So first I’ll tell you how I got into the beta. For the last few months I have been playing a lot of Call of Duty 4 online with Mark Bozon. He knew me from the Wii message boards and one day I just joined his game. After a while I became part of the team. Now we play almost ever night, and I’ve joined his amazing clan. I think by now we consider each other mutual friends. I have to say, it’s been really amazing playing with him and his fellow industry insiders.
But anyway, Mark has been trying to get beta codes for his fellow clan members every time he met up with the guys from Treyarch. Me being the new guy, the low man on the list, I didn’t hold out much hope for getting one myself.
The night before last, I noticed Mark was on playing the beta, which was not yet open to the public. I sent him a message saying I was jealous, and bit later he replied, “working on more codes”. About an hour or so later, just as I was about to log-off, I got a message from a name I didn’t recognize, when I opened it up, there it was, a beta code to the (not yet public) Call of Duty: World at War multiplayer beta. Holy crap!
Apparently Mark was playing with some of the fellas from Treyarch and he mentioned that he wished he could get more of his boys in. To his surprise, the guy from Treyarch said something along the lines of, “You have a guy waiting? Here, I’ll send him a code.” Because I was the only other member of the CoD4 clan online at the time, he sent the code to me. Is that awesome or what! I later figured out that the fella that sent mr the code was Josh “JD” Olin, the Community Manager at Treyarch, who also puts up the posts on the CoD:WaW IGN blog. Very cool guy.
When I first got on, I think there were around 40 people online at the time. One of the guys I was talking to from Treyarch later said there were probably less than 100 in the beta total. Most of them either family or friends of the developers, or the developers themselves. When I finally logged of a few hours later, 11 people remained online, every person in the world that was playing the beta was in a single game of Free for All. 8 people. So yeah, I have to say I was very very lucky, and extremely grateful as well.
Now that that’s out of the way, lets get on to my thoughts on the actual game. I am going to break it down in to individual points to make it easier for us all. And just so you know, it’s not all pretty. Let’s start with…
The controls are identical to those in Call of Duty 4. I played CoD4 immediately before the beta, and I had absolutely no trouble transitioning. I just upped the sensitivity to ‘high’ and I felt completely at home.
The beta currently has 5 modes, Team Deathmatch, Pick Up Team Deathmatch(no teams), Free for All, Capture the Flag, and War. All the returning game modes work exactly like they did in CoD4. The two new modes, Capture the Flag and War are the most interesting.
War is similar to a linear version of Domination, mixed with a little bit of team Deathmatch. Each team tries to capture a section of the map, when a point is captured, you move onto the next, while preventing the other team from taking back the previous point. When all 5 points are captured, that team wins. But there is a twist, as your team gets kills, you pick up “momentum” indicated by (large) icons in the lower right. The more momentum you have, the faster you capture points. Also, unlike Headquarters in CoD4, the opposing team does not instantly take the meter down to zero when everyone is removed from the point, they actually have to ‘un-cap’ however much of the meter has been captured by the opposition before they can actually begin to capture the point themselves.
This mode is fun, but can be over surprisingly quickly. Grenade spam is still rampant. One thing that I dislike about this mode is that there is a TON of icons on screen, all very large. there are five icons along the top indicating who has control over each point, and another very large icon indicating your teams momentum in the bottom right corner. It’s a bit much. If you have an HDTV, better turn on the burn-in reduction.
Capture the Flag is the standard affair, with each team trying to grab the flag from the opposing camp, and return it to their own. If both your flag, and the enemies is returned to your base, you score. It is a welcome edition.
But there are some problems with this mode. It is often hard to tell what is going on. It’s difficult to tell when your flag is safe, or where it is even located. You get clear “defend” and “capture” icons, but nothing showing where your flag is located if an enemy has captured it. On top of this, there is little indication, and no voice over when your flag is captured or when it has been returned to your home base. Worst of all, there is absolutely no indication when the opposing team has scored. Sometimes you just look down and see the score has changed without knowing when or how. It’s very frustrating.
There are currently only 3 maps open in the beta. A small beach-side village, one that looks like some sort of Japanese style temple, and a war-torn train yard. For me, the maps are one of the biggest disappointments. They seem very typical WWII. And by that I mean BROWN. They are muddy, gritty, dark, and confusing. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single part of the train yard map is brown. The Japanese temple level does have some spurts of color; some green grass and pink cherry blossoms, but not enough to set it apart. This level also has a lot of statues and human sized pillars that you will constantly be seeing out or the corner of your eye as enemies, which can be very annoying. The beach side village map area is a night-time level, which makes it extremely hard to distinguish figures walking in the shadows. These maps don’t seem to be as well thought out as those in the previous game, which really shows when playing some of the team based game modes. In CoD4, there were always designated defensive, offensive, cover points, and areas that encouraged you to push forward during team games. That is not as well done here. At least, not in the three maps we have in the beta.
