Call of Duty Finest Hour ReviewCain Dornan
Shooters, in particular first person shooters, are in abundance on our shelves in today’s gaming world. These shooters are often based on a range of ideas and in different time zones, such as the past, present or future. With each new year, batches of new war shooters are released, and 2004 has received possibly the best war shooter for a long time. Call of Duty: Finest Hour offers a rather accurate take on the final months leading towards the end of World War II, revealing to us the horrors of war through the eyes of several different people, providing us with an interesting take of a war that shaped today’s world.
The game begins in Russia. Travelling to the shore in an armoured boat, you are attacked from above by a German airplane. Within seconds, half of your squad are killed, and your one of the few survivors stepping onto the stone-cold shores of the Volga River. After being armed with only some ammunition, you are lead to the front line where you are left to yourself to begin the fight. This is where you begin Call of Duty: Finest Hour, a first person shooter action game that provides one of the most realistic takes on World War II. The story is told through the eyes of several different soldiers for each country – Russia, Britain and the United States and takes you from the Russian Red Square through to the dry deserts of North Africa.
As with every shooter, the weapons pay an integral part of the game. Thankfully, Call of Duty: Finest Hour offers a large array of authentic World War II weapons that enhance the experience. For an example, the Russians make use of the Mosin-Nagant and DPM, whilst the British offer the Lee-Enfield rifle and Bren LMG machine gun. The US has access to the Browning Automatic Rifle and the Springfield rifle, whilst the Germans prefer to use the Gewehr 43 rifle and the MP40 submachine gun. As secondary weapons, ranges of explosives are available for deployment, such as the American M2 Fragmentation Grenade and the German Stielhandgranate. Each weapon has their own specific uses, for an example, the Bren LMG machine gun is an excellent weapon for mowing down a large force of enemy infantry, whilst the Springfield rifle is perfect weapon for sniping enemies from a distance.
The AI in Finest Hour is generally of an intelligent standard. They will automatically shoot any Germans in the area, use buildings, vehicles and natural resources as cover and use grenades appropriately. A problem with the AI, in particular your allies, is that they will often get stuck on objects. Developer Spark Unlimited has cleverly development a system to battle this. If an ally is stuck on an object, simply pressing a button will force him to run in a different direction, freeing him from objects. This is a clever addition that needs to be used in many other shooters.
Although the majority of the missions are conducted on-foot, a small number of missions require you to take command of a tank and complete a range of destroying-missions. In one example, you and a squadron of tanks take control of a German airfield by destroying airplanes prior to take-off using either your heavy machine gun or a large, explosive mortar. Two views are available whilst controlling the tank: inside the tank or a view from just behind the tank outside. As in real life, the tanks are heavy and slow to control, however, once you are used to controls, the missions offer some interesting variation to the standard on-foot missions.
The Xbox and Playstation 2 versions of Call of Duty: Finest Hour feature online support, allowing up to 16-players to compete over the online services. Those who are not fortunate enough to have access to high-speed Internet will be able to use System Link instead. Several modes are on offer through the online service or system link, such as your basic deathmatch and team deathmatches and capture the flag. The levels on offer are generally well-designed and work very well with a small or large number of players. Some variation from other shooters and offline play on the single console would have been welcomed addition.
The level designs, both in the single player mode and multiplayer modes are quite large. A single mission requires around half an hour to complete, as travelling from one side of a city to another is a frequent requirement. At other times, you will be required to remain stationary as a sniper and repel waves of attacks from the Nazi invaders. A problem with the large level designs, however, is that save points are too far apart. Often you will spend a large amount of time experiencing hard battles, only to die and be thrown back to the very beginning of the level. Although some gamers may welcome this difficulty, most average gamers will find this to be frustrating.
Although short of amazing, the graphics in Call of Duty: Finest Hour are of a great standard. The environments boast excellent detail, complete with buildings torn down and huge craters from artillery shells. For the first few hours of the game, the levels are dark and moody, with little colour apart from heavy greys, browns and blacks. Although this may feel more realistic than a bright, sunny day, the boring colours used for such a long period of time makes the game feel boring and bleak. The weaponry fire and explosions look great, especially when a tank blasts a large hole in a crumbling building.
The character designs are realistic and offer some excellent detail. Facial expressions offer plenty of emotion, with mouths and eyes moving appropriately without any flickering textures. A large range of death sequences is on offer, providing a more interesting campaign against the Nazis. Vehicle and weapon designs also offer some solid detail.
Offering some excellent orchestral pieces, the music in Call of Duty: Finest Hour couldn’t possibly suit the game any better. Often, the music fits the game so well that it blends into the gameplay, enhancing the already solid gameplay even further. Voice acting also sounds great, with each soldier offering their own, individual personality and voice. There is, however, very limited dialogue between your comrades during in-game battles. Occasionally, a comrade will alert you of a nearby grenade. Apart from obvious and common lines such as this, the dialogue is extremely limited. Some further expansion on in-game dialogue, such as some humorous quotes, would have further enhanced the experience.
Call of Duty: Finest Hour is a solid wartime shooter that offers a realistic aspect on the last months leading to the end of World War II. The addition of tank driving varies the gameplay and keeps it interesting. Some lengthy levels with save points sometimes create some frustration, but are generally good. The level designs are large and interesting, complete with a large array of WWII weapons and some good character animation combines to make Call of Duty: Finest Hour a worthwhile purchase.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.