Preview: Call of Duty: World at War

We take a first look at Call of Duty: World at War, built from the Call of Duty 4 engine.

There's been much rumour and speculation lately about the next Call of Duty game, so let's set the record straight.

The game is not called Call of Duty 5, it's Call of Duty: World at War. It is being developed by Treyarch (Call of Duty 3, Spider-Man series), not original series and Call of Duty 4 developer Infinity Ward. And unlike the latter, World at War brings the franchise back into World War II, which is a proving to be a hot topic of discussion for gamers, mostly because everyone really, really liked the modern-era CoD4.

But hey, I think we need to give Treyarch the benefit of the doubt here. The studio knows they are under tons of pressure to deliver a game that lives up to the high expectations set by CoD4, and it's setting out to do something different with World War II. And seeing as how World at War is built on Infinity Ward's CoD4 engine, it can't be all bad, right?

The short demo I saw yesterday was the very beginning of the game's Pacific campaign. The player gets a first-person view of an ally soldier tortured and killed, and right when he (the player) is about to bite the dust, another ally comes in to save the day. It's awfully graphic and brutal, which I was told is historically accurate to the occasion.

From there it was off to the races, and armed with familiar WWII weaponry including the M1 Garand, the demo ran the player through an on-foot battle with the Japanese. We saw plenty of close- and long-range kills as he ran through some gorgeous water areas and jungle environments. There was plenty of action going on in the short trip through the jungles and beaches, as huts exploded and grenades popped off regularly. Stationary gunners were pesky, so taking them out first was essential...typical FPS strategy stuff.

One of the more noticeable features is the inclusion of cinematic action "moments," for lack of a better term. For example, at one point just ahead of the player, a Japanese soldier burst out of a door, in flames, and began fighting with an ally soldier. These moments create a sense of greater action, making it seem like the war is not just confined to one soldier against an entire army.

Also evident is Treyarch's attempt to make the experience non-linear, offering what seemed like multiple paths to objectives. Aside from some narrow jungle spaces, most of the areas in this World at War demo were wide open, giving the player plenty of choices to get around. Obviously, this isn't a new concept, but with the ability to torch jungle terrain, it's necessary to be able to forge your own path.

Though this first look was short, I was impressed by the look of the game. It didn't blow me away like Call of Duty 4 did so consistently, but so far World at War is holding its own. We're extremely curious to see if multiplayer can hold a candle to Call of Duty 4, so stay tuned for more on that front.

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