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The original Call of Duty has spawned many sequels. The first game introduced players to an action-packed World War II experience from the viewpoints of multiple protagonists from different nations. It was a popular game for its time and set the foundation for the linear explosive action the series is known for and the series would branch out to consoles for the first time in 2004 with the release of Finest Hour. Developed by Spark Unlimited and published by Activision, Call of Duty: Finest Hour was released for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube in November, 2004. Just like the original Call of Duty, Finest Hour puts you in the shoes of multiple protagonists from different nations participating in different battles based on actual historical events.
Finest Hour features three campaigns from the perspectives of multiple protagonists. You’ll get to participate in the Soviet campaign on the Eastern Front, the British campaign in North Africa, and the American campaign on the Western Front. Much like the PC game, Finest Hour is a very scripted experience with a cinematic style presentation. The game does attempt to flesh out its protagonists and their stories will intertwine within their respected campaigns which I think is pretty cool. I do appreciate that they’re presented as more than just generic protagonists or soldiers but I can’t say any of them are memorable. The voice work is okay and the cast is compromised of some celebrity talent including AC/DC’s Brian Johnson and Dennis Haysbert who you may know as the Allstate guy or the second getaway driver in the film Heat.
If you’ve played Call of Duty on PC, the mechanics in Finest Hour will be familiar. You can walk, run, crouch, go prone, jump, lean left and right, aim down sights, and perform a melee attack. Crouching and going prone steadies your aim and you’re more accurate when aiming down sights. Most missions have you engaging enemies on foot but some let you drive tanks and the game does guide you every step of the way.
Health does not regenerate although tank health does (at least on the Medium difficulty). Health is replenished from health kits which can be found in the environments or will be dropped by enemies. You can also store health kits in your inventory for use at any time which is good because the checkpoints in this game can really suck. Weapons, ammo, and grenades are seemingly everywhere so running out of ammo should never be a problem. The gameplay in Finest Hour is pretty simple. Run, shoot, and try not to die.
In typical Call of Duty fashion, you’ll be accompanied by friendly soldiers and there’s an objective marker on your HUD that will indicate exactly where you need to go. You’ll receive verbal instructions from one of your friendlies and can bring up a list of your objectives at any time. It would be almost impossible to get lost or stuck. You can manually open doors and even command friendlies to do so. They will shoot at and kill German soldiers and divert enemy fire away from you. They’ll even complete certain objectives which are usually the ones that require you to destroy things. Unfortunately, AI behavior during combat is complete shit. Friendlies will often get in your way and both friendlies and enemies will often get stuck on parts of the environment and randomly run out into the open during firefights.
If you’re a Call of Duty veteran, you’re not going to find anything special in Finest Hour that you haven’t seen before. You’ll have to destroy things, defend areas, snipe enemies, shoot down planes, and capture locations. I do think some of the tank missions drag on a bit and escort missions can be a pain in the ass. It may be a while before you reach a checkpoint so dying can result in you having to redo a lengthy segment of a mission which can be frustrating, especially in the later missions. Taking cover is an important part of the gameplay and keeping your head down becomes more important as you progress. During many missions, you’ll be surrounded by Germans and will be fired upon from almost every direction and if you’re out in the open, you become an easy target. Finest Hour is a bit slower-paced than the PC game and if you try to rush through areas to complete an objective, you’re most likely going to die.
Each campaign takes you to different locations in Europe and Africa. You’ll engage Germans in Stalingrad, Tunisia, Belgium, and Germany. You’ll clear out buildings, shoot your way through sewers and underground tunnels, and use your tanks to blow away enemy tanks and ground troops. Most of the environments are linear in their design. Exploration can lead you to health kits and ammo but straying too far off the beaten path will typically lead to death.
Visually, Finest Hour doesn’t look too bad. Some textures appear a bit muddy but the the environments are well designed and the action is a accompanied by some decent visual effects. The areas look appropriately war-torn complete with partially destroyed buildings and rubble. Explosions and muzzle flashes look okay and the reload and death animations are pretty good. The soundtrack consists of orchestral scores which often sound very dramatic and compliment the action nicely, adding to the game’s cinematic style. The sound design is also solid. You’ll hear footsteps when moving around, explosions are loud, you’ll hear bullets zipping around, and a lot of shouting during firefights. On the technical side, the frame rate would tank when there was a lot of action and smoke on-screen and I did encounter some bugs. I saw some weapons get stuck in the air and German soldiers would frequently zip across the environments.
Finest Hour is an okay game. I had fun with it but I don’t think it tops the original PC game. For it’s time, I think it was a decent Call of Duty console offering and it does support system link and online multiplayer which I didn’t get to try. It certainly doesn’t reach the highs of the PC game but it does provide an action-packed single player experience. It’s just as flashy but a little slower-paced and it’s got the same style of linear shooting gallery action. If you’ve played the PC game, it will feel very familiar. I do wish the developers did more with The British or North African campaign because it’s the shortest one in the bunch and it gets you out of Europe for a little while. I do like how the game attempts to flesh out its protagonists even though none of them are particularly memorable but other than that, I don’t think there’s anything about the gameplay in particular that stands out.
I would recommend Call of Duty: Finest Hour and even though it’s certainly not the best game in the series, it’s not a bad one, either. It’s got some issues but it’s a fun time if you enjoy the Call of Duty style of gameplay. Overall, it’s more of the same so if you enjoyed the PC game, you’ll probably enjoy this. Definitely check it out.