So it's come to this. Right at the very start of World at War, you're a helpless prisoner of the Japanese, saved from execution at the last second by a rescue squad of US Marines. Handed a rifle, you begin to exact your payback. As you move from hut to hut, one of the game's many scripted moments occurs. Directly in front of you, a Japanese soldier, his uniform ablaze, bursts out at a fellow US soldier. Should you manage to shoot the assailant quickly enough, and thus prevent your team mate from burning alive, you're awarded your first Achievement or Trophy - Saved Private Ryan.
It's an obvious gag, and a revealing one. World at War, it seems, is not a game concerned with avoiding the obvious. Quite the opposite in fact. For a game that goes out of its way to rub your nose in the grisly underbelly of war (opening, rather tastelessly, with what looks like real archive footage of Japanese military executions) it nevertheless nestles snugly inside the predictable comfort zone already established by over a decade of similar WW2 shooters.
That's not to say that World at War doesn't impress. Much like its predecessor, Modern Warfare, this is an exhilarating and painstakingly designed journey through the smoke, flames and dust of armed combat. It's linear and scripted, as all shooters must be to some extent, but the series has always succeeded by hiding the strings better than most. That success wavers here, but there's still plenty to enjoy for those who enjoy shock and awe more than surprises.