The Call of Duty series is truly a juggernaut. Each year, new titles in the series are among the best selling and most popular titles. The latest game, Call of Duty World at War, is no exception. This time around, the modern setting of CoD4 is discarded in favor of the familiar scenes of World War II. Our review of the Xbox 360 version was favorable. The zombie mode in particular was a highlight (and lacking in the Wii version, more's the pity).
I'll be honest, I am generally not a fan of this type of game. I prefer shooting aliens and zombies more than other people, and the extremely realistic historical setting just heightens my sense of unease. Certainly, this made an impact on my review. On the other hand, I'm coming into this from a Call of Duty noob perspective. I can't compare it to Call of Duty Modern Warfare, or any other CoD game, since I haven't played them. I'm reviewing CoD: WaW in a vacuum. On the one hand, I have no previous expectations to skew my view of this game. On the other, I have no frame of reference to the earlier games in the franchise, either. So, I'll review it based on its own merits.
The first thing that struck me about the game was the presentation. Actual war era footage is used in the game for cutscenes and the like, and it's all very well done. At one point, my son said "I'd just kind of like to match more of the videos", in fact. The music adds to the feeling, too, and really gets you pumped up for the game. The graphics are quite good, which was surprising to me for a Wii title. Certainly it doesn't look like a 360 game, but it's easily as good as any other Wii title I've played. My only quibble with the visuals of the game is the fact that it was difficult to read some of the text on screen. It's mainly a minor annoyance, until you fail to notice the tiny "grenade indicator" and die horribly. Overall, though, the games style, presentation, and graphics are quite well done.
The gameplay itself feels much like being immersed in a war movie. Gunfire blazes all around you. You hear the screams of your fellow soldiers as well as those of the enemy. Planes fly overhead, dropping bombs which rumble in the distance. The pace of the game is quite fast, almost to the point of frustration, yet it somehow feels appropriate, adding to the urgency and realistic feel. Objectives are generally quite clear, and it's quite a treat to hear the voice of Jack Bauer himself congratulate you on a well placed shot. Checkpoints are spaced apart well, just far enough to make it challenging but no so much as to make you toss the Wiimote through your TV when you die. In the area of gameplay, CoD WaW is fast paced, exciting, and enjoyable.
If only this were a review written for a standard gaming site, I could stop here, and recommend the game. However, this is Co-Optimus, not Single-player-tron. Put quite plainly, the co-op mode of the Wii version of CoD WaW is a joke. A second player can play along in the main campaign, dropping in and out anytime. All this person needs is a Wii remote, it's that simple. When active, the second player controls their own crosshairs, in yellow, not white, to differentiate from the first player. In the upper right corner, the weapon and ammo for the second player are displayed. The extra player can aim and shoot at anything on the screen. If that player's ammo runs out, they are out of luck until the first player manages to find something for them to use. The extra player can only aim and shoot, that's all.
To say that this is a letdown is an understatement. The first player is called out by name by his fellow soldiers, can run, dodge, duck, look down the sights of his weapon, and is in total control of the game. This allows you to really feel immersed in the action. The second player is a nameless, faceless plus sign, simply there for the ride. I playtested this game in both roles, and I found playing as the second player totally boring. It's like you are a spectator, really, and not an active participant. Even my wife, who is no hardcore gamer, I assure you, found the co-op mode disappointing. She told me she wanted more control over the game, and that's pretty much how I felt too. I give the developers credit for adding in a co-op mode at all, but it seems like they did the bare minimum, just enough to be able to use co-op as a bullet point.