Hour of Victory is Midway's forthcoming shooter for the Xbox 360. The game is set during World War II and puts you in control of one of three soldiers fighting in the Allied forces. New Jersey-based nFusion, which cut its teeth on PC games such as Deadly Dozen and Line of Sight, is developing the game, using the third iteration of Epic's Unreal engine. We had the chance to check out the first work-in-progress demo of the game, which is being unveiled at Midway's press event today.
Like many shooting games set in the era, Hour of Victory will frame its action in a slice of time from the Second World War. The game opens in Africa in May 1942 and will send you fighting with the Allied forces as they confront Axis forces across the globe. You'll play as one of three soldiers, American OSS Operative Major Ambrose Taggert, an infiltration specialist; British SAS Commando Lieutenant William Ross, an assault specialist; or US Army Ranger Sergeant Calvin Blackbull, a sniper. Each character has unique skills, and each will show off a different aspect of the game's story, which is currently being kept fairly quiet.
Because so many shooters are set in WWII, we were curious to see what HOV is bringing to the crowded party. The demo level, which should be the game's first level, offered a pretty thorough sampling of what's going to get thrown at you (although a few key things are being held back for this first showing). The three-character system looks like it's going to offer some interesting variety to the action. Each of the characters is going to offer unique ways to get through a level. For the demo, Midway and nFusion were showing off Taggert and Ross, both of which played very differently. Ross is a more traditional "run and shoot people in the face" kind of guy, while Taggert offers a more deliberate play style of the "sneak around and stab people in the back" variety. Besides having different ways of killing fools, the characters have unique attributes. While Ross is more traditional in his approach--that is, run and gun your way to victory--Taggert is able to sneak around, picking locks and cutting through barbed wire to slip past pockets of enemies he can then take out from behind with his trusty knife. Though each character starts out with his own specialized gear, you'll be able to pick up any weapon you find and use it if you choose.
The demo level, called Evacuation, is a tight directed run through all hell breaking loose in Africa. You'll hit the ground running and deal with troops in the street and then graduate to taking a machine gun nest, manning the machine gun, manning antiaircraft guns to stop incoming bombers, and hopping into a Sherman tank to deal with Axis Tiger tanks. The game takes a pretty standard approach to easing you into its world and play mechanics, so you'll basically be getting moved along by your demanding CO who's barking orders at you regularly. When you reach specific rally points, you'll be able to swap characters by using the bumpers.
The hectic pace keeps you on your toes and lets you get a feel for the game's systems. The core mechanics in Hour of Victory stick pretty close to the first-person shooter model. The game offers an intuitive system for getting around and shooting, and the controls map out fine on the 360 controller. You'll be able to perform the standard array of actions, such as shooting, reloading, melee, throwing grenades, switching weapons, crouching, and leaning. Melee is a dedicated button, but it also kicks in automatically if you're firing your weapon and an enemy runs in close to you. The health system mirrors the one seen in Gears of War and lets you regain health if you catch a few moments of rest. The game also features a stamina system, represented by a meter in the lower left side of screen, which is depleted when you run and jump. Like your health, it will replenish after a bit. The amount of noise you make is also an issue you'll have to deal with in the game, and your compass/radar will show the noise you're making as you go about your business. As you can imagine, noise will alert enemies to your whereabouts, so you'll have to be careful. A character like Taggert can reduce his noise level to next to nothing, including when he's firing his weapon, which can be very useful. Besides showing off your noise, the compass shows you where you should go next and also the alert state of your enemies. Your foes will cycle between different-colored states on the radar--green, yellow, orange, and red--and each color reflects your enemies' increasing awareness, with red being the worst for your long-term well-being.
The machine gun and antiaircraft gun sequences were a change of pace. You'll simply run up to them, hit X, and start shooting. You'll have to be a little careful with the machine gun because it overheats if fired for too long. The vehicle sequence was another new experience. The tank controls were fairly intuitive, and they're pretty much in the vein of Warthog controls in Halo. The tank features two weapons, a front mounted machine gun and its turret. We had a few hairy moments during the sequence and had to abandon our wheels after some poorly timed encounters with Tiger tanks. Thankfully you can hop in and out of vehicles whenever you want. While you would think this would have been instant death, we found we had better luck using a panzerschrecht (basically a bazooka).
The visuals in Hour of Victory are coming along well. nFusion's use of Unreal Engine 3.0 is resulting in detailed visuals with the beginnings of some next-gen flash that will run at 720p. The character models in the demo are looking fine and sport detailed outfits that are authentic to the era. The same holds true of the weapons and vehicles. Animation is headed in a positive direction, despite some of the expected early-game weirdness. The same can also be said of the environment, which is coming together nicely and sports a consistent distressed look and a fair number of interactive elements. Besides taking out enemies, your weapon tears up objects in a nice, flashy way. The action also gets some enhancement, thanks to various filters and effects that highlight when your health is getting perilously low or the blast of nearby explosions. The only rough spots we've seen are what you'd expect out of an early game--the frame rate fluctuates a bit depending on the onscreen action, the visuals look a little unpolished in places, and the odd glitch pops up here and there. We reckon a good chunk of that will be sorted as everything is tightened up over the course of the game's development.
The audio we heard seemed to be covering all the bases well. There was plenty of voice, ranging from the orders being barked at you by your commanding officer to the now-standard ambient sounds of war as you play through the level. Sound effects for weapon fire and explosions were satisfying. The soundtrack was suitably grand and featured a dramatic collection of orchestrated tunes to sell the madness.
Based on what we've seen so far, Hour of Victory is looking like a promising WWII first-person shooter. It has a pretty solid foundation, and the character system should add some variety to the experience and keep things interesting. The big question marks left are the online and multiplayer aspects of the game, which are still under wraps. As it stands, there's a good amount of potential here for nFusion to deliver on. Hour of Victory is currently slated to ship this summer exclusively for the Xbox 360. Look for more on the game in the coming months.