How The Japanese Enemies In ‘Call of Duty: World At War’ Fight

Retired Army lieutenant colonel Hank Keirsey did not consult with any Japanese veterans while serving as military advisor to the new “Call of Duty: World At War,” which is partially set in World War II’s Pacific theater.

But he said he knows the conflict, thanks to his studies and interviews with U.S. veterans.

At a demonstration of the upcoming first-person shooter in New York City last week, I asked Keirsey to describe what kind of combat scenarios players of the new “CoD” game could expect and how the tactics of the Japanese soldiers in World War II would feel different than those of virtual German enemies in earlier “CoD” games set in the same war.

The Marines’ counter was the flamethrower, six to a battalion, each essentially a 70-pound bomb strapped to a man’s back.

Keirsey told me that at the time of the Pacific conflict depicted in the game, the U.S. Marines were facing a Japanese enemy that was no longer “enslaved” by the Samurai code. Japanese troops in Okinawa were no longer on the offense, having switched strategy to one of “intricate defense.” Keirsey described a foe that was not running at the Marines but rather set up in bunkers, “burrowed into the coral,” aiming their guns across the beach to pierce a row of their enemy in a single fusillade. He suggested that the Japanese would barricade behind a steel door, hunkered in, prepared “to make every inch very costly to the Marines.”

Against these tactics, he said, the Marines’ counter was the flamethrower, six to a battalion, each essentially a 70-pound bomb strapped to a man’s back.

It was this conflict that played out in the level Keirsey watched me play. The far-reaching flame-thrower was used to eliminate enemy soldiers stationed in bunkers, its burn extensive and dangerous. Players using the flamethrower can be blown up. Fuel does not expire in the game, despite Keirsey’s preference that it would. (He also would prefer that friendly fire is punished heavily — he suggested an electric shock to gamers who do it, but the game won’t offer that reprimand).

Is it one-sided or accurate in its portrayal of both sides? That I don’t know.

The battle I played felt ferocious. Setting trees, grass and eventually men on fire in the thick of a Pacific-theater battle of Marines and Japanese soldiers is as impressive a feat of video game engineering as it is a reminder of the heat and punch of real war. Is it one-sided or accurate in its portrayal of both sides? That I don’t know.

Keirsey told me he had provided a sense of the tactics to the developers as they developed the game and confirmed non-player character tactics and ballistics as development proceeded. “The legacy of will and courage in the Pacific,” he said, “Is the legacy of the Marine corps.”

What I played matched what he told me happened in the Pacific. Players can feel it themselves in the fall when “Call of Duty: World at War” launches on most major gaming platforms.

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