Call of Duty: Finest Hour First Look

Activision gives its PC-based World War II franchise a console makeover.

First released late last year on the PC, Activision's Call of Duty has gone on to become quite the juggernaut on the PC thanks to its atmospheric visuals and tight first-person-shooter gameplay. The latest entry in the series, Call of Duty: Finest Hour, marks a promising offshoot for the series as fledgling developer Spark Unlimited aims to bring console owners an original experience that matches the quality and intensity of its PC cousin. While that may seem like a rather lofty goal, given the marked differences in processing and graphics power between the PC and console platforms, based on our early look at the game, Spark certainly seems to be on the right track.

Finest Hour is a new console-only Call of Duty game with intensely cinematic production values similar to those in the PC original.

For you cave dwellers who may have missed the various accolades given for the original Call of Duty, here's a primer: The first-person shooter drops you in the middle of World War II and has you fighting for the Allied Forces in a series of missions set throughout Europe over the course of the war. One of the hallmarks of the series has been its immersive environments, which have all been showcased using a cinematic approach that tells the game's story quite engagingly.

The console games will use a mission-based structure that's broken up into three major campaigns--British, Russian, and American ones. The levels you'll navigate will feature a dynamic "to do" list of objectives that will change as you go about your business. While the game is an original piece of work, there is already a point where you'll fight in some familiar locales--like in the first level, which is somewhat similar to its PC relative. However, this level, while similar to the original game, unfolds a bit differently and serves up an impressive kickoff to the game.

While the core FPS mechanics from the first game are being carefully mapped to the assorted console controllers, the overall plan is to offer a customization option to let you find a way to set things up to your liking. As far as gameplay goes, Call of Duty: Finest Hour will offer some departures, such as a broader mix of gameplay styles and a greater number of vehicles to use, which will help to keep you from getting too complacent.

As before, Finest Hour will be composed of British, Russian, and American campaigns.

The presentation of the game is shaping up to be an impressive high point for consoles. The graphics engine is pushing a considerable number of polygons on the screen as it re-creates the varied environments you'll be going through. However, the game's weighty visual impact isn't solely reliant on a simple polygon count. A host of special effects and subtle visual flourishes, which add up to create an immersive world for you to trek through, are ultimately what give Call of Duty: Finest Hour a powerful kick. Furthermore, the audio in the game will feature a rich palette of sound that will play out over Dolby 5.1 or Pro-Logic II, depending on the platform. The perfectionists at Spark are continuing to refine the aural presentation to deliver a compelling game score.

From what we've seen so far, Call of Duty: Finest Hour is shaping up to be an impressive debut for the franchise on the current batch of consoles. We're especially pleased to see that Finest Hour is an original work that stays true to the spirit and production values of its PC cousin, rather than a potentially disastrous attempt to squeeze PC-level performances from consoles with a simple port of the original game. Call of Duty: Finest Hour is scheduled for release on all three consoles in November, and we'll bring you more on the game in the coming months.

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