"Aal Izz Well"
COD 5 Welcomes players back to World War II. Welcome to Call of Duty: World at War. The next title from Treyarch takes us back in history to take part in some memorable, but brutal battles of the infamous war.
We were recently invited out to Treyarch’s studio in beautiful Santa Monica, California to check out the game. Although we were not able to play it ourselves, we were ambushed with a ton of footage and were able to watch the developers play as well. What we saw was not familiar to say the least. Call of Duty: World at War has captured the grit and terror of the war in the Pacific. However, the Pacific is not the only theatre in the game; you will also play as the Russians as they push into Berlin.
The Five-Mile Run
Friday, 0700 hours – Myself and two others from the community group joined about six of the Activision and Treyarch staff at the hotel to accompany Lt. Colonel Hank Keirsey (ret. U.S. Army) on his five-mile military run (or as we liked to call it, the run of terror). Keirsey, who also serves as the military advisor on Call of Duty: World at War, runs five miles a day at the age of 58. Although I run three miles a day (and I am much younger), this run was the work of the devil himself.
We started on Santa Monica beach and ran through the sand. We then had to stop, pick up other members and sling them over our shoulders, and run another 500 feet through the sand. The run continued, as we had to conquer the Santa Monica stairs (for those of you that do not know, it is just a lot of steep stairs that go up the cliff-side). We advanced to take on another set of stairs, a long, never-ending ramp, and finally a rope climb. In the end, it was a fantastic experience and no one ended up vomiting, which was not the case for the groups before us. It was now time to return to the hotel, shower, and go check out Call of Duty: World at War.
The Makin Raid
The very first mission we were shown was the raid on Makin. Before each mission, a briefing treats you to historical facts and images courtesy of the London-based company Spov, who provided the briefings for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The opening cinematic starts with you tied in a chair being interrogated by a Japanese soldier. To the left is a fellow American soldier, knelt down with his hands tied behind him. The Japanese soldier soon concentrates his attention to him and promptly burns one of his eyes out with his cigar. Already this is something new to the Call of Duty franchise. We have not experience this type of brutality in any of the games yet. However, it only gets worse as the Japanese soldier slits his throat sending blood splatter everywhere. As the soldier moves toward you, American soldiers raid the camp and promptly dispose of him.
As the footage ceased, Mark Lamia, Treyarch’s studio head, stepped in and explained to us what they were aiming for in the game. He explained that this is “not just another WWII game,” but a new thrilling and exhilarating experience altogether. He went on to say that, “It doesn’t matter if it is World War II or a science-fiction setting. If it is a great game, people will play it.” His comments are right on. Though the WWII market may seem to be oversaturated with titles, only about 10% of the war has been explored.
The one outstanding “thing” that surprised me the most was the level of eeriness in the game. As you creep through the dark jungles, there really is no soundtrack of any sort. Just the ambient sounds of bugs, birds, and wind. As Lamia explained, it is almost a mix between an action and horror movie. You never know when someone is going to jump out of the foliage. This gives an entire new dimension to the game, as you will not be hastily running and gunning through the jungle. The Japanese were masters of the ambush and it was captured effectively in the game. As you exit the forest, you arrive at a small stream shrouded in darkness with a glimpse of moonlight.
Before you can even appreciate the scenery, a flare goes up and squads of Japanese soldiers are engaging you in hand-to-hand combat. Sadly, this is where our demonstration of the mission ended and left us wanting more.
The flamethrower is a very important and fun addition to the game. Although it can, obviously, be used to torch your opponents, it can also be used to build a so-called defensive perimeter. For example, if a number of enemy soldiers are rushing you, torching the grass will set up a temporary wall of flames to help you regroup. The fire also expands and spreads, meaning that if you torch some grass close to a tree, if the wind direction is right, it will eventually spread to the tree and so on.
The Sound of War
The sound implementation in World at War had to be one of the most impressive presentations of the day. Gone are the traditional scripted sounds and in are unique and AI-like based sounds. Sound occlusion is the new feature that really shows off the non-scripted effects. For example, if you are engaged in a gunfight and slip behind a solid wall, everything becomes muffled and shallower-sounding as it would in real life. It was nice to see a game that is trying to become more innovative on the sound front, as it is such an important part of the game, especially in multiplayer.
For the first time in a Call of Duty game, World at War features a cooperative mode. Two of the Treyarch developers loaded up the Palelieu single-player mission and battled through it together. With the inclusion of the aforementioned flamethrower, there are many endless strategies to beating your way through the single-player mode. In the presentation shown to us, one player used the flamethrower as the other used bullet-equipped weapons and rocket launchers to dispose of enemy troops and tanks. A small but creative detail that made itself present was the dumping of a grenade into a tank. If you get close enough to the tank, you can mount it, open the hatch, and toss in a grenade. Small details like this are what made this game stand out. As the mission carried on, we witnessed some great physics and semi-destructible environments as walls exploded from mortar fire and airplanes came careening into buildings. This type of movie-like action for which the Call of Duty franchise is known took front and center on the stage.
Cooperative mode will also feature a unique set of challenges to give the mode more depth and longevity. It is not set in stone whether or not every single-player mission will be available in co-op mode, but the team is working to make sure that as many as possible are there. Cooperative mode will be available for both the console and PC versions of the game.
Call of Duty: World at War’s multiplayer component is a huge focus for the Treyarch team. Although we were able to watch their in-house testers play the game (and it looked like a blast!), we were not able to get our greedy little hands on it just yet. As we mentioned, World at War is based on the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare engine…and you could tell, especially with the multiplayer (which is not a bad thing). The menu screen, matchmaking scene, and overall look and feel of multiplayer is identical to Call of Duty 4. However, Treyarch is making sure that they leave their mark as well. Multiplayer will have a squad manager and a ton of clan features.
Vehicles will also play a big role in multiplayer; that is if you choose so. Multiplayer is being developed with a load of admin options. You will be able to filter between maps with vehicles and strictly infantry maps. The maps will also be cross compatible, meaning that if you want to play a vehicle map with no vehicles, you can.
As with Call of Duty 4, weapon upgrades will still be available. The air strike and helicopter features will also be implemented in some form. For example, the air strike has been replaced by an artillery strike. Active mod support is being highly touted by Treyarch as well, which if implemented right, will lead to a more dedicated and long-lasting community.
* CPU: AMD 64 3200+ / Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz
* Memory: 512MB (XP) or 1GB (Vista)
* HD Space: 8GB
* Graphical Card: Nvidia 6600GT/ATI Radeon 1600XT or higher (Shader 3.0 or better) with 256MB memory
Treyarch’s two-year development time on this title has definitely paid off. For being only the first press showing, the game looks and plays fantastic. The Pacific theatre has been excellently portrayed and that is only half of the game. The other half, of course, will feature the European theater and Russia’s advancement into Berlin.
I would again like to thank everyone at Treyarch and Activision (especially Josh, community manager) for their hospitality. Call of Duty: World at War will be bringing the war into your homes this fall.
Release Date: November 11 2008
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