cornflakes from here: “But Mikey, Crysis is on a completely different level. How can you fairly compare it to Call of Duty 5!?”

I think the best way to respond to that seemingly apt splutter is to recreate one of my COD5 experiences that happened more times than I’ve had hot dinners.

But first, let me explain how the same scenario happens in Crysis.

I'm under heavy fire from an unforgiving opposition and just when a grenade suddenly bounces at my feet. At this point I have several options. I can jump for cover or sprint into the nearby forest out of harms way. If I'm feeling particular creative I can pick up a nearby barrel or crate and hide behind it, reducing the effects of the percussion. Or if I am close enough, I could even grab one of the enemy soldiers by the throat and throw him on the grenade, suppressing the damage to my own being. If this battle happens to be taking place next to a river, I can jump under water. If this is happening next to or inside a building, I can open a door, pass through and close it behind me to avoid the damage. I’m sure you will agree that’s not a bad array of options designed to help save your own skin, and I’ve even left a few out. But you get the idea.

Now let me tell you what happens in COD5. A grenade lands at your feet and I try to dash into the forest, only to be met by an invisible wall which has me bouncing back and forth against it. Kaboom! Alternatively, I try to run the opposite way only to be blocked by one of my pants on head retarded team mates. Kaboom! Or how about trying to quickly duck inside a nearby building only to be reminded that the level designers have something against doors that open, and therefore made it impossible for me to actually open them. Oh I nearly forgot: Kaboom!

You see the thing with the entire COD series and more accurately the most recent incarnations, is they have always given you the pseudo impression of freedom with sweeping outdoor scenery and intricately detailed buildings, but in reality you are just boxed into another corridor shooter where you can’t divert from the game designers path or interact with anything more than catching a grenade with your face. Though for the record some of the scenery is breath taking, and the amount of detail put into the war ridden buildings is astonishing.

By stark contrast, Crysis has the most freedom afforded in any game in FPS history. You can explore every room open every door (and close them behind you), interact with every item you come across and use it to your advantage, and if you don’t particularly feel like wiping out the next wave of enemy soldiers, you can go exploring. And given the size and stunning beauty of the Crysis levels you can, as I have, spend hours just exploring and interacting with the environment and sneaking up on the enemy at your own leisure.

The reason I dragged Crysis into a COD5 review is because anyone who has played it (or Crysis Warhead) will understand that suddenly going to a game where you are restricted and forced to take a pre-determined path is frankly more annoying than being dragged along to Nana’s bingo night. It is for this reason that the entire COD series has always felt the same to me.

Now that I’ve gotten the bad stuff out of the way, there’s still plenty of good to be found.

As you may or may not know COD5 takes us back to the tired WW2 genre. The only one of the series to deviate from this time period was the previous COD4, which is set in a modern time warzone and I have to say is my favourite of the series. COD incidentally is considered somewhat of a diamond in the rough when it comes to FPS, with many people claiming it restored their faith in FPS’s. While I wouldn’t go that far I would agree it was defiantly one of the better FPS’s out there, lack of freedom aside.

Graphically speaking COD5 is the prettiest COD so far. It’s a ‘far cry’ from looking anywhere near as good as Crysis (sorry, pun intended), but it’s still an engine the designers should be proud of. The character animation is especially nice, even if a random character would occasionally jump over a wall that wasn’t there.

The level designs are great. Some of the action sequences literally had me holding my breath. Escaping from a burning building while Nazis fired flames through the windows was especially terrifying. And I was so gob-smacked at some of the building architecture that I occasionally became completely indifferent to being anally violated by Nazi bullets. If the COD level designers are good at one thing, it’s their ability to draw you into the atmosphere.

There are more than enough weapons to keep everyone happy. The flame thrower is especially fun until you get caught up in your own back draft and run screaming like a little girl.

The sounds though are too clear and crisp, which is actually something that has always annoyed me about the COD series. Every voice actor has obviously been recorded inside a sound proof sound booth and it shows during game play. Allow me to demonstrate.

A character could be talking to you half way across the map while bombs are dropped over head, and it will still sound like he’s coming through on a pair of razor crisp Karman Hardon headphones. I’ll be first to admit my WW2 history is a little fuzzy, but I’m almost certain bionic ear enhancements weren’t among a soldiers standard issue payload. When you’re outdoors all the characters should sound like they are speaking to you outdoors from the distance they are. It might not sound like a big deal but it’s more than enough to help destroy the illusion of ‘being there’.

As far as FPS’s go, COD5 is not bad, but it’s not fantastic either. It’s as heavily scripted as games come and you’re pretty much stuck into going the only direction the level designers allow.

That said, there is an obvious level of polish and it doesn’t come across as being a hack and slap sequel like some other FPS’s have been.

After all is said and done, COD5 is more fun than I expected, and I was happy to see it through to the end.

3 Stars

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Monday 1st December 2008 | 07:13 AM
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Top game but I'm nowhere near finished yet. I will give the bit about the restrictive path but come on - it's call of duty! What did you expect? On that subject I might take some flak for this but I'm the type who prefers to be led down a certain path in games so I know what to do. I didn't finish Crysis and I felt it was way to big and at times I wasn't sure if I was heading in the right direction. But it sure is perdy...

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Jake Farr-Wharton

Monday 1st December 2008 | 11:49 AM response to this comment by Anders. I'm having the same trouble with Fallout 3... pft! Too many frigging options!

I'm happy to be led down the garden path, always with the assumption that when I bend over to smell the roses, I'm going to catch a hand grenade in my face.

Nice review Mikey, was thinking about getting but far too busy with Fallout 3, Soldier of Fortune 3 and worse... Far Cry 2.

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Monday 1st December 2008 | 06:18 PM

I'm sick of the ww2 genre. Cod4 was a breath of fresh air and I don't understand whey they went back in time for number 5 especially considering how successful cod4 was.



Tuesday 2nd December 2008 | 07:33 AM
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I didn't buy the game for the reasons that you've mentioned (and because Fallout 3 is far better), but you didn't talk about the multiplayer! THAT was, by far, the best part of COD4, and the COD5 beta (Multiplayer only) was a blast. From what I played, there wasn't much new, just some new perks, WW2 skins, new maps that aren't quite as good, etc. Had I gotten the game, I would have invested much more time in the fantastic multiplayer, not the singleplayer.

While I agree that COD5 does seem like another fast paced FPS, the multiplayer is where the real meat of the game is, at least from my perspective.

And yeah, Crysis has spoiled me a bit too :P

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