Review: Call of Duty: World at War (Xbox 360)


Quick Version: Whether you’re new to the Call of Duty series of first-person shooters or you’ve played some or all of the past versions, you’ll likely find World at War to be a compelling and powerful addition to your library of games.

boxOverview and Features

  • Set during World War II, you’ll play part of the game as a US Marine against the Japanese and part of the game as a Russian soldier against the Germans
  • Voice acting by Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman
  • Single player, cooperative, and multiplayer modes
  • Really well-done cut scenes, audio, and gore. The action and violence is very, very graphic without being over-the-top or sensational – it’s got a Mature rating, though
  • MSRP of $59.99 as reviewed for Xbox 360


If you’re a fan of the Call of Duty series, you’re interested in World War II, and/or you like first-person shooters, you’ll want to pick this one up. Some have wondered if Activision’s decision to return to historic combat after the successful Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would pay off, and I can tell you that yes, it did.

As far as gameplay and presentation are concerned, the game runs smoothly, the graphics are great, and the cut scenes are marvelous. Treyarch, the game’s developer, used historic war-time footage interspersed with quick cuts to various maps and strategic battle plans to move the story along in between levels.

They didn’t pull any punches, either, as there’s some pretty graphic video footage. Gameplay, too, features some of the most graphic and (what I’d assume to be) realistic death I’ve seen in a video game. You don’t just shoot someone dead, you might blow your enemy’s arm off first and hope to finish the job before he grabs his pistol with the remaining arm. The real wartime video during the cutscenes shows people getting shot dead, too. It’s quite jarring and unsettling.

The whole thing – cutscenes and gameplay – is gory and uncomfortable, but not in a “Oh that’s sick” kind of way. It’s more of a “Oh my God, war is even worse than I could have ever imagined,” feeling. Sad as it may sound, it took a videogame like this to give me a whole new appreciation for the shocking brutality of war. If you’re a parent, this is NOT an acceptable game for a child. It’s rated as Mature (17+) for a reason. If you insist on buying it for your kids, turn of the gore in the settings menu first.

Now on to the game itself. You get the standard single player and multiplayer modes, plus a new cooperative mode, which is basically playing through a slightly modified version of the single player game with one other person (split-screen) or up to three other players online. It works well and it’s a nice balance between the single player and multiplayer modes that adds a fair amount of replay value to the title.


I found multiplayer mode to work really well, mostly because my FPS skills have fallen off since college. Instead of being thrown into the middle of a deathmatch with a bunch of advanced players, you start out in “Boot Camp” which is basically made of people like yourself who are playing online for the first time. As you rack up kills and points and whatnot, you get promoted. Once you hit a certain level, you can’t play on the Boot Camp level any more and you’re forced to play against better competition.

Another nice touch that adds a little extra to multiplayer is the inclusion of stuff like air raids and dog attacks. Kill enough people in a row and you’ll be able to call in some bombs to be dropped from above or some vicious dogs to be unleashed against your foes. You’ll pick up points for any remote kills that you facilitate, which is pretty cool.


Single player mode is done well, too, with voice acting by Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman prodding you along as the American and Russian sergeants, respectively. Aside from straight-up shooting, you’ll find yourself behind the wheel of a tank and manning the guns on a fighter plane, both are fun breaks from standard combat. 


I only have a couple of minor quibbles with Call of Duty: World at War. First, you’ve got a double storyline with little to no warning that you’re about to shift gears. You start the game as Private Miller, fighting against the Japanese and then all of a sudden the next level loads up and you’re lying in a ditch in Stalingrad, faking your own death so a German soldier won’t shoot you. Half of the action takes place out in the open in the Pacific while the other half in Europe is more enclosed in buildings and whatnot.

It’s not bad, actually, it just takes time to readjust to different combat styles. Often I’d find myself having a great time in one storyline only to be kicked over to the other storyline for a while. Some may like it, others may not. I just thought the whole process could have been a bit more seamless, that’s all.

And finally, like other Call of Duty titles, everything kind of moves along on a rail. You have an objective, you complete it, you get another objective. Repeat. No running too far left or right because the hills, bushes, or buildings will keep you moving forward along your predestined track. There were a few instances that I couldn’t figure out what I had to do to progress to the next waypoint, as it were, only to find that I hadn’t used the correct weapon to try to blow up a certain building or I hadn’t moved my player to a certain area of the level that would trip the next sequence of events into motion. It’d be nice to see what could be done with a more dynamic environment.


Despite the few minor, minor annoyances, Call of Duty: World at War is one of the best games I’ve played in a while. If you’re at all interested in the series, World War II, or first-person shooters, it’d be a worthwhile addition to your games collection.