In under a month, Call of Duty will be returning to World War II. Although this may disappoint those who embraced the series transition to "modern warfare", World at War will be running on the Call of Duty 4 engine and plays just as crisp and quick as its predecessor. The gameplay, controls, look and feel of World at War are much the same as Modern Warfare. This confirms two things: Treyarch has decided they might as well not fix something if isn't broken, and secondly, World at War is going to be awesome.
WaW is the first in the series to throw us into the Pacific Theatre of WWII, where the US forces fight the Japanese regime. You'll also be playing as a European soldier alongside allies in the fight against the Germans. World at War will include a squad system, 4 player co-op, and an experience point system for the single-player campaign much like in the multiplayer modes of Modern Warfare. You'll have fun blowing up more deforming elements than ever before, including making your enemies limbless, and blasting through more walls than Terminator. Call of Duty still impresses with its fantastic use of depth of field when squinting down a scope or crawling through an overgrown field of grass.
During our hands-on session the game never chugged along, even as we used the flamethrower to burn a Japanese soldier out of his sniper position atop a tree. As the tree singed and crackled, the fire spread to the surrounding foliage and across the grass. Our kill was upside down, swaying slightly and still tied off to the tree for support. Bullets were flying and little battles were being fought by the AI characters all around us, but we found the time to cut the soldier down from the tree and tea-bag him to our satisfaction. As play continued, we started to notice the difference in tactics between the Japanese and the Germans. Japanese war tactics included strong use of camouflage, surrounding an area or object of interest (like a smouldering helicopter crash) and then ambushing that area once the enemy approached it. The Germans seem to simply use brute force, throwing grenades and setting up tripods for machine guns as often as possible.
Personally, I found the learning curve was non-existent. The amount of time it takes you to remember the Modern Warfare controls will be your learning curve for WaW. Last year's single player campaign disappointed in the length category, most players getting through the title in a night or two. Unfortunately the single player campaign will be very short yet again, with about 5-6 hours of game play. Online play should make up the difference, but you can be the judge of that with the multiplayer beta available now. Grab a beta code by signing up for an account at the official site, or pre-ordering the game.
World at War will hit shelves on November 11th for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PC, and a teen rated DS version. A PS2 version, developed by Rebellion, will also ship on the same date but does not follow the same storyline.