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Despite offering some enjoyable moments, Call of Duty: Finest Hour slips up on a number of occasions...
Having impressed everybody who played it and laid a stable foundation to build a series with Call of Duty on the PC, itâ??s finally the chance for console owners to get a slice of the action as Spark Unlimited bring Call of Duty: Finest Hour to the home consoles.
Taking place across North Africa along with the Western and Eastern fronts and thrusting gamers into the frontlines of WWIIâ??s most intense battles, Call of Duty: Finest Hour makes broad attempts in the art of storytelling however itâ??s distinct sameness to everything else and one or two other quibbles makes this hard to recommend.
Like its PC predecessor, Finest Hour thankfully throws the player between Russian, British and American perspectives, refusing to paint the Hollywood image favoured by the Medal of Honor series and gratefully not relying too heavily upon stereotypical portraits for anybody that isnâ??t American. To begin with youâ??ll fight as a Russian trooper helping to defend the Mother land from an ill-fated Nazi invasion, fighting your way through the Siege of Stalingrad, leading a tank assault on a Nazi held airport, before moving onto the British campaign in North Africa and finally an American assault on West Germany.
Throughout the game youâ??ll take control of a variety of characters, which are brought together in a nice interweaving storyline that makes heavy use of scripted scenes; one particular example has you fighting for control of a building, before a Nazi sniper takes out your commander as he leaps to save you, a playable female character then jumps down and kills the Sniper â?“ proclaiming that sheâ??s been hunting the sniper for days - before you take control of her and carry out a sniping mission.
The game contains a wide range of varying mission objectives, with plenty of on-rail shooting scenes to compliment the traditional shooting action that makes up the majority of the game. One particular area that Call of Duty: Finest Hour impresses upon initial inspection, is the sheer rush of fellow comrades alongside you; at times, particularly during the Russian campaign it really does create the sensation that youâ??re rushing over the top in a frenzy and into the battlefield with dozens around you. The game does attempt to give you very loose control over nearby comrades and you can heal them, however itâ??s all a little too shallow to make it a worthwhile function; sure looking after them will assist you because in turn theyâ??ll be there to cover your back, but often those who die are immediately replaced with others, negating the tactical implementation of such a feature.
Despite presenting a considerable variety of objectives to the player, the game does fill these moments of brilliance with a considerable amount of â??fillerâ? gameplay. The lack of checkpoints throughout the lengthy missions is also likely to frustrate and have you re-playing certain sections time and time again, particularly as you progress through the Russian campaign and onto the British and American.
Perhaps the main introduction to be found in Call of Duty: Finest Hour is the addition of tanks, which provide a nice bit of respite, but are sadly not in the same league as vehicles in certain other first-person-shooters. It can take awhile getting used to controlling the tankâ??s movement along with aiming its turret as both operate individually, although you can stick the turrets in the forward direction of the tank â?“ but again this completely negates the strengths of the mighty vehicles. Driving the tanks is perfectly adequate, although you will find yourself lodged in niggling parts of the environment when a tank should roll over them with ease. The biggest issue we have however is that over aiming; there doesnâ??t appear to be any aiming arc to consider, instead itâ??s a case of aiming directly for what you want. It may sound like a little and insignificant criticism, but like others throughout the game, it just doesnâ??t feel correct and hinders the overall feel of the game.
The game certainly maintains a level of authenticity all the way through, which has been maintained throughout the various weaponry featured in the game. Borrowing the theme from most recent shooters, youâ??re only allowed to carry two weapons at a time along with your grenades, which creates a nice sense of tension throughout the game. As with Call of Duty, youâ??re free to shoot these from the hip or click the left shoulder button to look down the sights for improved accuracy. Sadly a lot of the weapons feel a little light and wallow around limply, it just lacks the impact that a lot of shooters succeed with; whether or not this is imposed because of its realistic nature is debatable, but the fact that itâ??s just not as enjoyable as blasting somebody with a dual combination of SMGâ??s and Needlers is the main point.
Another contentious aspect regards the grenade system, which doesnâ??t provide the player with any freedom to control how much power or the ability to â??cookâ? them. This ensures that using grenades tactically is almost useless, as you watch through a lengthy animation sequence of grenades all landing in virtually the same location and bouncing around erratically. Whilst weâ??re on that subject; weâ??re growing accustomed and enjoying the use of physics within games as a means to improve the realism and hopefully usher in new gameplay mechanics. Call of Duty: Finest Hour feels distinctly primitive in this area, heavily reliant upon scripted animation sequences and not even applying these to objects such as pots and pans â?“ try shooting anything and watch in amazement as everything appears to be built from solid, indestructible granite.
Visually the game both impresses and disappoints. Itâ??s immediately evident that all versions have been somewhat handicapped by the Playstation2 version, and feature a distinct lack of clarity within the various textures, resorting to the muddied and undefined look that define many PS2 titles. To counter this, the game does create a sense of chaos superbly; on a wide number of the missions youâ??ll be on, the battlefield always seem to be densely populated with other soldiers either firing wildly or being thrown into the air under a shower of bullets. Occasionally the game also creates a nice image from a style perspective; particularly the backdrop of a scorched Stalingrad burning away as you sail towards it, sets an impressive tone right from the start. Character models throughout the game are nicely modelled and feature a high level of detail, although some of the excessive animation sequences throughout the game begin to grate after the initial buzz dies down.
Arguably the gameâ??s most impressive aspect is that of sound, which truly creates a film-like atmosphere akin to epics such as Saving Private Ryan and helps to drive the player through the game. The sound effects throughout could have done with a little more work to really dramatise the action, although the voice-acting throughout is of a suitable standard with Dennis Haysbert (24) narration helping to set the tone.
Strangely the game lacks any splitscreen modes, although it does feature 16-player online modes for the Xbox and Playstation2. The standard variety of DeathMatch, Team DeathMatch and Capture the Flags are offered, alongside the introduction of â??Search & Destroyâ? which challenges one team to plant a bomb whilst the other has to defend. Sadly these type of games will always work better and provide more enjoyment in faster and more furious games such as Quake and Halo 2, or recognising the realistic nature put more emphasis on strategy and tactics akin to the Battlefield series. To make matters worse the system is extremely primitive (thereâ??s only so far they should go for striving to replicate that 1940â??s look), and a far step backwards compared to the titles weâ??re currently enjoying online from Microsoft and EA to name but a few. The set-up is very similar to early online PC titles, with no apparent way to create a Lobby beforehand to chat and invite friends â?“ itâ??s hardly likely to pull you away from Halo2 if youâ??re a Live! gamer and quite frankly just not worth youâ??re time if your online with the PS2.
It’s more then equal to any of the console Medal of Honor titles, although we’re desperately hoping that developers will now give it some time to truly shake up the genre a little and bring some new ideas to the table.