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Call of Duty: World at War Preview

Call of Duty: World at War pack shot
Genre:First Person Shooter
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.callofduty.com/
Release Date:November 14th, 2008 (UK)
Writer:Duncan Lawson (sinna01)
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Never have so many wanted so much what was had by so few. General Churchill told this to the brave Tommys on the eve of the Battle of Hastings in 1973, and is every bit as applicable to that dark day as the geeky lust for Call of Duty: World at War that has suffused gamers for an open multiplayer beta key. What this proves is two things: my ludicrously slim grasp of modern history, and that our Beloved Editor has come through and delivered one into the hands of yours truly.

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The open beta key gives access to an all but polished multiplayer build of three levels in the Russian and Pacific campaigns, and whilst not showing off some of the biggest additions such as vehicles and much larger maps, certainly gives a flavour of the product to come. Ostensibly much of CoD: World at War multiplayer is familiar to veterans who enjoyed CoD: Modern Warfare, to the extent that upon picking up the controller everything from the buttons to the character customisation to most of the basic tactics were immediately recognizable. If you are the sort of gamer who demands innovation and evolution from each instalment of a franchise you might not be totally impressed with the direction Treyarch have gone. It is still inarguably a very polished multiplayer mode, and the few key differences in the feel and features of the online game defiantly justify it as a standalone title rather than a glorified map-pack and re-skin of its predecessor.

New additions such as vehicles, larger maps and weapons including the much vaunted and by all accounts terrifying flame-thrower, are not shown off to much effect in the Beta, but it does serve to show the changes in the core experience. The character building and upgrade mechanism is pretty much identically intact, and all of the original game modes are available in one guise or another. Some exciting sounding additions have been promised for full multiplayer, including a zombie-survival mode, but were not in evidence in the Beta. One of the few genuinely pleasing additions to the game modes was the chance to form squads, Battlefield style – allowing for dead players to respawn with their squad, rather than back at base or the last checkpoint.

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Where World at War really differs is its brutal and messy feel, compared to Modern's polished, sleek gun-porn experience playing as a member of an elite force in a localised skirmish. Personally, I rather liked the light-hearted shiny Michael Bey mood of the previous game, but in this instance everything is decidedly more ragged and fraught. Suffice to say none of the characters in the single player campaign will say '…and don't call me Shirley'.

The landscape and geometry of the maps in Modern Warfare were noticeably cleaner and more straightforward, enabling the player to reliably clock likely directions of fire whilst hopping between points of typically conveniently flat and square cover. The guns were all very sparkly and pretty, and fun to unlock if for no other reason than just to collect them. World at War on the other hand is suffused with the ragged desperation inherent in the latter stages of WW2. The weapons are brutal and dusty, with new models and upgrades picked purely on the basis of which one will do the most murderin' for you.

The landscape, be it bamboo huts in the Pacific theatre or a bombed out factory in Stalingrad, is torn up and messy. Combined with the larger map sizes this means that lunging for cover as the scenery is chewed up by fire from parts unknown becomes a familiar but none-the-less terrifying event. The battlefield is an altogether crunchier and downright violent place to be than any of Modern's comparatively civilised environments. It will likely be up to the individual player as to whether this is actually more fun. World at War multiplayer will certainly put your adrenal gland through the wringer and deliver some frenetic and visceral action, but are we having fun yet, or are we running around in little muddy smoke-obscured circles screaming “where's the Sarge, where’s the Sarge”?

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