Think back to the variety of maps in CoD4, are there any that weren’t instantly recognizable and easily distinguished? Every one has it’s own feel and unique color pallet. Something WaW is strongly lacking. This becomes a bigger issue when you consider the…
The character designs are good, but not practically implemented in multiplyer. You just can’t see the muddy brown and green enemies in the muddy brown and green(and dark) environments. If an enemy is crouched down next to some debris or in a corner, he can be easily overlooked, even if you are looking right at him.
What do you do if you’re out of ammo and you see an enemy coming towards you? Ask
, he knows the trick.
One of the biggest problems I have found while playing team based games in WaW is that it is very hard to distinguish friend from foe. There are, I think, 4 different groups, American, Russian, Japanese, and German forces, and they all are wearing either muddy brown, or muddy green uniforms. In CoD4 the different groups were instantly recognizable. Not so here. A friend of mine has mentioned that he has a hard time telling characters apart in CoD4 playing on his SDTV. For him, playing WaW would be next to impossible.
The guns in CoD: WaW are surprisingly less archaic feeling than you might expect. There are a lot more single shot guns in this game, but that is to be expected, and I actually don’t mind it at all. That is, unless there is some idiot with a modded controller running around. One thing I do prefer over CoD4 is the new “aperture sight” which replaces the red dot. It gives a better field of view, very thin crosshairs, and a tiny black dot in the middle. I LOVE it. I don’t know if anything like this actually existed in the 1940s, but it is something that the game really needed.
Unlocking upgrades is now implemented slightly different. Every gun has it’s own set. If I remember correctly, some weapons unlock certain items in their first slot that others do in their second. Some have items unique to that particular gun. For example, the Thompson sub-machine gun has a barrel clip that gives you many times the amount of bullets in a single clip. Very useful if you don’t like to reload, or if you just want to run around gangster style with your Tommy gun. Some of the rifles have a bayonet attachment that greatly extends your melee attack, which can come in very handy in close quarters.
One thing that I am disappointed with is the pistols. They just don’t feel right. They shoot fine and all, but it doesn’t look right when you fire, like you’re holding it too close to your face, and there is almost no animation when you bring it up. You’re just instantly looking down the sights. The reload animations don’t seem on par with those from CoD4 either. The same can be said for all the weapons. Although it could just be the different style of weaponry. They’re good, better than most games, but in CoD4 is just felt so authentic. Sometimes that feeling is not present with the guns in WaW.
The weapons don’t seem to look as good as they did in 4 either. This might be because it is a different era of weaponry, but it just seems they are all a little too gritty. Doesn’t anyone know to keep their firearm clean? Along those same lines, the players hands don’t seem to be rendered quite as well either, they look a little artificial. And again, they could have turned the grit-o-meter down a few notches on that one. The guns don’t seem to move totally naturally when moving or reloading either.
All the weapons sound excellent, as do the sounds that come from their interaction with human bodies and with the environment. Unfortunately hey removed the super-satisfying ‘ping’ sound effect when you get a headshot. That will be greatly missed.
There are now more grenade options as well. You can choose from either a frag grenade, an anti-tank grenade, or a Molotov cocktail as your primary grenade. The first 2 work as you’d expect them to. The frag having a little larger blast radius. The anti-tank doing more damage. Both blowing off arms and legs with extreme satisfaction. The Molotov cocktail on the other hand, is extremely weak. You will rarely get a kill with it, unless an enemy is already severely damaged, or you literally break the bottle on them. It is very frustrating when it goes off at their feet and barely hurts them. it causes no splash damage, and an enemy is only damaged from the explosion, not the flames. They could literally be laying in flames, without being hurt. It takes a couple seconds to actually pull it out and light it, you can then hold it as long as you want, which I do like, but it also takes longer to throw it that a normal grenade for some reason, making it even harder to hit a moving target, further reducing your chance at a kill. In my opinion, standard grenades should do a ton of damage at close range, while a Molotov cocktail should do less damage over a much wider radius. Instead they do less damage over less area, and are harder to manage, making them almost useless when compared to the other grenades. I have to admit though, when you do get that rare kill with a Molotov cocktail, it is pretty awesome.
In terms of sound, the grenades sound very muted for some reason. They sound like they are in the distance, even when they are close by. There is also no longer a distinct ‘grenade landing close by‘ sound. Without it I seem to overlook the grenade indicator much more often. This might be a problem for some players.
With your special grenade you can choose from either smoke, Tabun gas, or a signal flare. Smoke works just as it did in CoD4. Tabun gas replaces the stun grenade, but are actually more effective towards and enemy (or you). It gives off a small cloud of gas that completely disorients a player, warping their vision, hindering their movement, and making it almost impossible to do anything. It lasts a few seconds, so anyone that runs into it will feel the effect. The down side is that you can also feel those effects. You can no longer throw one through a doorway and run in after it. There was one occasion where I threw one into a 5×10 room where I knew an enemy was located, when I ran in it was so disorienting I literally could not find the enemy, I couldn’t even tell which way I was looking. I ended up getting shot from behind. These are used better at a distance, throwing them in a hallway or doorway to slow an enemy down, while you take up point at a safe distance.
