The Marines perform superbly in "Call of Duty: World at War," but something else had me yelling, "Ooh-rah!"

Nazi zombies!

The M-rated shooter from Treyarch and Activision follows a group of Marines as they fight the Japanese on Makin Atoll, Peleliu and Okinawa during World War II. The game also covers the Soviet Union’s drive into the heart of Germany at the end of the war.

And when you complete the solo campaign, you unlock "Nazi Zombies," an action-packed minigame in which you and a friend can defend a dilapidated building against wave after wave of moaning maniacs.

But we need to get back to the basics. "World at War" is based on the engine developed for "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare," so basic game play is the same as last year’s excellent shooter. The graphics are very good, movement is fluid and controls are smooth.

However, new elements make the game quite different from last year’s title. The biggest differences are based on the differing natures of the conflicts covered. The war in the Pacific featured desperate Bonzai charges, which resulted in brutal hand-to-hand combat, and entrenched and determined foes, which were countered by flame throwers. In the final push to Berlin, the Germans fought with desperation against an enemy thirsty for revenge for the millions who died when the Wehrmacht marched into the Soviet Union. As a result, the action feels much more vicious and frantic than most other games.

The levels are well constructed, offering a good variety of challenges. Of course any level featuring a flame thrower is a winner, but a sniping mission and an armor assault in the Soviet campaign are quite exciting, too.

As good as the game is, it doesn’t quite reach the level of last year’s blockbuster. The story lines, weapons, environments and action in "CoD4" still seemed much fresher and more interesting than those offered in "World at War."

However, "World at War" improves dramatically on its predecessor in one aspect: It offers split-screen co-op. You can play a standard game or in a competitive mode in which points are awarded for eliminating foes and taking different actions, such as healing your wingman. One problem is that the "split-screen" actually consists of two off-set rectangles that don’t really take advantage of the full TV screen. As a result, the viewing area seems rather small on an average-sized TV.

As with "CoD4," the campaign is only a small slice of the fun available in "World at War." Head-to-head and online competition offers similar scenarios, perks and game play — but with a World War II twist. For example, after downing seven foes, you get a rampaging pack of dogs instead of a roving helicopter to send against the enemy. And let’s not forget the Nazi zombies.

The artificial intelligence is a mixed bag. The foes seem to be pretty smart, but your allies definitely aren’t. It’s not uncommon for your friends to be oblivious to enemies who are standing three feet away.

The nature of the fighting and resulting gore lands the game solidly in M-rated territory. However, players can tone down the blood and language a bit via the options menu.

Unlike "CoD4," "World at War" is available on the Wii. This version follows the same storylines and does a pretty good job of recreating the same intensity and game play. The motion-sensitive remote is used wisely, primarily for aiming and melee attacks.

Since the Wii doesn’t pack quite the same power as the other consoles, Activision made a few compromises. The most noticeable is the quality of the graphics, which is a couple of notches lower but still much better than what’s offered in most other Wii shooters. Co-op players will notice a much more significant difference. Instead of offering the second player a separate screen in which to fight, the Wii version simply offers a second set of crosshairs for targeting. The primary player controls all movement and the direction of view, leaving the second player simply picking off targets of opportunity.

Despite these concerns, "Call of Duty: World at War" is among the best shooters available on the Wii.

And it certainly doesn’t rate as zombie bait on the other platforms, either.

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PCOn the Web:

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