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Call of Duty: Finest Hour Preview for Xbox
Posted on Sunday, May 16, 2004 @ 12:28:43 pm E.S.T

With the overabundance of war-based first-person shooters that flooded the market last year, it wasn't that hard to stumble across a decent game in the genre nowadays. But in the midst of all of the Battlefield and Tom Clancy games, a game by the name of Call of Duty emerged, and it rocked the PC gaming scene and later went on to be considered the best PC game of 2003 by many. The good news for the console gamers that were left out of the loop last year is that Activision and upstart development team Spark have come together to create Call of Duty: Finest Hour, due out in fall 2004 on the Xbox, GameCube and PlayStation 2.

The near-perfect blend of amazingly realistic sound effects, some of the most lifelike graphics on the market, excellent vehicular-based and on-ground combat and extremely intelligent AI came together to craft one of the most amazing games in years in the first Call of Duty, and all of the same things that made the PC game so amazing hold true to the console sequel. This means no slowed framerates and chunky graphics, which defies the norm that's been generated in PC-to-console translations. And although there are some certain differences, specifically the re-built gameplay engine, the non-stop action from the original title should be translated perfectly as you step into the boots of the unknown soldiers of World War II and fight for freedom.

Although Call of Duty: Finest Hour doesnít have the same squad-based action thatís been popularized by the recent Tom Clancy games, you can still get that feeling of being a team leader as you lead your militia closer and closer to victory in battle. Your involvement with the squad is up to you; you can let your fellow squad members free to fend on their own, or you can directly affect their every move.

In the missions, youíll be learning more about the soldiers youíve taken control of and the fellow militia surrounding them. Brand new levels and environments should also show up in Finest Hour, along with some of the missions from the original PC title. As the story goes on throughout said missions, youíll even notice that you take control of some of the people you went on the front line with earlier in the game. Being able to experience the war from so many unique roles, ranging from Americaís side of the battles to Great Britain and the U.S.S.R.ís perspectives, should prove to be one of the deepest and most interesting stories within a genre thatís in a severe drought of a good tale.

Speaking of the story, Call of Duty: Finest Hour plays out in a series of small vignettes taking place between 1942 and 1945, explaining how each soldierís contributions played a large part in the war. The game accurately depicts how one soldier from one nation could have helped turn the tables against Nazi Germany. Each sub-story then connects together to show how the Allies fronted the German expansion and eventually overthrew the powers of Hitler and his army.

Within recent years, it seems as if it's impossible to have a good FPS on consoles nowadays without online play, and just as the PC version had its plethora of options, Finest Hour is sure to as well. While Spark hasnít quite made all of the decisions on online play, itís pretty safe to say that most of, if not all, of the game modes available in the PC version will be available to console gamers as well. The only thing that might be a major factor in the creation of online play is the fact that there has yet to be an Xbox or PS2 game that can support up to 32 players at once, so toying with the amount of players, along with maps and game types, will prove to be imperative to the development process of online play in Finest Hour.

As with the gameís PC counterpart, Finest Hourís graphics will be stellar. Every environment will be detailed down to each snowflake, and the character animations will be superb, thanks to some surprise help from the puppet master himself, Jim Henson of ďThe MuppetsĒ fame. Surprisingly, developers Spark called upon the talent and expertise of the Jim Henson Company to help make characters in the game seem more human-like, thanks to a new technology created for Finest Hour known as the Henson Digital Performance System. Using giant animatronic puppets to control and map everything down to complex facial expressions, Henson and Spark have helped develop and engage use of a unique development tool that is sure to be used in games for years to come.

One of the many things that captivated PC gamers last year was Call of Dutyís ability to realistically depict the feel of warfare. Seeing an oncoming ambush from opposing forces really made you feel like you had to kill or be killed. Xbox, GameCube and PS2 gamers alike will all know the feeling of being in the middle of a war zone, as epic and brutal battles take place in every surrounding direction. The sheer number of soldiers youíll be able to see on screen at any given time (up to two hundred at a time) is absolutely amazing and enhances the feeling of vicious combat.

Some may be a little skeptical at first of the quality of the game, since itís being created by a newly-formed development team. Have no fear, though, as the members of Spark Unlimited have helped craft the entire Medal of Honor series on the PSOne, PS2 and PC, which should provide them with an upper hand in trying to strike down other titles being released in this over-populated sub-genre.

In what looks to be one of the most polished World War II-based games on the market in recent years, Final Hour could turn out to be one of the biggest titles going into the holiday season. Expect to get shell-shocked when Call of Duty: Final Hour launches off to war in October of 2004.

Preview By: Matt Hack - 1798 Reads

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