Tech + Lifestyle

games, gear, and googleplexes (joke)

Call of Duty: World at War


You know what I played a couple nights ago for the first time? Yep, you guessed it – World at War, the most recent addition to the CoD franchise. I was hanging out with a friend that purchased it when it came out, and we ended up playing through parts of the campaign, a couple of the multiplayer maps, and the zombie mod. Want to know what I thought of the game?

I hated it.

It wasn’t so much that the game was really bad, just that it wasn’t all that good. Allow me to explain.

Treyarch Studios

As some of you know, this particular iteration was created by Treyarch, the studio that also created CoD 3. Treyarch is essentially the red-headed stepchild in the CoD family. The original, as well as CoD 2 and 4, was released by Infinity Ward, who produces arguably better material. The difference in quality is obvious, making me wonder why Treyarch was ever used in the first place. I guess even Infinity Ward needs to take a break once in a while.

First of all, I have to rant about the single player campaign. Actually, I’m not even starting with the campaign, but rather the intro sequences for each mission. Treyarch tried to do some sort of hip, artistic thing that combines animated graphics reminiscent of block prints with old video footage from the Pacific during WWII. The result is an awkward, unwieldy beast that is as ugly as it is confusing. Here’s the intro video for the whole thing, so you get an idea:

Once you get past the sequences, the single player campaign is, well, just boring. Treyarch over-hyped the addition of the flamethrower into this game, and then drank their own Koolaid and use it way too much. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that they just came up with some flame effects that everyone in the development studio really liked, and they decided to use them whenever possible because the rest of the game is unexciting in the graphics department. Don’t have a flamethrower handy? Don’t worry! We’ve added molotov cocktails to this game. Flame on! (I know, that was a terrible rip-off of the Fantastic Four). They might as well have called this game Call of Duty: Fire is Awesome! because that’s what it feels like the gameplay was reduced to.

Flaaaaaaaaaaames!

Flaaaaaaaaaaames!

So the intro sequences are dumb and aesthetically unappealing, and Treyarch has a thing for fire. The actual missions can still be good, right? Not so fast, sparky. Once all the fluff is boiled away, all that’s left is a generic WWII shooter. There’s no new gameplay, no interesting techniques or strategies that you’ve got to use to be successful. So World at War’s got that “shell shock” effect whenever a mortar round or bomb drops too close. Big deal, that’s a Call of Duty staple at this point. So they’ve got a sniper mission where you follow around an older, experienced soldier and take out a bigwig Nazi. Congratulations, Treyarch, you stole that from the last Call of Duty. The same goes for the quazi-cinematic, quazi-gameplay end sequence they tacked onto the last mission, only planting a flag isn’t as dramatically effective as killing the guy you’ve been pursuing all game. Essentially, everything that’s good in World at War is because Treyarch copied it from Infinity Ward, not because they’re creative or original. Obviously when dealing with a franchise like this, there are some things that have got to stay in, but I feel as though Treyarch would be content to let it degenerate into a shooter-equivalent of Madden, where a new installment is released each year and the only difference is the location and the names of the characters.

My friend Kyle would argue that Call of Duty games really shine when they’re multiplayer. That bears merit I guess, right? The only problem is that even Kyle doesn’t like World at War’s multiplayer. Before we started, he warned me that the maps weren’t all that great. I shrugged, because he’s more hardcore when it comes to shooters than me. Fifteen minutes later, I was cursing whoever had designed the map I was on. It was too small, for starters. It usually takes me ten or fifteen sessions on a particular map before I really start to get a feel for it. With World at War, I had figured out almost everything within ten minutes. That doesn’t bode well for replay value, in my book. One of Kyle’s complaints was that the maps aren’t “built up enough”. I began to understand what he meant pretty quickly. Most shooter maps have ingenious little spots that are perfect for shooting people as they come around a particular corner, or areas that you can hole up in if need be, etc. There just wasn’t that much effort put into World at War’s multiplayer maps. Using them, you get the feeling they were created by someone who was trying to copy a master (read: Infinity Ward), but didn’t actually know what they were doing.

The only redeeming quality I could find in World at War was the Zombie Mode, a bonus feature that can be unlocked after beating the single-player campaign (wait for a single zombie to come on screen after the credits, then shoot it). While deceptively simple, Zombie Mode was the most fun I had with the game all night. Here’s the premise: you’re trapped inside a partially-destroyed mansion, and Nazi Zombies are attacking from all sides. There are partially boarded-up windows that you shoot can them from, but they zombies can enter through those same windows after tearing off the boards. The more zombies you kill and boards you “repair” by holding down X beside them, the more point you get. Points can be redeemed for better weapons and access to other parts of the building as you battle through wave after wave of successively harder-to-kill zombies.

In case you couldn’t tell, my verdict on this game really isn’t a positive one. I think Treyarch needs a big, heaping dose of reality to be dumped on their heads. This product is half-baked at best, and they should have realized that and adjusted their plans accordingly. It probably would’ve been better if released episodically – give gamers the first two or three hours of the single-player campaign, along with three or four really good multi-player maps. After that, churn out the rest of it every six months or so, eventually completing the campaign and developing a great bundle of maps. As for the Zombie Mode? That probably could have been great downloadable content. I can’t even begin to imagine how popular it would’ve been if sold on the X-Box Live Marketplace for eight or ten bucks.

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December 22, 2008 - Posted by | Gaming | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

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