Retro game reviews: Call of Duty: World at War

By Brandon Smalley, Staff Writer

Call of Duty World at War, not to be confused with Call of Duty: World War 2, was the 5th major installment in the Call of Duty franchise released on November 14th 2008 by Treyarch. It was the first mainline Call of Duty game to be released for PC along with 7th generation consoles. It came out to generally popular reviews and took the series back to the boots on the ground stories of World War 2, which it had previously broken away from with Infinity ward’s highly coveted Modern Warfare series.

Call of Duty World at War has 3 game modes. It has the Campaign, Multiplayer, and the secret “Nazi Zombies” mode which made it’s debut appearance in World at war which would continue to be a cult classic among many long time players of the franchise, and would even leak into other Call of Duty games that Treyarch didn’t develop.

Beginning with the campaign, the player is thrusted between two perspectives in the World War. On one side, the player plays as Private Miller, a US marine fighting the Japanese during the brutal island hopping campaigns. On the other side, the player plays as Dimitri Petrenko, a soviet soldier left to die in the Siege of Stalingrad, only to be saved by the fan favorite Captain Viktor Reznov, both of which would return in the sequel to World at War, Call of Duty: Black ops.

In the campaign, both sides are shown the absolute horrors of the 2nd World War. Unlike other Call of Duty games, Call of Duty World at War doesn’t use ultra violence as a means to appeal to power trip hungry players, quite the opposite. Violence in World at War is used to show the setting, the unflinching gut clenching brutality inflicted during the war.

The island hopping campaign part of the game is fast paced, much like the Island hopping campaigns themselves. The game starts off strong, being tortured by a Japanese officer. The player watches as other Marines around them are being interrogated just as the player is. The player’s friend beside them tells them not to tell the Japanese a thing, before being executed. The officer burns a cigarette into the player’s face before a squad of other marines save the player. The player is given a Japanese pistol, and left to burn the Japanese outpost down.

During the middle parts of the Island hopping campaign, the player and their Commanding Officer go from Island to Island. In one part the player uses a flamethrower, and has to smoke out any Japanese soldiers they see, in other parts the player is defending against a Kamikaze attack while flying a bomber over the pacific ocean, needing to rescue soldiers who have fallen into the seas, unfortunately not everyone can be rescued.

This section of the game ends with the player and their CO finally making it to a Japanese temple, having to defend against a heavy onslaught of Japanese soldiers after they falsely surrender. Once again, the player finds no joy in this job, but just like the soldiers of the Pacific Theatre, it was necessary to stop the Axis powers.

On the other side of the earth, the player steps into the shoes of Dimitri Petrenko. The camera fades to the horrific scene of Stalingrad, the player lays in a pool of corpses and blood in a fountain. The music crescendos with a haunting chorus as panzer tanks roll on by. One of the player’s comrades struggles in pain, gaining the attention of German patrols. The player’s comrade screams for mercy as the German soldier kills him. A truly horrific and heart gripping scene.

One of the other corpses begin to move, he shushes the player down. Viktor Reznov guides the player through Stalingrad, having the player join Reznov on a mission to assassinate a Nazi Officer. As the duo move throughout Stalingrad, they meet up with surviving members of the Soviet forces, and together Reznov and the player turn the tide of the war. They lead a brutal counterattack against the Germans, and just like in real life, the counterattack succeeds.
In later missions of the soviet side, Petrenko meets up once again with Reznov, conquesting against the Nazis, punching through their forces with a fist of iron. The player gets to drive a soviet tank and personally lead the charge, burning farmsteads and outposts alike.

The soviet side concludes with Reznov rallying his soldiers to overtake the German capitol of Berlin. At this moment, if the player is observant, the Soviets will begin to commit atrocities similar to the Germans in Stalingrad.The player is given a choice to participate in the execution of surrendering Germans. If the player chooses not to do anything, the Soviets will light molotovs and burn the “Fascists” to the ground.

In the last mission, “Downfall”, the player invades the Reichstag, fighting the last of the Germans who throw everything at the overwhelming Soviet force. The player finally reaches the roof of the Reichstag, wounded, but carrying the soviet flag. Triumphant music blares as the burning city demonstrates the sheer ferocity of the Red Army. Reznov cuts the Nazi flag down, and the player raises the Soviet hammer and sickle, the Soviet anthem blaring as victory for the Red Army. After the grueling war, it was over. The player for the first time rests, watching as the last flames of the Fascist regime are snuffed out.

This isn’t the end of the playable character Dimitri Petrenko, or Captain Viktor Reznov. Both would return in Call of Duty: Black ops, which had fictitious elements set during the Cold War, nowhere near as brutally realistic as World at War.

The credits roll, and a message appears.

“60 million lives were lost as a result of World War II. It was the most destructive and deadly conflict in human history,” the developers at Treyarch said.

The player is left to ponder, although simulated, and can by no means ever effectively capture what soldiers felt during that dark period of human history, it gives the player a taste, and a glimpse of what transpired in the world.

After the credits roll, the player is thrusted into the new game mode introduced in World at War, Nazi zombies. The objective is simple, waves of zombies will attack the player(s), and the waves keep getting harder as more time goes on. Players rack up points, buy open doors, upgrade their arsenal, and spin the mystery box for a chance at a wonder weapon. The base game comes with 4 fan favorite maps, and is definitely worth the play.

Now, is Call of Duty: World at War worth still playing? Yes. Absolutely. It is an absolute classic and will definitely get the player thinking about history in a new perspective. The game play is solid, the guns are just as rugged as they were in World War 2, and the story is jaw dropping. Zombies is a fun time waster, although arguably not as good as later entries into the Zombies chronology, although cult classics like Nacht Der Untoten and Die Riese make their debut appearance. Multiplayer is next to dead, unless players have a large party to take advantage of.

People who are squeamish or a stickler for dated games/graphics, then this is not the game for them.