Call of Duty: World at War
Like Will Wright's Spore, Call of Duty: World at War was a victim of hype-by-association. Its phenomenally successful predecessor
helped to redefine the benchmark for first-person shooters. With its memorable set pieces, superb level-design and innovative multiplayer mode, it became an instant genre classic that arguably no game has managed to surpass. In other words, 2008’s pseudo-sequel had some pretty big shoes to fill.
That it failed to deliver on almost every level is perhaps unsurprising. After all, the original developers were conspicuously AWOL, leaving game-creation duties to the underwhelming Treyarch. Then there was the much-maligned return to a WWII setting (including yet another Normandy-style beach landing. Hnngh.) Basically, everything that made Call of Duty: Modern Warfare so refreshingly original was removed in favour of run-and-gun Nazi cliches. Despite the gravelly voiced presence of Jack Bauer from 24, the game’s single-player campaign failed to engage on an emotional level. Your NPC squad mates felt like lifeless cardboard cutouts (by contrast, the guy with the muttonchops from Modern Warfare was so awesome that we wanted to kiss him.)
We also think it's a bit insensitive to use archival footage of genuine war atrocities — particularly when they’re jazzed up to look like MTV music videos. And the less said about the impromptu bursts of rawk guitar, the better. Despite the inclusion of Nazi Zombies (who amusingly make their first appearance after a written dedication to WWII veterans), it was a bit of a stinker all round.
And yet, the game managed to score favourably across all formats and was one of the biggest hits of the year (in fact, it went on to outsell Modern Warfare by a ratio of 2 to 1
). The only explanation is that everyone was infected by the rose-tinted afterglow of its predecessor. It’s Call of Duty, so it’s got
to be good, right? Wrong.