I already know a large number of people who’ve said that if they were to see a single more shooter having one of the Two World Wars as a background, they would go postal. Personally, I feel that the topic is such a beaten dead horse that I don’t really notice the theme anymore and try to judge (exclusively and excessively) just the content. Even if I have seen the battle of Stalingrad so many times that I literally know every inch of dust of that city without setting a foot in it. On the other hand, a few franchises stood out of the crowd thanks to their quality: Medal of Honor, Brothers in Arms and especially Call of Duty.
Chew on this!
I rigorously played the entire CoD series, save for Call of Duty 3, and I can safely say that, for me at least, these titles are the most atmospheric and well-made shooters based on WW2. And I do mean both single-player and multiplayer-wise. I know some Medal of Honor or Battlefield enthusiasts will be tempted to contradict me. It’s their right after all, since beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It seems however that Activision wasn’t very pleased with the introduction of Modern Warfare in a series bent on historical events, so they quickly added a couple of shaders to turn your eyeballs into xenons and shoved World at War out the door.
Contrary to the general opinion, there’s still some meat to chew off the old bone. This time we’re talking about encounters of the third degree between Yankees and japs through the eastern jungles and a slightly adapted version of Enemy at the Gates and Running through Cornfields, leading act by the German army trying to escape Mother Russia’s retribution for the Stalingrad massacre. In other words, missions are mixed in a campaign-ish sort of ending to the Second World War. You’ll alternate between playing with the Americans and Russians, in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. There’s no clear storyline, only several remarkable events that tie loose ends left behind by CoD and Cod 2. I must emphasize that this Call of Duty doesn’t let the series down. Furthermore, it does healthily lead on the gore, which even made Lara ask herself – „Who would still be in the mood for this whole warfare business after playing World at War?!” after several hours of gaming.
The atmosphere still has its trademark features. The same madness, the same cannon fodder role you’re playing, the same objectives that squeeze the butter out of you on the highest difficulty level. On top of that, there’s a new element that will shock many: the violence. Well, yes, people get dismembered and a well-shot burst reaps their legs, hands… or every limb you can think of if you use a grenade. It’s one of the few games that are really flesh out the physical frailty of man.
However, you won’t see too much blood because, contrary to what other games lead you to believe, we only have about 5-6 liters flowing through our veins, which circulate at a much lower pressure than that required to make sprinklers of our arteries when getting mowed down by various projectiles, which I don’t wish on anyone. Ok, a bit of a shake when an artery gets severed, a red pool left behind, these are perfectly normal effects. World at War doesn’t push it past the limit because it doesn’t have to.
The first time I took a high-caliber machine gun in my hands and severed a German’s feet while the poor bastard was retreating, I felt a bitter void in my stomach. Which is weird for me, a former Med student with plenty of bodies dissected in the past. And if felt that in a videogame, what are the odds of me not going crazy after a real, war-like experience?! Not too high, I believe.
Conversely, the total lack of humanity of the Japanese soldiers disgusted me, as it’s so obviously fake and a direct result of western culture – absolutely oblivious towards eastern sensibility. That’s what pops to mind when you compare it to the brilliant experience of Clint Eastwood’s superb „Letters from Iwo Jima”. As a side note, it sadly reminded me of the fate an extremely spiritual nation had to suffer, the north-American natives’, simply misjudged and added to the already stained conscience of plenty Americans. What’s odd is that the habit goes on, which can either mean involution, or political interest.
Behind enemy lines
Getting back to theory crafting the CoD series, the second most original thing in World at War is the introduction of co-operative single-player campaigns. Its problem is that it’s much better than the multiplayer. Most agree that the mode which saw a return to glory thanks to Serious Sam and is now available in titles such as Gears of War, Left 4 Dead or Red Alert 3, is and will always be a sure bet. And that’s because PvP, in whatever form, doesn’t seem to raise enough people. The idea of „killing” a 3D character that has a soul in an abstract form doesn’t cut it for everyone. But when we’re talking about co-op and fighting off „evil” characters who aren’t beyond controlled by people, but are under the careful guidance of the AI, things turn innocent enough so nobody feels any remorse.