17 October 2008

Call of Duty: World at War Beta Impressions

It's alright.

Really, that's all I've got to say about it. Getting a beta key was suspiciously easy, but I dived in and...it's alright. Okay, I should probably elaborate, shouldn't I?

In terms of gameplay, it handles in almost exactly the same manner as CoD4. But that's a big 'almost' I just stuck in there - a lot of it has been dialled back, for some reason. The sprinting feels weird now - the camera bob has been changed a little bit and it just feels off. Also, even though it's only in the beta stage, the footsteps are completely out of sync with the camera bobbing, and that seems like something rather fundamental to get wrong, even in a beta. To wit, the footsteps go 'clippyclipclippyclippyclipclap' where they should go 'clip clap clip clap clip clap'. It's rather disconcerting, to say the least.

The next thing to have changed is the melee attack - in CoD4 it felt visceral, there was a real lunge to it, and it just gave you a real sense of satisfaction when you knifed someone in the back. Not so in CoD5, the knife attack feels weak and pathetic, and has the most puny sound effect to accompany it that is too loud and at the same time not visceral enough. The lunge, too, has been done away with for a more standard, non-dynamic stab. It's just...unrewarding.

One thing that Treyarch did carry over from CoD4 is the weapon upgrade system, and the huge number of weapons available for unlocking. Unfortunately, none of the weapon upgrades feel appropriate - are we honestly expected to believe that ye average battlefield soldier in World War 2 were running around with 'aperture sights' strapped to their Thompson SMGs? Or indeed, a suppressor? Treyarch have maintained their run of being seemingly unable to understand how firearms work, particularly WW2 ones - see the pulling back of the slide of the M1911 in CoD3 every time the damn thing was pulled out. A system akin to Medal of Honor: Airborne's would've been far superior - that had realistic Thompson upgrades that eventually turned it into the 'traditional' Tommy Gun, and similar 'battlefield upgrades' for all the other weapons too. It was a decent system in an otherwise mediocre game, and yet CoD5 would've done well to take some cues from it. As it stands, it tries to copy and paste CoD4's system into a World War 2 setting, and it - in my opinion - just feels misplaced. Oh, and the pistols in the game have been made pathetically useless. No idea how they managed that.

The graphics seem to have taken a turn for the worse too, but then again that could well be downgrading it for beta purposes, so I'll hold my tongue on that until the actual release. There're also a couple of map glitches that are already being exploited (people 'hiding' under the terrain map and being able to shoot up, but remaining completely invisible to everyone to name one), but again, those'll be sorted in the release.

Okay, enough about ranting about the bad. Good things - the level design is good. Very good. Excellent, in fact. Nicely balanced levels, and they counter having CTF in non-symmetrical maps by having the teams switch side at 'half-time'. It slows the flow, sure, but also ensures no-one can say 'oh I hate this end of the map'. A fine idea.

The wide variety of weapons is welcome too - in the beta alone there's 10 weapons, and previews of about 25-odd that will be unlockable later. Allied and Axis weapons are available, with everything from the M1 Garand to the mental Russian PPSH make an appearance. Throwing aside the silly upgrades, they handle realistically - and, after CoD4, feel distinctly under-powered for obvious reasons - and have great sound design.

The 'War' gametype makes its return after being excluding from CoD4, and it's well implemented - it plays similar to the Warfare gametype in Unreal Tournament 3, in that there are capture points, but only one can be captured at any given point. There's a line of them, and you can either push forward or be pushed back along the line. First team to control all of the line wins. Damn good fun.

Also, the replacement for the Helicopter kill-streak reward is both genius and rather silly - dogs. It kinda makes sense, but in all honesty it doesn't feel nearly as lethal as the helicopter, seeing as you can just murder the dogs as they come at you, and they need two pounces to kill you. It'd be better if there was just one pounce and a quick-time event to save yourself before death. Oh yeah, they did that in CoD4.

That's about it, really. Does this count as a review? May as well tag it as such.

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