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Call of Duty: World At War

For: DS   Also on: Mobile

A fine reason to go back to World War II

Product: Call of Duty: World at War: Zombies II | Developer: Treyarch | Publisher: Activision Blizzard | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Conversion | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), wireless (network) | Version: Europe
Call of Duty: World at War: Zombies II DS, thumbnail 1
The jury's a bit out on whether DS is a good platform to play a first-person shooter on. Nintendo proved with Metroid Prime Hunters that it can be, but not many developers have managed anything near as accomplished since and the DS's slightly meagre processing power is always going to struggle shifting polygons fast enough to result in a very slick looking FPS.

And Call of Duty: World At War does struggle a little visually. It's not that the game's maker hasn't done a fantastic job with the tools to hand – there's immense depth and detail to levels, more enemies onscreen at a time than previous DS Call of Duty game Modern Warfare and hardly a second of noticeable slowdown.

It's just that sometimes you wonder if a game as gritty and – for large sections – grey and brown-coloured is best suited to DS. Up close, scenery looks blocky, which somewhat spoils the illusion. There's little doubt the best looking DS games are the ones relying on stylised graphics instead of die-hard realism.

I'm willing to concede though there might not be much of a market for a cel-shaded Call of Duty: World At World in which you fight Japanese soldiers with big heads, so you have to give the game its dues. It squeezes a lot from the little handheld, including a fully fledged online experience for up to four players. And, once you've got past the depressingly familiar gun range training missions with the jumped up sergeant major, the game itself proves brilliant enough that the odd LEGO brick tree hardly registers.

A large part of the reason for that is its controls, which are near flawless. The first-person foot action is taken care of with the D-pad, while your viewpoint is all about the touchscreen. The left shoulder button is your gun's trigger.

This is much the same as in Modern Warfare, but with a few enhancements. For instance, entering ADS (aiming down the sight) mode was previously done by tapping the screen twice with the stylus – a method criticised because it was too easy to go into the mode by accident in the heat of a battle. Now, ADS view is triggered by tapping an area at the top of the touchscreen – much easier and, with practice, you'll be doing it without thinking (or looking).

There are a couple of other touchscreen controls, such as swapping between your two guns (you can swap these for new weapons from downed enemies), lobbing grenades and interacting with items such as mounted guns. There's also a whole new set of controls for the game's numerous mini-games, which involve tapping out Morse codes, defusing bombs and patching up injuried soldiers, too. For the most part, these mini-games are superbly implemented and certainly not just game-filler since they're as hard as Kevlar-coated nails.

Of course, more of the game is spent popping off enemies usually found hiding behind cover or ambushing you from all angles. It's a hard slog getting through each section and completing their retrospective objectives, but checkpoints dotted through levels ensure you're never replaying vast sections of game.

These enemies in World At War are bright, too. I'm not talking Jason Bourne bright - they don't often surprise you with their actions - but they do more than simply stand behind a crate like they're chained to it. Picking them off with your chosen weapon is as simple as aiming at them with some generously sized crosshairs, which turn red when lined up right, then pumping out a few bullets. You've also got a melee attack, useful for when you come eyeball to eyeball with another surprised opponent.

But it's not just the opposition that has gone to war school – your fellow soldiers also pull their weight in battle, taking down their fair share of enemies.

Just like in the previous CoD DS sortie, there's plenty of diversions in the form of mini-events, such as towers and bridges to destroy, sniper sections and anti-air missions where you blow Japanese planes out of the skies.

It's not all about the single-player mode, though, because World At World packs in much much more. There's the aforementioned online (and offline) multiplayer which comes with four different play options. There's also an excellent Challenge mode where you're given an objective (like kill 20 enemy soldiers) to complete against a big clock ticking down on the touchscreen. It's easily the equivalent of getting two single-player games in one, since the challenges are as much fun to complete as the main game.

Yes, it's a bit dark and drab visually, but Call of Duty: World At War's play mechanics are almost unfaultable. Further proof the little DS can deliver a quality first-person shooter whose name isn't Metroid Prime and one of the strongest arguments we've recently come across for returning to the much mined World War II gaming battlefield.
Call of Duty: World At War
Reviewer photo
Kath Brice | 1 December 2008
Seamless first-person shooting action with a healthy sprinkling of innovative touchscreen side missions - this is one of the best war-mongering affairs on DS
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