We get an in-depth look at the upcoming console-exclusive WWII shooter and go hands-on with two of its missions. Check out the details inside.
The World War II-shooter genre essentially began on consoles with the original PlayStation game Medal of Honor (itself begat by Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan). WWII games have since become a staple on the PC side. The platform has seen a host of games in the Medal of Honor series and, last year, a new franchise from Activision called Call of Duty. Call of Duty is now heading to consoles with a new game subtitled Finest Hour, which is being developed by a company called Spark Unlimited--a company made up, improbably, of nearly 30 members from the original Medal of Honor team.
The development pedigree is in place--Call of Duty: Finest Hour is being crafted by a group of individuals who are intimately familiar with and appreciative of the source material they're working with. To get a sense of how the game is coming along, we recently got our hands on an early version at an Activision press event. We also spoke with project leader Scott Langteau and military advisers Capt. John Hillen and retired Lt. Col. Hank Keirsey to get some additional background on everything that's going into the ambitious action game.
Like Call of Duty on the PC, Finest Hour will be split into Russian, British, and American campaigns--but this time around, the three sections will focus on previously unexplored areas of the war. In the Russian campaign, you'll fight through the German siege on Stalingrad, engaging in gritty urban combat and a daring raid on a Nazi airfield. The British missions are set in Northern Africa, where members of the SAS and Popsky's Private Army (a ragtag, real-life group of mercenary soldiers) will perform hit-and-run operations on Rommel's advancing panzer battalions. Finally, the American campaign is set after D-Day, beginning with the Allied advance against the Siegfried defensive line and across the German border.
There will be a total of six playable characters in Finest Hour, including such previously unexplored roles as a Russian female sniper and a member of the all-black 761st Black Panthers tank division. You'll switch off between each campaign's two playable characters at predetermined times, based on the development of the storyline (which is aided by between-mission cutscenes). Finest Hour seems to be approaching the war from a fresh perspective by featuring these heretofore unseen places and faces. It ought to make for a nice break from the typical WWII game scenarios (like John Smith of Nebraska's role in the Normandy beach landing), at least.
We played through two missions in the Russian campaign and also watched a demo of a previously unseen level in the American section. In the first of the Russian missions, which is technically the first major level in the game, we fought our way through a few tight rooms before finding our way to a window-mounted turret and laying waste to German soldiers outside. Afterward, we moved into the major objective of the mission: proceeding up the hill to disable a number of enemy pillboxes that had our allies pinned down. This mission involved running through a number of trenches, while fighting off German soldiers, in order to reach the back entrance of each fortification so we could take out the gunner who was firing down the hill at the Russian position. This mission introduced the Russian sniper character, though we didn't get to play as her, as that was reserved for later in the campaign.
The second Russian mission had us driving a T-34 tank in an assault on a Nazi airfield located outside of Stalingrad. Historically, Germany used this base to resupply its surrounded army during the lengthy siege of the city, and the Russians managed to seize the airfield for a brief time, thus disrupting the flow of supplies to the wearied troops. This mission showed off a portion of the vehicle combat in the game, which will comprise a fairly hefty percentage of Finest Hour's levels.
In this mission, we found the tank to play similar to tanks we've used in the Battlefield games, with independent tread and turret controls, and a massive main cannon and mounted machine gun available for the purpose of, you know, killing lots of Nazis. Objectives in this level included destroying a set number of grounded aircraft and then pressing farther into the heart of the base. Other vehicles on offer in the game will be the American Sherman tank and a jeep, from which the player, as a passenger, will operate a mounted machine gun.
- Release Date: Nov 16, 2004 (US)