Opinion at INX towers is divided over which is better: the ground-breaking Call of Duty IV: Modern Warfare, a definite favourite among the Christmas line up of 2007, or Call of Duty V: World at War, another World War 2 shooter which followed hot on its heels.
With the web-rumour mill churning away about the possibility of a COD VI being developed by Infinity Ward (COD IV’s developers), it seems that Treyarch really had to be good to get COD V noticed, especially after the disappointing COD III. As a primarily single player purist I’ve completed both campaigns, and the truth is, they are surprisingly similar.
I ought to say at this point that most of this article won’t interest the 50% of COD 4 players who never even completed the campaign’s tutorial.
You could in fact be forgiven for thinking that COD 5 is just a reskinned COD 4. After all, they use the same game engine, the same control system, the same spawn-enemies-until-player-runs-to-an-arbitrary-point method of enemy supply, the same smoke grenades… And Treyarch can be forgiven for doing so, after all, if a formula works so well, why change it?
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that, after COD III, the franchise needed a fresh angle. Too many games have had the same rehashed Normandy beach landings. Too many games have had the same trench style bunker attacking warfare. COD IV was a welcome relief from the tired European theatre of war, by taking us into a theoretical future and updating the weapons, tactics, and support to things that modern day gamers are familiar with hearing about in the news.
COD V went back to the Second World War, but took us (finally!) to a different theatre: to the savage Pacific theatre. These aren’t the “gung ho” American soldiers of COD IV, they’re conscripted teenagers, far from home and far from welcome. Their enemy are the aggressive and zealous Japanese soldiers who hide in trees, murder holes, and the dense jungle to ambush the invaders with vicious bayonet charges. As an American soldier you pilot gun turrets in aeroplanes, attack fortified positions, and support tank advances. The gameplay here is visceral and exciting. The Pacific theatre is an ideal setting for a balls-to-the-wall shooter, and Treyarch should be proud of finalling lifting us out of the trenches in such a perfect way.
COD V followed COD IV’s formula of switching between two countries’ soldiers. As well as the Americans, you play as a member of the Russian army on the march to Berlin. Sadly, these bits aren’t anything that we haven’t seen before. These parts are set in cities, corridors, and subway stations (other than when you drive a tank towards Berlin). And while the levels are impressive there are too many occasions when you have to progress to an arbitrary point, under exceptionally heay fire, while destroying wave after wave of the same enemy troops. However, the storyline is one of pride and sacrifice, and strikes the right balance. But it’s not new, unlike the Pacific Theatre levels. Those are nothing short of amazing. If more of the game had been set there, I would most likely be complaining that the game on the whole didn’t have enough variety. But I feel that more effort could have been put into the European part just to make it different to everything we’ve seen before.
The most remarkable level of the European theatre set is when you play as one of a pair of snipers attacking specific targets while evading capture. Sound familiar? Almost everything about this level was reminiscient of the Pripriyat level (“Ghillies in the Mist”) in COD 4. Except it was far more clear what you were meant to do, and how to do it. It was also far less tense, I rarely felt in real danger.
It would be possible to write a review that did a tit for tat analysis of which parts were better in which game and ignore the major point that the games are so similar that it’s pointless arguing about it: COD 5′s opening was far better (it got you straight into the action, rather than making you shoot targets), and it’s got flamethrowers, but COD 4 has better variety of levels, weaponry, and characterisation… but I won’t do that. I recommend both games. If I had to pick one of the two it’d probably be…
I’ll get back to you on that.
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