Call of Duty Roads to Victory ReviewCain Dornan
On one hand, you have possibly the worst Call of Duty title yet to be released. On the other, you have quite likely the best first person shooter the PlayStation Portable has to offer.
Handheld systems have never been suited to first person shooters, with all attempts seen thus far usually failing horribly due to excessive annoying and restrictive game controls, coupled by developer’s ignorant belief that they don’t need to add all those added extras because handheld gamers don’t expect them. As such, we’ve been served with some fairly ordinary experiences, and while some did start out with good intentions, most failed miserably and were quickly forgotten.
Fortunately, while Call of Duty: Roads to Victory suffers countless niggling problems, it also manages to serve up one of the best FPS experiences found on the PSP. It succeeds in making the controls bearable due to a combination of handy button configurations and helpful auto-aiming, and the missions aren’t too short or void of any action. At the same time, though, the game severely lacks any sort of story or direction, often sending you aimlessly through battlefields as you mow down rows and rows of sneaky Nazi soldiers. It’s unlikely the game will be marked down as a “must have” for the PSP, and within a year most gamers will likely have forgotten about it. But if you’re looking for anything close to a decent FPS on Sony’s handheld, you’re best bet is to check out developer Amaze Entertainment’s latest attempt.
It’s the usual setup; you proceed through fourteen single player campaign missions, battling your way through various operations that took place in World War II as members of the US 82nd Airborne Division, the Canadian 1st Army and the British Parahute Regiment. Prior to assuming the role of each country’s force, you’re greeted with a short historic black-and-white documentary that briefly explains – and shows – the current point in the war that you’re about to partake in. Then, before beginning each mission, you’re greeted with a brief letter written by the fellow you’re about to take control of explaining the situation that he is in.
One of the key areas where the game falls is its uninspired, repetitive and painfully linear missions, which seem to lack any real inspiration or creativity. The majority of the levels look and play the same, and you’re required to do virtually the same thing in each level; move from this point to that point, eliminating all pesky Nazi units along the way. Once you arrive, set a charge to this tank or an anti-aircraft gun, then proceed to the next point through an obviously restrictive pathway where you’ll foresee where you’ll encounter resistance well before it occurs each and every time.
You see, the problem here is that it lacks variation. Apart from a single interesting mission that has you taking control of various guns aboard a bomber whilst you defend your aircraft – and your wingmen – from enemy fighters, each of the missions involve almost identical tasks for you to perform. This wouldn’t be so bad if the level design was wide and varied, but with such restrictive map designs there is little leeway for you to enjoy what you’re doing. Once you’ve finished the first few missions, you’ll quickly tire of the game’s reused and predictive gameplay style, as apart from a handful of bonus material that varies from weapon information to wallpapers, there’s very little incentive to play through the entire game. The storyline is virtually non-existent, so you’ll never feel driven to continue playing through.
While there is no online mode, you can play wireless multiplayer with support for up to six players. Modes on offer include the standard FPS foray – deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, hold the flag and king of the hill, including its team variant. There’s some decent changeable options to play with, including the usual time and kill limits, as well as team and weapon choosing.
There’s a handful of different control configurations on offer, however we found the default one to work the best. This configuration sees movement mapped to the analogue stick, while the view and aiming has been assigned to the PSP’s face buttons. Firing of weapons is performed using the right shoulder button, while aiming is achieved by tapping the left. Finally, performing other more minor tasks, such as switching through weapons, reloading or throwing grenades, have been mapped to the directional buttons. Auto aiming helps to take away the pain from the inaccurate face buttons, but also manages to contribute to the frustration at times given its inaccuracy and not always working when you expect it to. As a whole, the controls do work surprisingly well – though, there is a bit of a learning curve in order to get used to them.
Despite the map design being a bit boring and restrictive, the game’s visual flair is quite pleasing. Character designs are solid, detailed and usually animate well – apart from the occasional instance where one of your fellow squad members decides to get stuck in the scenery. Weapons and vehicles offer decent detail, as do some of the more exciting sections of the environments. Don’t expect next-gen console visuals here; but considering it is running on a portable platform, the game looks and runs surprisingly well – despite the occasional slow-downs during high action instances.
While the game generally looks good, the sound department could do with more work. Many of the voice-overs sound forced and unsuitable for the situations, as do some of the sound effects and – at times – the music.
It does have its fair share of problems, but Call of Duty: Roads to Victory proves to be one of the better first person shooters currently available on Sony’s portable. Given the lack of any real decent FPS’ currently available, though, this isn’t really much of an achievement. If only the developers could have included more variation in the missions, and some less restrictive and bland map designs, the game could have been a recommended purchase for FPS fans. As it stands, this one is only recommended for those you are hanging out for a semi-decent FPS PSP offering.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.