The signal flare is meant to replace the flash grenade, but works somewhat differently. Instead of an effect on a players screen, it is done with real time lighting. So if you’re standing close and look right at it, the overwhelming bloom totally hinders your vision. Like the gas bomb, this effects anyone, enemies or friends. The only problem is, it is only effective if you are looking right at it, and very close. Take a few steps to the side, or run through it and you should still be able to see enough to take care of an enemy. More realistic, but I don’t see this being very useful in most situations. Still a cool idea though. If you want you can always use them as an actual signal as well, though that alone doesn’t make them more useful than other grenades.
As some of you already know there are vehicles in this game. More specifically, there are tanks. The railroad level has 2. They are very fun to use, but can be annoying if your the one being shot at. They will get you easy kills, but not a lot of them. This makes it so they do not dominate the battle field, which is a good thing. Each time you fire the cannon, you have to wait several seconds for it to cool down, and you have to be relatively accurate with the gun to get a kill. Some also have a turret you can operate, but this fully exposes your character. Skilled players will be able to get more kills on foot, so they aren’t always the best option. Though most people will opt to get in one if the option is there. Blowing both an enemies legs off is to awesome to resist getting into one of these beasts. If you run an opponent over, there is a very satisfying crunch as well. Tanks take a lot of damage and can not be jacked. Bazookas work well for taking them out, but it takes several shots. You may not get a lot of kills in a tank, but they do make it easy to get several kills without dieing, a good thing if you’re trying to get…
Artillery Strikes/Attack Dogs
One of the coolest additions to this game. Instead of an air strike, you now gen an artillery strike. Essentially the same idea, but much more effective. Shells will rain death on your enemies. It last longer than an air strike, and will always hit it’s target if placed correctly, no more bouncing off buildings like the air strikes from CoD4. You can actually see the shells being fired from the distance and come lobbing over and exploding. It’s an amazing effect. You can’t help but look to the skies when it’s happening. Not always the safest thing to do in the middle of a war zone. The kill cams are even cooler, it looks like something out of Pearl Harbor(the movie). One small problem is that the icon for the strike only appears as the guns are firing, about 10 seconds or so before they actually hit. It’s easy to get confused; you may not know if a strike is friendly, and you may find yourself trying to run through an enemy strike thinking it’s one of your teammates, or waiting for a strike to subside, not knowing if it’s one of your own.
Attack Dogs are much more effective than the helicopters from CoD4. On average you get 6-8 kills, and they really make the game hell for your opponents. Two chomps from a dog will kill an enemy, and they are fast enough to make them difficult to kill. They’ll jump through windows, over fences, run up ramps to sniper’s nests, I’ve even had one jump from one platform to another in order to rip my face off. They will sometimes attack 2 or 3 at a time, in that case, you will be dead soon. Just having dogs on the field will have you constantly spinning around trying to make sure they don’t get the jump on you from behind, literally. The dogs will stay on the battle field until they are all killed (you get +2 points for killing a dog), which can be a long time. Like the artillery strikes, this can sometimes be a problem if you have dogs waiting, because you can’t call them in until all the others are gone. And same as the artillery strikes, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not a dog is friendly. Every army has a different breed of dog, but until you figure out what those are, you better not try to pat a dog on the head if you see him running around the battle field.
One issue that does arise here, is that these are now almost too efficient. If you get an artillery strike early in a match, and that turns into dogs, you will almost certainly get enough kills to get another artillery strike, leading to more dogs. It just keeps going. That means the first 5 kills in a match are of huge importance. This seems like a problem in Free for All in particular. There were times where I was losing by a substantial amount, only to have my attack dogs come and totally turn the tide and finish the match with me on top. Great for me, but very bad for the rest of the group, considering I did very little to get most of those kills. It is not unusual to have a pack of dogs waiting while there are still some of your dogs on the field from earlier, it happens that quickly.
All the old favorites return, but there are some welcome editions. Flak Jacket will reduce grenade damage. Gas mask, Shades, and Fireproof will shield you from the effects of gas, flares, and firebombs respectively. There is now a perk that causes the fuse to reset on a thrown back grenade called Toss Back. This one will help your arms stay attached much longer. one of the coolest new perks is called Second Chance, which lets you pick up allies that are dieing in Last Stand, and return them with full health. The last perk you unlock in the game is the Flamethrower. I haven’t been able to try this out yet obviously (the beta is capped at level 11 for now), but from what I’ve heard from those who have, it’s very deadly at close range, but you need to expose yourself pretty openly to use it effectively. So it’s not going to completely dominate the battle field. The x3 Frag has been changed to x2. This should help to keep down the grenade spamming, which was a major problem in CoD4, especially in modes like headquarters. There is also a perk called bouncing Betty x2 which I assume gives you 2 jumping mines. This one will certainly send those limbs flying. I’m excited to try these new perks out, but I’ll have to wait til they up the level cap, or until the game is released next month.
Well, I think that pretty much covers everything. Overall I think this game is better than expected, and better than most other online games of this sort, but it can’t touch what Infinity Ward has done with Call of Duty 4 in terms of overall quality and presentation. But I can tell from the multiplayer that the single player will certainly deliver. If anyone has any questions, post them in the comment section and I will try the best I can to answer them.