Call of Duty: Finest Hour Updated Impressions

Activision and Spark Unlimited stop by to give us an update on the console offshoot of the Call of Duty franchise.

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Activision and Spark Unlimited stopped by recently to give us an updated look at Call of Duty: Finest Hour, the promising console branch of Activision's WWII-based first-person shooter franchise, which is set to appear on the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. The console games will use a mission-based structure that's broken up into three major campaigns--British, Russian, and American. The levels you'll navigate will feature a dynamic "to do" list of objectives that will change as you progress and that will sometimes require you to drive vehicles. Our demo of a work-in-progress version of the Xbox game showcased a level in which you're behind the wheel of a powerful Russian tank on a mission to take out an airfield before the resident Nazis can be resupplied.

Call of Duty will finally arrive on consoles this fall with Finest Hour. Click "stream" for a larger view.

The level begins with your tank being sent to the airfield to take out a set number of planes. The trip to the airfield shows off your surroundings, emphasizing that you're one of a group of tanks on their way to the airfield. It appears as though you will have a measure of freedom over your route to the airfield and won't be confined to a set path. You'll encounter opposition from ground forces, but thanks to your ability to roll in an armored tank, it isn't much of a problem. The action gets a bit more intense when you start taking out planes on the airfield, since the opposition is better armed and more aggressive than you are. Once you've fulfilled your plane-destruction quota, you'll come to a point where you can no longer use your tank and must head out on foot, which is when the honeymoon appears to end. While there was a sense of danger when facing off against foes in the tank, the air becomes a lot thicker when you're on foot and facing guard towers spraying waves of bullets. The rest of the level appears to offer quite a workout and will undoubtedly have many players longing for their trusty tank. The varied gameplay appears to keep the level's pace brisk.

The graphics in the game continue to look impressive, with a high level of detail, a smooth frame rate, and a hefty number of special effects used to complement the onscreen action. Your views out of the tank look especially nice--the porthole view is the standout thanks to the subtle detail in the form of weathering around your field of vision on the vehicle's worn metal surface. The environment, the snow-covered roads, and the structures around the airfield were nicely done without being too showy. At first blush the area looks plain, but once you start to interact with it as you steer your tank around, it comes alive. The weakest element of the visuals at this time is the explosions triggered by the destruction of planes. Though they're well done, they lack a bit of "oomph," due in part to the power constraints of the consoles. If Spark is able to beef them up before the final version of the game, it would help the experience a bit, but as the game stands now, they get the job done.

The audio, which is a key component to selling you on the whole experience, is shaping up well. While not final, the version of the game we saw is already offering a good spread of ambient sound, such as explosions and chatter and the simple thrum of your tank's engine. The effects for all the explosions and gunfire are high-end "bangs" that complement the action well already.

Finest Hour does a good job of preserving the cinematic flair of its PC predecessor.
Finest Hour does a good job of preserving the cinematic flair of its PC predecessor.

This updated look at Call of Duty: Finest Hour continues to pique our interest in the promising game. Spark has managed to maintain one of the hallmarks of the franchise--its cinematic approach toward storytelling--and showcases the game's interactive environments through the game's narrative to good effect. The game offers an immersive experience with varied gameplay that looks to be working well so far. While the first-person shooter genre has managed to get some representation on home consoles, there are still not many games as ambitious as Call of Duty: Finest Hour. If the game continues on its promising course, gamers eager to get their historical first-person shooting on will most certainly want to check out Call of Duty: Finest Hour when it ships this fall for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. Until then, check out some new screens and an exclusive developer interview.

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