War, as Fallout 3 so famously puts it, never changes. While the weapons and tactics may differ, it's still about chaos and fear and the overwhelming of the senses as adrenaline surges through your veins. That's a hard experience to capture on a screen, but the Call of Duty series comes close thanks to its constant redefinition of what "11" is in terms of intensity for first-person shooters. Last year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare delivered an awesome and varied single-player experience that was matched with an even better multiplayer suite, and it made for some really big shoes for Call of Duty: World at War to fill.
If you've been living in Antarctica the past year and haven't heard, then yes, World at War returns back to the series' World War II roots. This has caused no end of grumbling from fans of Modern Warfare's contemporary setting, as well as the fact that this installment was done by Treyarch, a sister-studio to Call of Duty-creator Infinity Ward. Treyarch did the somewhat-maligned Call of Duty 3, but the studio looks to atone for that by delivering a game with an impressive amount of content. There's a solid single-player campaign, co-op play, a huge multiplayer suite, and even a fun, silly mode featuring zombies.
It certainly helps that World at War focuses on the less popularized theaters of World War II. Instead of serving up Normandy and D-Day for what would have been the umpteenth time for World War II shooters, the game covers the island hopping campaign in the Pacific as well as the Red Army's reversal of the tide at Stalingrad all the way to the Fall of Berlin. This provides some interesting new battlefields set on sun-bleached coral atolls in the Pacific. You will see some more familiar spots with the bombed-out cities and farmlands ofthe Eastern Front missions, but it's still well done.
War tends to be a savage affair, but the Pacific and the Eastern Front were especially so. In the game, Japanese soldiers swarm out of the brush, erupting out of spider holes to charge straight at you in an attempt to run you through with their bayonets. They'll play dead and wait for you to walk into the middle of a trap. Though set outdoors, it feels like close-quarters combat much of the time. Meanwhile, the Russian Front is full of merciless moments; there's plenty of gunning down of wounded and unarmed soldiers by both sides, and sometimes you're asked to pull the trigger yourself.