Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, PlayStation 2 - PS3 version reviewed.
You know where you are pretty fast with World at War. Kicking off with a sort of pop-art summary of the Pacific portion of World War II, it soon shifts into some gratuitously nasty scenes of Japanese PoW torture followed by righteous vengeance as the good old boys of the USA bring the pain to the villainous Rising Sun chumps. FPS games aren't known for understatement or restraint, but this is the noisiest, most over-the-top, gung-ho action game I've ever played. Somebody appears to have confused the volume and violence controls and turned both up to max just in case. You'll be amazed at the use of hard rock guitar on the soundtrack, not to mention gobsmacked by the insensitive use of real archive footage and the attitude taken to casual slaughter. If they're German or Japanese, they've got it coming is the prevailing mood. World at War makes Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway seem meek and apologetic. Hell, it makes Pearl Harbour look like Letters from Iwo Jima, or It Ain't Half Hot Mum look like Tenko. If this is likely to bother you, don't buy it.
Still here? Well, I have some shocking news for you. I know prejudice is a deadly sin in my profession, but I really didn't have high hopes at all for this one. First, it's been developed not by Infinity Ward who did Call of Duty 2 and 4, but by Treyarch who did the messy Call of Duty 3. Secondly, it's a World War II game, and despite the best efforts of Medal of Honor: Airborne and this year's Brothers in Arms, I'm bored of those. Thirdly, Treyarch's last effort was the James Bond FPS, Quantum of Solace, and while I didn't think it was a bad game, it didn't make me think that the developer knew how to put together great FPS levels - or make full use of the CoD4 engine, for that matter. In short, I thought World at War would suck.
It doesn't. Take it apart technically and there's still an awful lot to moan about, and rest assured that I will be moaning about all of it in a minute. As an experience, though, it's actually good, honest, slightly stupid fun. For all that Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway tried to create a realistic WWII experience with intelligent AI and realistic cover, it wasn't actually all that entertaining. World at War is borderline cretinous at times, yet it's a blast that keeps you coming back for more. I feel like I'm aiding the cause of dumbed-down gaming when I say this, but it's true.