'Call of Duty: World at War' 

4 stars

Following 2008's wildly successful foray into the Middle East with COD: Modern Combat, Activision reverted back to its WWII roots for the setting of Call of Duty: World at War - sparing none of the beautiful 3-D environments, fluidly frenzied battle sequences or terrible Russian voice-over accents that we have all come to know and love - in one of the most successful first-person shooters of all time.

And this time, the grizzled, God-fearing voice of Jack Bauer comes through the speakers, leading you through the islands of Japan, telling you to when to pop smoke, when to find cover and when to hop on an A.A. gun and unleash the right hand of God upon your enemies.

World at War finds its own successful identity amongst the ever-growing heap of WWII shooters through two unique storylines: the first as an American soldier battling through the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Wave upon wave of kamikaze soldiers will charge at you, bayonets fixed, until your thumbs bleed - including one level where you man a Navy gunship and fight off a barrage of kamikaze planes with one hand, while pulling drowning American sailors out of the water with the other.

The second storyline is vaguely more familiar among COD regulars; a young Russian sharpshooter fights his way from the turn of Stalingrad, all the way into Berlin. Unfortunately, the first Russian level is the best Russian level; a sordid game of cat and mouse sniping, à la the movie Enemy at the Gates.

Some gamers will be let down by World at War after the pure devastation that was unleashed by Modern Combat, but it works within its means - being set in an age without helicopters, RPGs and night vision goggles - to use the same successful ingenuity and A.I. that made Modern Combat so successful. As for me, mowing down Nazis with an old-fashioned MG42 is just as much fun as obliterating a small metropolis worth of terrorists from a SpectreGunship, and always will be.

WTF?! I missed the history lesson where Joe Naismith was a henchman for the Axis of Evil during WWII. The Japanese and German soldiers all have irritatingly deadly range with hand grenades, shot-putting them right up your ass from clear across the level. Fortunately, after each innumerous and miserable death, the game reloads before you can spit - without subjecting you to those tacky quotes about the futility of war that were in earlier versions.

FTW!! Blowtorch. For the first time in video game history, you can wield a powerful, realistic-looking blowtorch without singeing off your own pubic hair. The weapon is especially useful (and fun) in the Japanese trench-warfare levels. On a later level you get to use mortars as hand grenades, and lob them into buildings full of exploding Japanese soldiers. Also, prepare to be fazed by "Nacht der Untoten," a survival-horror-esque mini-game, which is unlocked after you smite ze German war machine.

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