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April 7, 2005
Call of Duty: Finest Hour - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
3/12/2004ActivisionSpark1, 16 MA15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
80KBDolby PLIIYesYesSmallNo

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Battle in the streets.
When you think of World War II FPS titles on Playstation 2 I guess your first thoughts would be of EA's Medal of Honor games. The first of their games, Medal of Honor: Frontline, was fairly good while the more recent Medal of Honor: Rising Sun was bitterly disappointing. Besides Ubisoft's recently released Brothers In Arms, which is more of a strategy title, there is little else on the PS2 in terms of WWII First Person Shooters. Fortunately Activision released another title in December 2004, Call of Duty: Finest Hour. The company is hoping to trump the opposition and bring some of the magic from the PC original to home consoles.

One of the most interesting aspects of Call of Duty: Finest Hour is that you don't follow a single character through the entire war but rather a different person when you enter a new location. In fact you'll play the role of a member of the Russian infantry charging at Stalingrad, a British PPA Commando raiding in North Africa and an American- led tank charges in Belgium. I guess there are two sides to making this decision. The first is that you get to experience all theatres of war from the viewpoint of different nationalities making the game a lot more interesting in regards to a variety of battlefields and situations. On the other hand you never really become emotionally attached to any of the characters in the game due to a lack of time with them. But hey, this is a FPS, not a love fest so who needs emotion, right?

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Going over the top.
Set across 12 missions in four theatres of war the missions are quite impressive in their variety. From large scale battles to sniping, vehicle based missions to stealth this game has it all. The bulk of the game plays like a regular FPS. Move around the levels, complete the objectives and so on. Being based on the Second World War the weapons available are all authentically recreated - pistols, rifles and grenades will be your main weapons through the game. Of course the war wasn't a one man commando raid and during the levels you will be aided by fellow soldiers who can be fairly nifty at taking out some Nazi's and help you progress through the levels.

Around a quarter of the time playing Call of Duty: Finest Hour sees you driving a tank or jeep through the levels (see picture below). The tank seems particulary sluggish at first - welcome to real life. After a short while the tank sections actually become one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game. It makes you wonder why there aren't any dedicated realistic tank games on PS2 actually.

If you're online then Call of Duty: Finest Hour adds quite a bit more value with online gameplay. After chosing to be on either Axis or Allies you can enter any of the (rather standard) game modes including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, or Search & Destroy. The game uses Gamespy to power the online games and while not as good as dedicated servers here in Australia the lag was minimal, as long as you select the right match to enter. Unfortunately the game doesn't really offer the structure or range of game modes seen in many other online games these days.

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In the North Africa campaign.
This game isn't perfect, but it isn't a technical issue that disappoints the most, rather that the game is way too short. It took us under 10 hours to complete the single player campaign. It was a fun ride, sure, but you just wish there was more. Fortunately the online options help increase the longevity of the title. Enemy AI is also a bit on the dopey side. Occasionally enemies will remain in position even when you're shooting at them. Likewise your comrades will occasionally run headfirst into battle, or jump around a corner only to be killed instantly. I guess it happened in real life occasionally when storming positions, but it happens a little too often.

From a visual standpoint Call of Duty: Finest Hour has some very good, and not so very good points. It must be said that this game really captures the gritty visuals of war torn landscapes. The opening battle in Stalingrad which is littered with destroyed buildings is simply stunning. The character models are also fairly nice, although their polygon count and animation is a little rougher then some games. When you consider that there are often dozens of solders on screen it can be forgiven. The visual effects such as explosions and smoke range from very good to quite average while the frame rate very occasionally drops slightly - although it never becomes detrimental to the gameplay.

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That's going to cost a bit to fix!
The sound is also pretty impressive. With Dolby Pro Logic II providing some im[ressive surround sound the title really puts you in the battle with some great effects such as explosions and gunfire. The voice work in cut scenes is excellent however I feel there should have been more background shouting from the soldiers not directly addressing you. The music is pretty atmospheric, although occasionally I found myself being distracted by the music, and polishes off the sound package.

If you like First Person Shooters, and have an interest in World War II, then there is little reason not to buy Call of Duty: Finest Hour. It may be a little on the short side but the game is interesting enough to have you coming back for more. The multi-player options will also keep those with online adapters busy, although I did encounter some small lag issues with people over long distances. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC version)
GRAPHICSNot the best on PS2, but you really do get a sense of frantic battles.
SOUNDNot enough ambient voices while in battle, good effects and music.
GAMEPLAYFrantic gameplay which will have you on the edge of your seat.
VALUEA little on the short side at under 10 hours, multiplayer adds a bit.
OVERALLCall of Duty: Finest Hour is among the best World War II games on Playstation 2 - actually it's one of the few. There's better on the PC but this game will keep PS2 owners quite happy.

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