The original Call of Duty, released on the PC late last year, distinguished itself as a superb first-person shooter, despite the glut of other World War II-themed shooters already on the market at the time. Its intense, well-paced single-player campaign was a great complement to its excellent multiplayer modes. A year later, the franchise finds itself on all three major consoles in an entirely new game called Call of Duty: Finest Hour. While Finest Hour is a competent shooter on most counts, a few important things have been lost in the franchise's transition between platforms.
The Call of Duty series makes its first jump onto consoles with Finest Hour.
Like the original PC game, Finest Hour's single-player component actually consists of three small campaigns told from the perspective of the Russian, British, and American armies. While some may find this type of campaign disjointed from a story perspective, it allows for a good variety of settings. As the Russians, you'll begin by crossing the Volga River in an attempt to push the German army out of the besieged city of Stalingrad. The British campaign is set in the deserts of North Africa, while the American missions have you starting the push into Western Germany with the capture of Aachen. Throughout the game, you'll be accompanied by AI-controlled comrades who will fight by your side and help you advance through the missions. These teammates can and will die, but they're often replaced by more fodder as you proceed through the missions.
Experienced shooter fans will find several familiar mission types in Finest Hour. There are a couple of tank-driving missions, a turret-style mission on the back of a jeep, and a shooting-gallery sequence with a sniper rifle. You'll also participate in some house-to-house fighting, kicking down doors and ferreting out entrenched Germans. Unfortunately, the memorable moments in Finest Hour are separated by lengthy sequences of filler. In spite of this, the 10-hour campaign might still have been a good overall experience if not for some fundamental problems in the gameplay.
One issue is the lack of checkpoints. The difficulty of the game ratchets up noticeably between the Russian campaign and the British one, yet for some reason there's usually only one checkpoint in each mission, even the lengthier, multipart ones. Inexperienced players may become frustrated at having to repeat long sequences of gameplay over and over again because of the lack of checkpoints in each level. Ironically, the original PC game, which allowed for quicksaves, still included several checkpoints in each of its levels.
The campaign takes you through a variety of historical settings and battles.
One of the other big problems in Call of Duty: Finest Hour is the feel of the weaponry. You do have an array of real-life weapons at your disposal, such as Thompson and PPSH submachine guns, and Kar98 rifles. And like in the original Call of Duty, you can aim down the iron sight of your weapons for additional accuracy and a partial zoom. You're allowed to carry two weapons at any given time, along with grenades and other types of explosives. The problem is that it's often difficult to tell how much damage you're doing to an enemy, and when your target is actually dead. Dying enemies often go through lengthy (and overacted) death animations, which leads you to wonder if they're still alive or actually dead. This causes confusion, as enemies who are getting peppered with fire often go through reactionary animations that look similar to death animations. The developers have attempted to alleviate this problem by including a visual indicator in the crosshair that tells you when you're hitting an enemy, but you'll find yourself expending too much precious ammunition anyway just to make sure your targets go down.