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Call of Duty: World at War

by Jonathan Metts - December 12, 2008, 9:10 pm PST
Total comments: 4


Activision and n-Space deliver an impressive single-player shooter for DS.

Although the DS launched with a demo of Metroid Prime: Hunters, the system has had few noteworthy first-person shooters. That seems to be changing with recent and upcoming games like Dementium, Call of Duty 4, and Moon. In bringing the World War II experience to this handheld platform, Call of Duty: World at War is a unique and high-quality entry into the portable shooter field.

The game is controlled via a combination of the D-Pad for movement and the touch screen for turning and aiming. The setup works quite well, although it hasn't gotten anymore comfortable since it was introduced by Metroid Prime: Hunters. Despite sharing a control scheme, World at War couldn't be more different from Hunters. One of the best aspects of the game is how well it replicates the console/PC Call of Duty experience. It's a strictly linear, arcade-style shooter set in realistic environments. The story spans both European and Asian fronts, and most levels are narrated with great voice acting. When characters speak to you in the game, their voices rise and fall as you look around – positional audio in a handheld game!

Production values aside, what really makes this feel like an authentic Call of Duty title is its level design. Every mission is a set piece of some kind, with plenty of choke points and dramatic moments. The game is so heavily scripted that it can sometimes devolve into trial-and-error, as you struggle to figure out just what exactly the designers want to you do. It's not really frustrating though, since checkpoints are frequent and restarting is very quick. The campaign jumps around among American, British, and Russian scenes, but every mission is exciting. Adding variety are frequent diversions like tapping out Morse code, shooting down planes, dressing wounds, and manning a tank turret. Having played the console version of Call of Duty 4 just recently, I've been amazed at how well this portable sequel nails the franchise's trademark gameplay.

The story campaign is definitely the main reason to play this game – it's quite long, expertly paced, and a lot of fun. Multiplayer isn't nearly as interesting, despite the existence of an online mode. By now, most gamers know that Call of Duty 4 revolutionized online shooters with a robust, experience-based skill system and major rewards for kill streaks. The DS version of World at War has none of these things, instead sticking to an old-fashioned deathmatch that feels more like Quake circa 1996. Without the modern trappings of perks and air raids or the finely-tuned action of the single-player content, this basic multiplayer mode just isn't very interesting. To make matters worse, the online feature doesn't work very well. It always took me several minutes to start a match, and most matches didn't last very long due to players dropping out.

With its awesome sound design, diverse gameplay, great pacing, and usually fluid visuals, Call of Duty: World at War is a great package and easily one of the best first-person shooters ever developed for a handheld system. Multiplayer might still be worth trying if you can play locally or online with Friend Codes, but it's clear that the single-player campaign is the main reason to play this version.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 9 9 9 7 8

The DS hardware isn't well-suited for realistic games, but World at War pulls it off anyway. The environments are mostly convincing and characters look good, although more variety in the enemy soldiers would have been nice. Things get sluggish when a lot of soldiers are on screen together, but the engine usually handles the action quite well.


The soundtrack is typical of the military shooter genre – a lot of swelling music that you won't remember two minutes after playing. However, the voice acting and quality of voice samples are both excellent, and the positional audio is a great touch that makes cut-scenes feel more interactive.


Nothing has changed since Metroid Prime: Hunters pioneered this control scheme, but it still works extremely well. World at War uses the touch screen for not only aiming but also weapon selection and reloading, yet these extra features never seem to interfere with the primary function.


Fans of military shooters will immediately appreciate how accurately this DS game reproduces the console experience. It's intense, perfectly paced, and stays fresh thanks to frequent changes in gameplay style.


The story mode is a lot to chew on, and there are enough memorable sequences to make it possibly worth playing through twice. Multiplayer is a bit dull, and the online mode doesn't seem to work very well, but it's at least worth trying a few times to see if you like it.


Even without the addictive multiplayer experience of its console big brothers, World at War is a very solid package. You'll be surprised at how engaging and exciting this handheld shooter can be.


  • Accurate (if awkward) controls
  • Campaign mode's level design
  • Strikingly good voice samples
  • Surprisingly fun touch screen mini-activities
  • Campaign has its frustrating moments
  • Graphics sometimes get choppy
  • Multiplayer doesn't include recent Call of Duty innovations
Review Page 2: Conclusion


It's kind of funny that the fact sheet for this game said that online would have a lot more. :(

Other than that, this is kind of what I expected when I played the game in September.

KDR_11kDecember 13, 2008

Sounds kinda like Brothers in Arms DS?

ShyGuyDecember 14, 2008

I normally don't read Jonny's reviews out of respect for his wishes, but I was wondering if he thought this game was unethical because of the WWII setting.

Quote from: ShyGuy

I normally don't read Jonny's reviews out of respect for his wishes, but I was wondering if he thought this game was unethical because of the WWII setting.

Not sure what you mean by the first part, but regarding the second part -- yes, there's some pretty disturbing stuff in the game.  It's probably less troublesome in the DS version, since there's not as much visual realism.  Regardless, my problems with WWII games and their bizarre depiction of violence hasn't changed.  I just don't think a traditional game review is the appropriate place to air those views.  This is a well made and entertaining game, and that's what my review is about.  The other stuff belongs in editorials, blogs, forum posts, etc.

By the way, the TV commercial for World at War is much worse than anything in the DS game.

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Genre Shooter
Developer n-Space Inc.
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Call of Duty: World at War
Release Nov 11, 2008
eu: Call of Duty: World at War
Release Nov 14, 2008
aus: Call of Duty: World at War
Release Nov 26, 2008
RatingParental Guidance
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