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19 Reviews

Call of Duty: World at War

It's World War II... but not as we know it

War. What is it good for? A clichéd intro that you've read millions of times before, a part-time hobby for a president with an itchy trigger finger and a song that you've heard dropped into trying-to-be-hip films one too many times, that's what. So here's the real question. War. What is it bad for?

It's a question games have rarely asked, let alone answered, and that goes double for answering it as well as Call of Duty: World at War does.

Within seconds of the title screen fading away, you see throats slit, blood spraying on walls, grenades turning soldiers into red clouds and once-sworn enemies seeming very human as they fall to their knees and plead for their very lives. War - it's not quite as glamorous as games would have us believe.

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From the violent opening to the poignant ending, this is Treyarch's middle finger to those who said that they could never make a war game as sophisticated, slick, or stunning as Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

What's the story?
The campaign mode criss-crosses between the Americans fighting the Japanese and the Russians fighting the Nazis.

Early on a good guy/bad guy distinction is clearly drawn out, but as the war rumbles on, the lines slowly become blurred. There are times when World at War doesn't just highlight the moral grey shades of war, but it makes you feel like a right bastard too.

It's because Treyarch is fond of drawing dilemmas that don't make you feel like a hero for crushing the enemy. Add in the new level of violence and there are times when World at War hits a nerve that previous Call of Duty games hadn't even been aware of.

Even if it's nothing more than making you wince - and believe us, you will wince at least once - there's no denying that World at War will have some sort of effect on you.

What the added drama does is disguise the familiar Call of Duty gears grinding out the action from underneath the surface. You're forever being urged forward by the enemy's well-disguised spawn points and frequent grenades.

You roll through set-piece after set-piece after set-piece until the level finally fades to black and you're afforded a few minutes, nay, a few seconds to relax. It's still the classic Call of Duty formula but it feels altogether fresh and exciting again.

Turning Japanese
One of the big changes promised was the introduction of the Japanese soldiers. As the American side, you have to battle the Japanese who relentlessly charge, ambush you and prefer get up close and personal with their bayonets rather than taking pot-shots from distance.

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Add in a flamethrower and the result is carnage - bodies charging and flailing everywhere, flames flooding the screen, screams of burning soldiers compete for volume against the whoosh of the flamethrower. It's absolute carnage.

The Russian campaign is a stubbornly old-skool experience, sticking to the tried-and-tested rules of Call of Duty. Green and brown fields, bombed-out buildings, panicked German shouting and the occasional rumble of a tank.

Perhaps sensing that this half of World at War would be the most vulnerable to the 'been there, done that' brigade, it's here that Treyarch really goes for the throat. The sight of German soldiers in hapless positions pleading for their lives soon becomes commonplace, as Treyarch implores you to play the part of either impassive bystander or executioner.

The set-pieces in the Russian half of World at War are also the most spectacular, running in contrast to the short and sharp staccato attacks of the Japanese levels. Whether it's a whole building being levelled in front of your eyes or a tidal wave hurtling down a tunnel, it keeps the suspense at a high and the pacing tight.

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