Call of Duty in 2003 raised the bar of what people expect from a World War II shooter. Infinity Ward in their debut produced one of the finest war games ever made and thus a new franchise was born with many fans. When the game was originally announced, Activision also briefly mentioned a console version will follow the PC version. Twelve months since the PC game, Finest Hour is just about ready to ship and earlier this week we went hands on with a near final build of the PS2 version which is looking very impressive indeed.
For those who haven't played the PC version, Call of Duty combined a number of different campaigns to give many different perspectives on World War II at large. The game on the consoles will again put you in the shoes of a Russian conscript, British PPA soldier, and American Tank commander. The game will also feature famous battles the world over rather then just focusing on the European battles which are perhaps the most famous.
Call of Duty is a first person shooter but the console version appears to different greatly in terms of structure to the PC version. First of all you can now give commands occasionally to other AI troops in your squad. Much like Rainbow Six 3, you can now either open doors yourself, or give commands for other troops to do it while you hold, waiting to ambush the enemy behind. This only occurs in buildings and during certain situations but still adds a new element to the game for those who have been through the PC version already. The game follows how the PC game played out, but the extra development time has allowed the developers to create a much deeper game with more character development.
Throughout the missions, occasionally story sequences will take place introducing new characters or giving back story about their task in the war. This is also reinforced during some of the cut scenes we saw played out before missions. Pairing this with the ability to give some characters commands, the game is no doubt going to be a more interesting experience for players and more strategies will be able to be used. It should also increase the replay value of the title.
The game contains a multitude of missions, but we were only able to see four. Three playable and the fourth was displayed by the representative present. The first mission we played through tasked us with capturing a Nazi flag at the top of a hill, to reclaim it for the Russians. With sniper support, we slowly worked our way up, defeating numerous enemies. Out of the missions we saw this was probably the least impressive but still a great level. It was intense with our squad fighting for their lives and numerous times a health pack only just saved us from imminent death.
The second mission put us in control of a tank while ambushing and taking over a German airstrip. The controls for the tank were quite user friendly and you will be able to control the turret and base of the tank individually giving you a great deal of control. We didn't last to long in this mission but what we saw, the mission basically tasks you with blowing up numerous planes and taking the airstrip for the Russian army.
The third mission was set in Africa and a complete change to the other two missions. Defending a commander while he refueled a jeep, we were ambushed and had to drive for our lives. Coming under attack from planes, soldiers, trucks and other enemy weaponry it carried the intensity that the other levels had shown to a whole new continent, and type of soldier with the British SAS. The fourth mission was displayed to us and was taken from the final push to defeat the Germans, in Germany.
The task was to sit behind moving tanks, and storm buildings which they destroy to eliminate the enemy presence while also protecting them from rocket fire. As expected this was a tough mission and shows that the game will be no walkover once it ships. Huge numbers of enemies were present in all the levels we saw giving the game a truly epic feel and continues the great atmosphere which the PC game featured.
The friendly AI react instinctively and will defend you when needed. To give an example, we were getting hit from the side. One of our team members came up, shot the guy and proceeded further with the mission. You don't have to baby sit these characters either as they act completely autonomously except when you offer commands such as opening a door to storm it. The weaponry you and the enemy have appears to not have changed since the PC game and you can still pick up enemy weapons to use.
One of the most impressive aspects thus far of the PS2 version especially however is the graphics. The draw distance is huge, there is no other word for it. Character models are highly detailed and despite the huge numbers of enemies on screen and massive action taking place on the screen. The voice acting is also sounding especially good, and the Russians we encountered were quite impressive. If you have 5.1 surround you're in for an aural treat.
Call of Duty Finest Hour is looking like it will definitely carry the franchise forward on the consoles and establish it once again as the premiere World War II franchise. Spark have put a great deal of work into the game, especially with the character development enhancements which appear to be on offer. Call of Duty Finest Hour is currently scheduled for a late 2004 release on PS2, Xbox and Gamecube.