Spark/Kuju
Activision
FPS
1 (16 online)
11.16.04

Call of Duty: Finest Hour


From the moment I first started playing Call of Duty: Finest Hour, I was instantly reminded of Medal of Honor and Men of Valor. They are all very similar. This is probably because 2015 (Men of Valor) also developed Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for the PC. Not only that, but Spark (Call of Duty: Finest Hour) is made up of former EA employees who worked on other MoH games. I can even take it a step further and mention that former members of the Allied Assault team (from 2015) formed a new company called Infinity Ward and developed Call of Duty for the PC, but that's a whole other story. After finding this information out, it would make complete sense why each of these titles have very close similarities. I never got the chance to play the PC version of Call of Duty, so I was looking forward to playing the Xbox version.

I'll be honest; I got goose bumps when I watched the opening scene. I always have a thing for war games, and I always try to learn from them. More importantly, I always like to get a feel of what it would be like to be in a war. Call of Duty: Finest Hour allows me to feel like I am part of a team, and for every inch we fight on, we are that much closer to defeating the Germans.

Gameplay

Call of Duty takes a nice approach by letting you take control of Russian, British, and US soldiers during WWII. This offers much variety, and is not found in many other shooters. It's also a great reminder that it took a worldwide effort to bring down Hitler's Army. And to take it to a whole other level, almost each level you play is about a different soldier. So you will be taking control of many different combatants, and getting stories about each one in particular. The game gives you a nice feel from each of the different perspectives. Some of the characters of the story come together quite nicely, and give you the sense of a complete game, rather than just 3 separate parts. From Russia, there's Aleksandr Sokolov, Tanya Pavelovna (sniper), and Nikolai Badanov (tanks). There's only one lonesome British soldier, Edward Carlyle. He's around for only four missions, making the British campaign the shortest in the game. Finally, from the US front there's Charles Walker and Sam Rivers (tank). The 3 parts of the game can also be separated as follows: Eastern front (Russia), North Africa (British), and Western Front (Americans).

The battles can get pretty intense. I really started to get into the game during the first set of missions with the Russians. The tank battles were great, but what I liked was when you sometimes get out of the tank and continue on foot. I am very pleased with the amount of comrades fighting along side of you. This is the way a war is fought, and they nailed it right on the money. Not just on the open battlefield, but you'll be climbing up ladders, stairs, and tight corridors with your squad. The only thing that I wish that this game had was more checkpoint ability. Some levels have no checkpoints, while others have more than one.

Controlling your character on foot is the same as any other FPS (right trigger fires your weapon), with a few different options. When you zoom in (left trigger), you have the ability to lean left or right like in Men of Valor, but only bad thing is that you have to use the d-pad. So when you want to lean, there's no analog support. When you lean, you just lean as far as the d-pad takes you, because you can't lean halfway. Pressing left on the d-pad switches weapons, and sometimes I got into the nasty habit of not first holding down the left trigger while trying to lean. So I would switch weapons instead of performing the lean. And you can only lean in single player. The upside to all of this is that you can be zoomed in and still control your character fairly well. There's a total of 5 controller settings, but the standard is the best one. The rest are extremely different. Controlling a tank takes about 15 minutes to figure out and master all of the movements. Overall, the tank control feels like a big awkward tank. So I guess the feel is perfect enough. When you're on foot, you have limited commands to give to your teammates. You can heal them, or you can tell them to advance. But pressing the black button is really a way to tell them to "move out of my way." Other times, I would try to heal up a fellow soldier, and he wouldn't sit still, so I would end up wasting a health pack on myself. The black button is also used to open up doors, pick up guns, or to mount up on stationary weapons. Another option when traveling on foot is the ability to toss grenades. You can carry 2 types at any given time (M2 frag grenade or the German Stielandgranate). For most weapons, when up close to an enemy, you can wack them in the face with it. You just better do it quickly, or they will knock you out before you get the chance to hit them. Tapping up on the d-pad is easy to manage when healing yourself. But I almost wish it would automatically heal you if you have enough health packs, because there sometimes isn't any warning that you are about to die even if your health is low. Having the friendly fire option set to off is probably best left the way it is, because some of the levels are tough enough. And you shouldn't have to worry about losing allies because you shot them by accident. This may not seem realistic, but it keeps the pace of the game going.

You follow a pre-determined path, but some levels have little shortcuts, or other ways to advance. Objectives pop up on the top of the screen, and it's painless to follow what you need to accomplish. The enemy AI is not the greatest, but I do like the AI of the soldiers fighting on your side. Call of Duty: Finest Hour has the biggest and best tank battles ever seen in a war game, and that's just the single player. It's a great feeling to know that 3 or 4 tanks are with you fighting on your side. A great feature of Finest Hour is the ability to use many different types of weapons. You're even able to pick up German weapons. The game's overall design is put together very well. The game gets harder as you get to the last set of campaigns, and can be quite challenging.

Graphics

Fallen enemies and tanks usually disappear in a matter of seconds, taking away some of the reality of things. But there appears to be a few slowdown issues with the gameplay, so it's good that they disappear to make room in memory for more visuals. There are some weird graphic glitches also. One instance was enemy soldiers flying/sliding on the air and ground, or standing sideways. The explosions are kind of weak as well. Aside from all the cons I've mentioned, the overall graphics are above average. The environments are detailed, and there's a variety of different animations when an enemy is dying from a bullet wound.

After a few hours into the game, I felt like I was on a battlefield. There are objects blowing up, gunfire, tanks and trucks on fire, and planes flying by. The "no blood" theme really brings down the game's initial visual appeal. It just didn't seem all that realistic when I was killing people up close with no sign of blood. While there isn't any blood, after playing through the game, I forgot that there wasn't any. This was due to the fact that I was fully immersed into each level.

Sound

Tense, heart-pounding, epic music is what you'll be hearing most of the time. Aside from the music, the sound effects help out tremendously in creating a war-like environment. Gunfire, explosions, screaming and yelling, and planes dropping bombs are just some of the great sound effects that you'll hear throughout Finest Hour.

When there is a nearby explosion (when your on foot), the whole world goes silent for a few seconds, and you are in a slow motion blur trying to figure out if you are dying, and at the same time trying to take cover. And then if you survive, the sounds come back, and you're right back in the crazy war.

Replay Value

The replay value for the single player isn't extremely high, but you might want to go back and play through it a few times, just not right away. On the other hand, Xbox Live multiplayer is good, but not as addicting as I'd hoped for. You can engage in online combat with up to 16 players. The game modes for online play are deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and search and destroy. And since there's no split screen, your going to have to get together with a bunch of friends and hook up a few Xbox's together (if you don't have Xbox Live).

Bottom Line:

The single player experience should not be missed, and I urge anyone who is a war game fan to get this game immediately. The best thing I like about this game is that you are always fighting along side fellow soldiers. They don't do all that much, but it keeps the gameplay realistic. The only problem I had was that if you don't have Xbox Live (or system link), then you are stuck with the single player mode only. There may be a few graphic glitches and minor bugs, but it won't keep you from wanting to play it more. In any case, this is a solid war game, and I recommend buying it. This is also a good choice if you're all about a clean war game. There's no blood, and there is no swearing whatsoever.

Related Links:

Official Call of Duty Website

-Steve Melanson




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