Call of Duty has a rich history on PlayStation, with each iteration being praised for, among other things, its attention to historical detail, thrilling set pieces and, in more recent titles, addictive multiplayer. While Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on PlayStation 3 was the first to move away from a World War II setting, Call of Duty: World at War takes the series back to its WWII roots while building on its immediate predecessor's popular online multiplayer.
The game's Solo Campaign begins in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, with the player taking control of Private Miller of the US Marine Corps, just as he is about to be executed. After a timely rescue from Corporal Roebuck, Miller joins Roebuck's unit as they march through Japan and face a ruthless enemy. This gritty opening sets the scene for an uncompromising portrayal of the Second World War that isn't suitable for children, although there is an option to reduce the level of gore and bad language.
The second strand of narrative places you in control of Private Dimitri Petrenko of the Soviet Army, whose unit was defeated by German forces in Stalingrad. Three years later and seeking revenge, Petrenko and his comrades advance on the Eastern Front.
Call of Duty: World at War's Pacific setting is one of its greatest strengths; the environment, with its fields of tall grass and networks of underground tunnels, makes for an intimate battle experience, where close-quarters combat is as important as marksmanship. One particular trait of the enemy, which will have you jumping out of your seat, is to hide among the grass and then charge on an unsuspecting soldier, brandishing a bayonet. In these panicky seconds, you have to press the R3 button at the right time to avoid the blade and respond with a knife attack of your own.
General gameplay is a familiar mix of linear missions and explosive set pieces, although this time around there are multiple ways to complete certain missions and alternate paths, adding replay value. You can carry up to two weapons at a time, as well as grenades, and there are many varied firearms to collect along the way, including machine guns, scoped rifles, anti-tank missiles and a flamethrower. The latter shows off the game's destructible environments as it scorches crop fields and entire buildings.
The addictive online multiplayer that proved so popular in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare makes a return, with all-new features and perks. One addition is the ability to send a pack of dogs after your opponents if you manage a seven-kill streak. You can then take a high position and watch your foes panic as the hounds close on them. If you find a pack of dogs on your tail, you can shoot or dispatch them with a well timed knife attack.
Co-operative play makes its first appearance in the series, allowing either two players in split-screen or up to four players online to tackle the single-player campaign. You can choose between Competitive Co-operative, where each player is competing to score the most kills, or Campaign Co-operative, where you are reliant on your teammates and you can revive an ally if they are wounded. This is crucial, because if one player is killed, everyone fails the mission. Co-operative mode also has its own levelling system, much like in competitive multiplayer, unlocking weapon perks and higher ranks.
Call of Duty: World at War sees the popular series of first person shooters returning to its WWII roots, and retaining the blend of historical accuracy and thrilling, cinematic gameplay that it is renowned for. The online multiplayer is every bit as engrossing as it was in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and the new maps, features and historical setting will be refreshing to the millions of fans who have spent hours levelling up.
The battlefield may be different, but Call of Duty is back with a bang.