Over the weekend, Activision began emailing CallofDuty.com members beta invitations to World at War, the latest Call of Duty installment. World at War trades in CoD4’s modern warfare for a return to a World War II backdrop. The beta is currently limited to Xbox 360 online play, with PC beta invites to follow. PS3 owners will just have to wait for the official launch next month. Which is partially why I corrected a recent error in judgment… and picked up a replacement Xbox.
CoD4 veterans will have no problem picking up the World at War controls – muscle memory will serve you, as it did me. Though developed by Treyarch, WaW utilizes the engine introduced by Infinity Ward with CoD4. So, essentially, the gameplay and controls are quite similar. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
While only a few maps are available thus far, I really like what I see. In fact, visuals look somewhat better… including shimmering water you can wade through, weaponized flame effects, and graphic fatalities. (This isn’t for children.) Artillery strikes replace bombing runs at five kills and packs of dogs (?!) replace the seven kill helicopter support of CoD4. While the dogs seemed a bit odd at first, they force combatants to continue moving – compared to camping out helicopter fire. Though the biggest change, taking a page from the Battlefield franchise, are drivable vehicles. It’s not yet clear how this will impact multiplayer balance… It requires several strikes from explosive weapons to take out a tank, though they’re unable to steamroll soldiers.
Call of Duty 4 was one of my all-time favorites games, and World at War looks to be more of the same good stuff. Check out the beta manual (PDF), watch the videos at IGN, and if Activision happens to provide any shareable invites, I’ll be sure to offer them up.