Call of Duty military adviser retired Army Lt. Col. Hank Keirsey has three words for fans of the video game franchise who are bitter that the newest release, Call of Duty: World At War returns to World War II as a setting: Shut yer yap.
The new game, out today for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 2 and 3, Windows PCs and Nintendo DS, "met with a lot of resistance from gamers who said, 'We don't want to go back to World War II.' But what this game does is it takes a great engine from (last year's award-winning Call of Duty game) Modern Warfare but goes back to a campaign we haven't covered before," Keirsey says.
World At War begins during the Pacific campaign in 1944 with The First Marine Division fighting the Japanese at Peleliu in the Palau Islands, east of the Philippines. The U.S. assault, according to Military History Online had the highest casualty rate of any War in the Pacific amphibious invasion.
Keirsey and the developers at Treyarch (Call of Duty 3, Spider-Man 3) interviewed 15 U.S Marines who were World War II veterans as background for the game. "They talked about what it was like to fight the Japanese," he says. "You've got this window to the past that slams shuts and never again opens every time one of them passes away. You hear those (World War II) stories and you never get such a visceral reaction as when you talk to the guys who fought the Japanese. A tough opponent. They couldn't take prisoners because the Japanese wouldn't surrender."
Keirsey and Treyarch's Josh Olin talked about the game at a special GameStop launch event Monday night at a Pentagon City, Va., store. About hundred fans of the game came to compete in multiplayer team death matches against U.S. Army soldiers at Fort Drum, N.Y. and buy the game a few hours early. A similar event was held in San Francisco.
Most versions of the game, like Modern Warfare, carry a Mature rating (for those 17 and older). (The PS2, Wii and DS versions are rated T for Teens, for ages 13 and older).
The Mature rating allowed Treyarch to make a more authentic and gritty World War II game, Olin says. That includes using a flamethrower to dispense with enemies and a torture scene. "We're allowed to do things you might not necessary be able to do with a Teen rating," he says. "It's never done in a gratuitous manner. It's always meant to propel the story line. We want to put the player in the emotions of anger at what is happening to their teammates. We want to create this vengeful thing. You have the Japanese campaign in which there's no quarter given and no quarter taken. It's a mentality that is very very brutal and the things the Japanese would do to surrendering U.S. Marines were brutal."
Players must constantly be on guard for ambushes and when they pick up a rifle with a three-foot bayonet they can make the fighting personal. "Taking it to a Mature rating and taking the intensity up a little bit kind of makes your hair stand up," Keirsey says.
In a subsequent European campaign, the player takes the role of a Russian soldier fighting the invading Germans. "Think of the Nazi Germans invading Russia, the massacre at Stalingrad, murdering women and children and the kind of vengeance that would instill in an Russian Red Army soldier," Olin says. "We wanted to capture that in a game."