In the meagre nine months since its release, Call Of Duty 4 has bagged no less than eighteen industry awards, notching up perfect scores from anyone fortunate enough to review it. And with more than 30 million man-hours of online play still taking place every single week, Modern Warfare remains one of the most popular games of all time.
The good news is that sequel is due out this November. The bad news? It’s being made by a completely different development team. The people behind the decidedly duff Call Of Duty 3, no less. And you can forget AK-47s and C4 booby-traps – CoD5 flings you back into the muddy trenches of World War II. As sequels go, it’s got a hell of a lot of work to do to match – let alone surpass – its seminal predecessor.
Despite these concerns, Activision were convinced we were getting ourselves worked up over nothing. So much so, they flew us over to New York for a world exclusive hands-on session. And we promptly ate our words. With a massive shovel.
Ten reasons why CoD 5 is FHM's pick for game of the year:
It's properly violent
War is hell. Serious, organ-pulping hell. Lob a grenade into a packed bunker and you'll scatter more limbs than the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. Pack a powerful piece (we found the shotgun the most smirkingly effective) and you can even take your foes' limbs off at close range. Low on ammo? Whip out your knife or charge with your bayonet. Both result in a grin-inducing claret geyser and a highly gratifying mêlée kill.
Kiefer Sutherland’s in it
The booze-loving actor voices your squad leader in the Pacific portion of the campaign. We accidentally shot him in the arse, and got a Bauer-esque earful for our troubles.
Doom introduced us to the BFG. Half-Life 2 had the gravity gun. Halo? Plasma rifles. World At War has flamethrowers. Massive, fire-chucking monsters destined to be the tool of choice for deathmatch showdowns. And they’re not just for mindless incineration. Some enemies will hide in trees, which you can burn down, then cackle with glee as the flames spread to nearby bushes and flush out their camouflaged comrades. Feeling evil? Crank up the surround sound and revel in their tortured cries of pain. Then maybe seek counselling.
There's vehicles in multiplayer
For all its awesomeness, Call Of Duty 4 didn't allow you to climb into a tank and flatten an entire team of xbox Live adversaries. Many saw this as a good thing, since it disabled the highly effective "find tank, drive tank, win" tactic. World At War delivers a vehicular compromise: you can choose to fight your online battles with or without the help of heavy armour.
It’s built around an award-winning game engine
Developers Treyarch smartly chose to adopt Call Of Duty 4's game engine, rather than go back to the heavily flawed model they built for CoD3. Which basically means that anybody who's played Modern Warfare (as in twelve million of you) will be able to instantly and intuitively get to grips with World At War. Then promptly get bummed online.
You can play the campaign mode with mates
Getting relentlessly dicked on by Hitler's goons? Got one or more mates with some internet? Take advantage of one of the game's biggest new features – online co-op. You can draft up to three extra squad members, then plan tactics and bellow "GET TO DA CHOPPA!" over your Xbox Live headsets. Better still, playing in co-op mode racks up experience points for skilful play, all of which contributes towards your online ranking, unlocking more weapons and perks to play with in deathmatches.
It's been in development for two years
The CoD fanbase heaved a collective groan when publishers Activision revealed that Call Of Duty 3 developers Treyarch would be behind the series’ fifth instalment. Thankfully, they've had more than twice as long to work on World At War. And believe us, it shows.
Missions are open-ended
Previous titles in the series have been justly accused of linear gameplay. And while there’s no open world free-roaming like in GTA4 or the upcoming Far Cry 2, there’s added replay value in the single-player campaign thanks to multiple outcomes. For example, towards the end of one of the missions we played, we stumbled across a group of three unarmed German soldiers. Needless to say we demolished them like a trio of tasty bratwurst. But had we been morally inclined to let them live, the consequences would have effected our campaign.
The enemies are mental
The Pacific storyline brings a whole new enemy to the series. According to Hank Keirsey – the series’ eagle-eyed military advisor – Japanese WWII soldiers were among the most ruthless, employing devious battle tactics and suicidal attacks. So prepare to be shot at from trees, gang-ambushed and Banzai charged with bayonets. You will shit your pants. At least once.
You can destroy practically anything
Thanks to painstaking attention to ballistic physics, World At War lets you blow up more of your surroundings than ever before. We played through both a claustrophobic interior level and an open, jungle-based mission, dislodging assorted scenery with grenades and Molotov cocktails.