Previous World War II games have tackled the Pacific Theater, but each sustained mortal injuries in the process. Despite this theater's great opportunity for unique tropical gameplay environments, naval skirmishes, and enemies with unique attack strategies, no one has captured the spirit of the American retaliation to Pearl Harbor in a way that resonated well with gamers. Treyarch employs a scorched earth policy with Call of Duty: World at War, and the result is decidedly more favorable.

The thrill of using a flamethrower to burn out an enemy hidden in a tree, the wonder of fighting a sea battle from the gunner seat of a PBY Catalina, and the scare of seeing Japanese soldiers rise unexpectedly from the grass and charge at you with bayonets are each new experiences that you could not find in the beaten dead horse of the European Theater. These short bursts of genuine gameplay make the rest of the game - basically a steady dose of rehashed greatest hits missions from previous Medal of Honor and Call of Duty games - all the more disappointing. Across the Pacific and European Theaters, players will feel like they're having flashbacks as they land on a heavily fortified beach, fend off attack dogs, clear trenches, undergo an against-the-odds sniper mission with a compatriot, storm the Nazi headquarters, and man a tank (the World War II equivalent to the obligatory Hoth level in Star Wars games). These missions so deliberately try to cash in on COD's previous successes that they stand in stark contrast to and diminish the sense of wonder of the new experiences.

The campaign receives a boost with the well-implemented four-player co-op mode. Much like Rainbow Six Vegas, four friends fight alongside one another for a vast majority of the campaign (the solo sniper and PBY missions are excluded for obvious reasons) and compete for the high score by racking up kills and reviving buddies after they fall prey to banzai attacks. As a bonus, the experience points you earn by completing missions filter into your overall multiplayer rank. To up the replay value further, World At War also includes Death Card collectibles in the levels. Finding them unlocks cheats that alter the co-op campaign in creative ways, such as letting you revive teammates by shooting them or turning *** into the evermore scary Nazi zombies.   

World At War's multiplayer largely preserves the brilliant ''level up to unlock new weapons and perks'' structure of Call of Duty 4, while making the necessary adjustments to retrofit the experience with World War II-appropriate weaponry. Three- and five-kill streaks still award players with a recon plane to spot enemy troops and artillery strikes. Rack up seven kills and you can unleash a pack of attack dogs on enemies, which is a great diversionary tactic that will earn your team easy kills. Watching a hapless enemy try to fend off a rabid dog is one of the highlights of the year. The multiplayer includes several well-designed maps that reward teams for working together and keep the fights centralized. A few maps also add tanks to the mix, but these metal jalopies move so slowly they are basically fodder for bazookas and they don't improve the gameplay in any meaningful way. Treyarch also added the popular War gameplay mode from COD 3, in which teams vie for control points to rack up points.

Following a title as massively successful as Call of Duty 4 is no short order. World at War finally gives us a reason to visit the Pacific Theater with its fun cooperative and multiplayer modes. But the ''been there, done that'' single-player missions and overall derivative tone keep this very good game from achieving the greatness of its predecessor.