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Reviewed by Jason Thompson
t seemed liked it would be an impossible feat to equal the greatness that is Infinity Ward’s “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.” After all, this was the game that managed to surpass the number of online players enjoying “Halo 3” last year. This is also the game that, slightly over a year later, I’m still playing almost daily, and enjoy just as much as the first time I fired it up. So, along with the rest of that game’s fans, I was a little wary when it was announced that not only would the next CoD game be set back during World War II, but that Infinity Ward would not be developing it, instead handing the reigns over to the team at Treyarch
Well, no one needed to have worried at all. Not only is “Call of Duty: World at War” the best World War II shooter of all time, but both the solo and multiplayer modes are just as exciting and addictive as its predecessor. Instead of trying to reinvent the franchise, Treyarch wisely took notes on what made the last game so amazing and threw on a few new creative touches of their own to ensure maximum fun.
This time out during the solo campaign, players split their time controlling a U.S. Marine stationed in Japan, and a Russian soldier digging in deep in Germany. Both stories are extremely engaging, filled with main characters that gamers will come to like. As in the last game in this series, there are a couple of moments in the story that are like a punch to the gut, reminding players just what a terrible and horrific thing war is. But the entire solo mode is impeccably and beautifully presented, perhaps even being a shade better than the excellent in-between-mission scenes of “Modern Warfare.”
Some other critics have complained that the solo campaign is too short, but like the last game, it felt just right to me. Besides, everyone knows that these games get their longevity online, and this one is no different. Anyone even slightly familiar with the online action found in “Modern Warfare” will feel right at home here. There are a slew of challenges, weapons and perks to unlock, as well as the famous Prestige Mode, which has been changed slightly this time out by being attainable after level 60 instead of level 55 (as in the previous game). Favorite game modes such as Free-For-All, Team Deathmatch, Headquarters and the rest are all back as well. As a bonus, players are also able to jump in tanks on certain maps and wreak all sorts of havoc.
Probably the biggest difference in online play this time is the size of the maps themselves. They seem to be larger than the biggest ones featured in “Modern Warfare.” If that’s not actually the case, then certainly the sheer amount of places to hide on each map has increased tenfold. Undoubtedly this will lead to some players crying foul of others who wish to camp during play, but the nooks and crannies in each map are simply staggering. It takes a little getting used to, but by the time you’ve played each map at least three times each, you start to fall right in and things get a little easier.
And last but not least, there’s the hilarious addition of “Nazi Zombies,” a game that players unlock after completing the entire solo campaign. Basically, the game is self-explanatory. You’re holed up in a war-torn house, and Nazi zombies are trying to make their way in to eat you. Players gain points by making kills and can purchase better weapons scattered about the house for various point values. Nazi killing was never so enjoyably goofy.
So what you have here is a successor to one of the greatest FPS games of all time -- that is every bit as great. Instead of screwing things up royally, Treyarch kept a good thing going for another year of gaming. And if you own this and “Modern Warfare,” you may never see the light of day again. That is, if you’ve been seeing it before now, anyway. “Call of Duty: World at War” is simply a must-have title that is undoubtedly the nicest video game surprise of the year.