A special series playthrough review – Part Three, World At War
In his next tour of duty, FBT is at war with himself.
I originally disliked the Modern Warfare trilogy; not because it was crap, but because it was so successful it decoyed the series away from its roots. It was because of MW we had to suffer endless re-treads as the series settled into being a multiplayer with a story-mode for a tutorial. But, on a replay MW turned out to be an awesome series … so WaW should be the ultimate FBT shooter – modern game, classic era.
WaW is … off somehow. I should be loving this, it’s what I kept banging on about as true CoD; I expected a 1940s-set Modern Warfare but instead it’s the original CoD with better graphics. Isn’t that exactly what I wanted? Turns out, no. I’m impossible to please.
WaW’s first order of business is to bring home the horror of war – it opens with a fellow grunt getting his eye burnt out with a cigarette. Soon after, we call in an air-strike to soften up the Japanese -as standard- but when we pass through we encounter dazed and injured troops wandering and dying. Shots cause bodyparts to tear off, they don’t die straight away and there’s blood and pain everywhere. This is not a fun Boys Own Adventure game, and I can’t quite work out if that’s a good thing or not.
We’re split between two events and two soldiers – Private Miller, who’s fighting in the Pacific theatre against ‘banzai!’ screaming Japanese, and a Soviet campaign where Dimitri battles brutal Nazis on the way to Berlin. We do switch out of the two leads occasionally, into aircraft gunmen cutting down ships and planes. They’re solid enough diversions, but this is what I moan about when I say CoD does too many character switches for no reason, they’re pure padding that adds nothing. It’s like the cutaway gags in a Family Guy episode.
Miller’s levels are exhilarating at first. Idyllic islands ruined by war, a lot of effort has gone into making it as immersive as possible; that is, horrible. The Japanese leap out of the tall grass, from foxholes and out of the trees screaming with bayonets at the ready as we pick through hidden pillboxes and booby-traps. Throughout Miller’s levels there’s an intensity, and it’s most intense when it’s quiet … then suddenly ‘banzai!’ and they’re everywhere. Miller’s missions are about digging out an entrenched and fearless army refusing to surrender, while the US’s response is typically US; kill ‘em all. And that quickly gets tiresome, so much killing.
WaW is very CoD I, but it feels oddly tired. Then again, what else can a war shooter do? And that’s the problem. WaW can’t change its setting but it could add depth, even some flair; in many ways the original CoD did this better, it found ways with the limited tech and setting to make events thrilling, here there’s no limitations but nothing else, just a faithful recreation like you’re playing one of those war re-enactments on The History Channel and it feels flat as a game, and dated as a shooter. What’s missing is a personal story.
You’d expect then, that if the American campaign with its change of scenery didn’t get much of a rise out of me, the Soviet missions where we fight through farmyards and villages as we push through to Berlin wouldn’t keep my attention either. This we have done before. But we’ve never done it with Gary Oldman.
Oldman plays Reznov, a wounded sniper. We first meet lying under dozens of dead soldiers after a German attack cut us to pieces. Rez hands me his sniper rifle and the two of us scramble through a bombed out, occupied city – but Rez isn’t looking for an escape, he wants to put a bullet in the head of the General responsible for those atrocities and leads us into the Germans rather than away from them. The mad bastard.
Rez is certifiable and the best companion in the entire series. He is committed only to mayhem, to causing as much bloodshed as possible. He’s this charismatic, Rasputin-like character who demands everyone die for the motherland; it’s like being partnered with The Joker, what insane plan is he going to come up with next? Every two minutes he’s screaming about killing, telling everyone the overwhelming odds are fine since they’ll be dead soon anyway so might as well take some of them with us. At one point he takes someone’s diary off them, telling them it’s a waste of time since they won’t get to finish it. As you battle through levels all you hear is Rez yelling that we’re not killing enough Germans. Must try harder. He’s like some office manager who’s been on too many Inspire and Influence courses and had a breakdown. Where’s the cover sheet for your TPS report?!
Rez is just awesome and somehow this digital character actually does get your blood boiling. Kill more Germans! He’s a very subtle manipulator; once we’ve survived a few rounds with him, he rewards us with a ride on a tank rather than walking with the grunts, then points us out to them saying they could get a ride if they fought as well as us – you catch him telling new recruits of the legend of Dimitri, using you to inspire more young men to run towards the bullets. Late in the game he makes us decide if we should show compassion by gunning down German prisoners or let them get set on fire. Either option seems to please him. He’s that mate that suggests a swift half after work then you wake up in Faliraki with a new tattoo. I don’t think I’ve had a better sidekick. Most don’t usually encourage me to die though.
Dimitri’s missions are, on the face of them, very generic. We even get a standard tank piloting mission. But they’re insanely intense, a real scramble. This is the push to Berlin of course, the last Nazi stronghold so you’d expect some resistance but we’re so against-the-odds it doesn’t seem fair. But then we do have Rez on our side. Seeing him slaughtering everything as he goes inspires you to just go ‘fuck it, no one lives forever’. The level design is beautiful though. I really am storming the Reichstag.
WaW is bland, but it also feels very much like Activision closing the door on WWII; we’re playing through two key moments that brought down both the German and Japanese sides, there’s a sense of closure – but much to my surprise, it’s the first fail during this playthrough – no plot beyond setting each level’s scene and objectives, it’s repetitive and it commits the cardinal sin; it re-treads - we stormed the Reichstag in CoD 1. There’s too many shifts into padding characters, no connection with the leads; Rez aside, this is the CoD I grumble about. Thanks to MW’s tour-de-force, I’m more excited to see what the future holds.
Up next is the Black Ops trilogy, is that going to be more MW excitement or where CoD settled into its rinse and repeat release cycle? At least Rez is in it.
Read the next part of FBT’s CoD Playthrough as he tackles the 60s, JFK and the (welcome) return of Rez in Black Ops.