Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Why Call of Duty: World at War Doesn't Compare

I would like to make this very clear from the beginning- I loved Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4:Modern Warfare. Everything about it was wonderful- the single player campaign was brilliantly put together from start to finish, and as for the multiplayer, well, I'm sure everyone and their companion cube has played and loved it, not least me and mine, who were hooked on it and played almost nothing else for several months after its release. It did almost everything right. And precisely because of this perfection, I was loath from the beginning to pick up its successor, Treyarch's World at War. I knew from the first press releases that it would lack its elder brother's brilliance, that the tanks would imbalance the mutiplayer and that the singleplayer would lose its sparkle. This was enough to prevent me from making a purchase, that is, until Christmas rolled around again.
The spirit of the season must have lifted some of my leaden cynicism, for I thought to myself: "Well, it's had favourable reviews across the board, and my friends who do have it say it's good, so why not?" As a result, on Christmas morning, there sat a copy of Treyarch's latest. Eagerly, I set about the playing of it. Which was fun. Really. For a little while, anyway. Before I realised that all my gripes and suspicions were confirmed. Since I've just noticed the toolbar at the top of the post composer, shall we have a numbered list of its shortcomings? Oooh, let's!
  1. Singleplayer- As I have already said, Modern Warfare's single player mode was marvellous. It wasn't just the bread and butter gameplay (which was mostly fairly standard- but highly polished- FPS fare), but the entire atmosphere of it, and how well it pulled off such a variety of scenarios. Defending an immobilised tank from legions of Kalashnikov-brandishing terrorist types into the night felt authentic, but so did creeping through the irradited countryside around Chernobyl hunting an arms dealer. There was a genuine feeling of being there. Immersive, in a word. This is, unfortunately, missing from World at War. The missions feel bland by comparison, not least because many were basically rehashes. COD4's lovely Chernobyl sniper mission, wherein you and an amusingly accented Scottish (yay!) captain sneak about with rifles evading superior numbers of foes rather than engaging directly in the bleak environment of the abandoned town of Pripypat has become, well, you and an amusingly accented Russian captain sneaking about with rifles attempting to avoid superior numbers of foes in the bleak abandoned town of Stalingrad. The seat of the gunner of an AC-130 gunship in COD4 where you sat blasting away at people below has become the seat of the gunner of a Black Cat flying boat, blasting away at boats. It feels a little lazy, if truth be told.
  2. Multiplayer- This was undoubtedly the jewel in COD4's already splendid crown. Tight controls, well-designed maps and wonderfully balanced weapons combined for a multiplayer experience that was so good that my friends list was always full of people playing it even six months after release. The offspring has tried to mess with the formula, however, and things have gone awry. The change of setting back to WWII has meant that the beastly assault rifles have died something of a death due to not really having been born, but they haven't been properly replaced. The new rifles lack the punch to rival the submachine guns, which are at least as lethal as their modern-day counterparts. I was going to suggest people would complain that "I'm just a n00b and can't use the rifles" , but I don't suppose anyone's actually reading this. At any rate, in COD4 I had a great love for the M14, the single shot assault rifle, so that can go out the window. These guns are not merely ill-suited to me but poorly balanced. The maps too have lost the design flair. COD4 had such well placed sightlines and corners and balconies and such that playing was always intense. World at War's offerings are less so. They are too big for a start, but they seem poorly designed too. Houses may have windows that seem like they should be useful but offer little advantage, there are no places from where to watch some streets and churches have pointlessly high spires. The whole experience, theoretically superior to COD4's, failed to hold my attention for more than a couple of hours in total. The Nazi Zombies mode is amusing, but really it's not as good as Left 4 Dead, so there's no real reason for me to play it.
It occurs to me that that was not really a list, but I'm new to this blogging lark, gimme a break.

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