It's not all in the Pacific - the traditional COD multiple campaigns return. The single-player game's other half puts you in the shoes of a Russian soldier towards the end of the war, joining the climactic assault on Berlin. Reinforcing WAW's fire theme, Molotov cocktails and flame tanks will play a part in this war-ending siege. While Treyarch is pretty tight-lipped on details for now, this was a time when the vengeful Russians were positively baying for German blood - couple that with WAW's mature rating and we're likely in for a dramatically more brutal take on the WW2 FPS.
Treyarch refused to share details on the plotline (beyond hinting there'll be some celebrity voices), but it seems unlikely the Russians' path of murder and rape across Germany will be entirely reflected. Similarly, the Japanese seem a bit of a faceless, inhuman enemy in what we saw, but hopefully the full campaign will add some depth. Whether WAW's able to recreate any of COD4's impressive approach to narrative remains to be seen, but there were strong hints the story wouldn't be as impersonal as previous WW2-set CODs. Indeed, one thing Treyarch emphasise over and over is that we should stow our preconceptions about World War II. Even the presentation is markedly different - there's a real sense of grime and darkness, while your NPC fellows are more like (understandably) angry, foul-mouthed thugs than the unflappable stiff-upper-lippers of yore. This is war, not tea for two.
Actually, it's tea for four. Co-op play is coming to COD at last, as either two-man split screen or four-player online. We only saw a brief flash of this in action, but it appeared to fit remarkably naturally into the COD formula, only with the invincible or disposable buddies of the past replaced with a real guy. Treyarch has two goals for the co-op play - firstly to make sure it's not too easy or just takes the lazy route of enemies with more hitpoints, but rather that it'll scale specifically to you. If you're a tight, well-armed squad, expect your enemies to be toting deadlier weaponry than the average bear.
The other purpose is as a middleground between single-player and the otherwise somewhat newbie-harrowing multiplayer. Experience points earned in co-op play carry over to multiplayer and vice-versa, which should mean there isn't quite such a gulf between multiplayer veterans and their million unlocks and someone who's aim is a little rusty. Treyarch's keeping a veil over most of the multiplayer itself for now, but do promise vehicular combat. Is COD set to go toe-to-toe with Battlefield?
There's much left to see, in fact, and you get the sense all the secrecy is at least partly because World at War is a huge deal for Treyarch. This is its chance to earn its own vaunted reputation. WAW might have 'Call of Duty' in the name, but for once it really does feel like Treyarch's making its own game, not simply carrying someone else's luggage. That the team's chuffed to bits about this was plain to see. Their eyes may have narrowed whenever COD4 was mentioned, but they went wide and excited when they talked about the Pacific theatre, the veterans they'd spoken to during their research, and about that flamethrower. The numbers are gone - this is not Call of Duty 5, and apparently there will never be one. No doubt there's some nonsense, focused-grouped marketing reason behind this, but the message it sends in this case is clear. This is no churned-out, bank-balancing filler game. This is a whole new Call of Duty.
Call of Duty: World at War is in development for PS3, Xbox 360, PC and Wii, and will be released in Q4 2008.
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