COD as COD is best
There are a lot of things that go into making a successful thanksgiving dinner. Look at each of those things as a component in video-games. Sure, you can have the turkey by itself, but if you served that, people would get bored and laugh you out of town. You need some flavors, surprises, a good formula, some balance, and pretty visual effects to pull the whole thing off as a successful meal. So already you can see the similarities between video-games and thanksgiving din-din. Is it merely a coincidence? I think not. But that, my friends, is a story for another day.
(Warning: Those who are strongly against or simply don’t agree with slightly poetic holiday turkey dinner metaphors relating to video-games should exit and close the page now. They only become more frequently used from here. If the above applies, there is an alarmingly large chance of contracting Porphyric Hemophilia* if you read on.)
Call of Duty: World at War is a first person WWII shooter released for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360 (This review is based entirely on the 360 version). This game feels more like a recycled turkey that you stuck in the fridge last year, and then decided to take back out this year because there was still a ton leftover. All the cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and gravy remain virtually unchanged from last year’s installment of the turkey. Apart from the setting and arsenal, the gameplay remains largely unchanged from the previous installment. The context changes, but you have the same product with different wrapping and a new coat of paint.**
Now, just because the turkey is mostly recycled doesn’t mean it’s not good. You could serve said recycled turkey to someone who is overly un-familiar with the content, and chances are they will like it a lot. So long as there is a lack of discoloration, mutation, deformities, or living creatures taking refuge within the product itself. Such appeal-lowering conditions are mostly absent from COD5, apart from the occasional cockroach which may or may not be taking a cat nap in the game case, depending on which part of the world you live in.
It’s not the lack of side dishes which is the matter at hand. The main problem here is the lack of new innovations and overall progression from last year’s dead bird in the center of the table***. The place where this is most notable is the XP system. It remains unchanged from the last time around. You gain XP for killing dudes, winning matches, completing objectives, so on and so forth. There are a variety of challenges that you can complete while playing online matches for bonus experience. Such challenges include jumping 25 feet without dying or killing a certain number of dudes with your knife. Sound familiar? The thing that struck me the most was that the weapon challenges are EXACTLY the same from Modern Warfare. Kill dudes with this weapon, then get X number of headshots with this weapon. It’s really a pity, because it feels like you’re doing the things you worked hard for in COD4 all over again. Some variety in this area would’ve been a welcome addition.
At least the rewards you get for completing these challenges are varied and fit well with the weapons you are given. You can acquire accessories such as bipods, double clips, bayonets, etc. as well as new weapons for your unquenchable thirst for online slaughter. These upgrades and weapons come in real handy, and are pretty fun to use. There is, however, a problem that has affected the majority of WWII games on the market already. You WILL be using the same M1 Garand, MP40, PPSH, Springfield sniper, and Panzershreck you’ve used (what feels like) a million times before. The weapons do fit well in the online and single-player modes though, and seem to balance out the combat pretty nicely.
Now as far as modes go, you’ve got a decent variety of modes to choose from. In single player, you play as the Americans fighting the Japs in the Pacific, as well as the Soviets fighting Nazi forces in the final weeks of the struggle. The mission objectives themselves are varied, but you usually end up either killing dudes in a certain area and advancing to the next, or setting charges on various objects, and just blowing #@$% up in general. This would get pretty lame if it weren’t driven by a strong force of great voice acting. Everything from your team chatter to Nazi battle cries is fairly well done. It’s also worth nothing that Gary Oldman (of Dark Knight and Harry Potter fame) voices the Russian Sergeant Reznov. The sound effects present are also good and sound pretty authentic. You can play through the campaign with up to three buds. This is a new twist on an already popular mode in which you earn experience for your other online activities.
On another note, fire seems to be a big thing in this game. Numerous times in story mode you’re given an M2 flamethrower. This weapon can be unlocked in multiplayer, and for all the good it does, it seems a little too easy to camp and get cheap kills due to the unlimited ammunition that comes along with it. You can use Molotov cocktails in both campaign and online as well, which behave like grenades, except they explode in a fiery storm of pain and death.
All and all, COD5 is a great game when looked at as a standalone game. It’s got a fun campaign, engaging multiplayer online, and a certain undeniable charm that has stuck with the series since day 1. The problem is that it seems like a step backward when compared to COD4. There are a lot of recycled materials that will make veterans of previous titles ponder the value of the game. If you’ve played and enjoyed the previous games, there is something to like here, but most of it has come directly from previous installments. So I’d wait for it to hit the bargain bin, or at least wait for a price drop. Rental is always an option as well. However, if you are a fan of 1st person action games, but either missed the other ones or haven’t played them since COD 2 or 3, chances are you’ll find this item very appealing, just like a brand new thanksgiving turkey.