Call of Duty: Finest Hour (GameCube) Review

By Nick Cheesman 09.02.2005

Review for Call of Duty: Finest Hour on GameCube

In 2004 EA missed giving the Medal of Honour series another update/sequel, so with EA's absence, Activision were able to sneak in some ex-Medal of Honour boys and make a console version of the much loved PC game. Despite PC to console conversions usually being poor, Spark has given the consoles a new experience, and not a simple port. A shame it does not measure up to the PC game though.

Unlike EA's trend of focusing on one campaign in World War II, Finest Hour takes the player from the Eastern Front, playing as the Russians, to the North African campaign, with British desert rats and to the invasions of Europe by the Americans. This larger look at the war is greatly appreciated, and not only offers relatively different levels and locations; such devastated Russian cities in a snowy backdrop and ancient ruins in the desert, but also gives a wider view of the war itself, broken up by clips of war footage and narrated by 24's Dennis Haysbert. Also in a change from the EA way of doing things, the soldiers have some sort of background, and before each mission you are introduced to each soldier; each with their own desires and motives.

The experience of war is increased by the attention to detail Finest with rubble and rocks actually flying around, bombed buildings, constant flames and scars of war all over each level. Unfortunately the constant gray and brown colour palette in the Early Russian levels grow tiresome, but this is broken up with impressive desert ruins and undamaged German cities that look vibrant and elaborate. Sadly this is all let down when the fighting moves to tunnels and sewers. Constant darkness is not appealing, and even if there are rats on offer, the lighting problems and dark colours make it extremely difficult to see your German enemies, who seem to have no trouble seeing you. When you can see your enemy though, the character models are varied to suffice complete with a large amount of animations on offer. Enemies die in a number of ways; helmets fly off, fingers stick to triggers, officers spiral to the ground, however all the animations seem delayed. Shoot a German several times and they may start to keel over as if dieing, however they are actually reacting to the shot, so it becomes hard to tell when someone is dead, even with red crosshairs appearing on successful shots.

Clipping is also ever present, while walls sometimes become invisible and Germans sometimes glide quickly over the ground without leg movement, in a very strange way. Invisible walls also become far too noticeable and make the game feel more linear that it should be. Despite these problems some nice effects are present, for instance getting caught in a mortar blast will make everything enter slow motion. Slightly irritating when you have to watch the already long reload animation before you can shoot again.

The constant gunfire and explosions round off the WWII feel and an orchestra accompanies the charge of several troops excellently, however there are times when these grand pieces cut out abruptly, not creating a tense atmosphere, but merely confusion as you are left with only water dripping as noise. Luckily actual WWII guns were recorded for Finest Hour, and even if the differences are not that obvious, Thompsons and Panzerschreks can all be found with real sounds. Even the voice acting is of a decent standard; however they could not resist and did stereotype the British.

The action ranges from street combat, sniping sections, escort missions, and clearing buildings, moving from room to room. Vehicle sections include riding tanks through cities and manning the machine gun on the back of a jeep. As is the trend with all first person shooters on the GameCube, the C-stick is used to aim your gun, and the analogue to move. A Finest Hour exclusive is the ability to change your stance, from crouch to lying down, which is useful to move through bunkers and avoid German gunfire. Crouching also makes your shots more accurate, so there is little reason to stay standing up, other than to move quickly. Out of the 16 guns available, they all handle relatively the same, with rifles having better down the sight or zoom functions using the L-button and automatic weapons being less accurate and having a lot more recoil. Grenades are also present and tossed by the A button, but are hard to aim especially within buildings, and often end up bouncing back at you. The B button is then reserved for actions such as picking up weapons and breaking down doors.

The general shooting with the R trigger is solid, if not slightly more difficult thanks to the realistic recoil, but the leaning mechanism, that entails using left or right on the D-pad when looking down the sight does not work at some points, as when the lean is attempted, you simply shake rather worryingly. This means you are forced to not move around corners and instead run out guns blazing. The vehicle sections are less enjoyable, driving a tank is simply not fun, and the awkward controls do not make it any easier. To move forward you have to align the turret with the arrow on the tank icon on screen, however turn the turret and forward now becomes the wrong direction, therefore trying to steer is harder than it should be. The tank missions also mull down to waiting for the main turret to be reloaded, as tanks have replenishing health, so there is no incentive to try and outmaneuver the enemy tank, as all you need to do is sit and fire, and not worry about loosing health.

One of Finest Hour's other main draws was the fact you would work in a group and not be a lone soldier. At times being surrounded by lots of soldiers does give a sense of cooperation, sadly the novelty ends when you see all your soldiers wiped out by a machine gun. You can use your health packs to heal them, by going up to them and pressing the D-pad, but since they will die anyway it is not worth it. More than once you seem to be fighting WWII on your own and worse still, the Germans seem to be able to lob grenades with ease, while your fellow troops can not. As friendly fire does not apply to grenades so you find this out the hard way. Between walking into walls and just refusing to move, your fellow soldiers also clog up corridors and refuse to move out of the way, even if there is a German machine gun shooting at you. Another little flaw is the fact you are sometimes teamed up with a soldier that can not die, so it is easy to just sit back and let them do the fighting, which is usually hitting the German with their rifle using the Z-button.

The 3 campaigns offers a decent amount of levels and despite a rather noticeable lack of check points in some levels, the game is not too challenging. Only when you stumble onto a number of the games glitches, whether it be shooting Germans only to realise your bullets seem to have no effect on them, or to kill every German and for some reason not have completed the objective of "Eliminate All forces" does the game drags on. However the games various cinematic moments and set pieces do make sure the struggle past these annoying sections are rewarded. Why no multiplayer was given in place of the XBox and Playstation 2 online mode is unknown, however a first person shooter lacking multiplayer is a serious omissions by all accounts. As such as a first person shooter Call of Duty does not rank highly.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


Finest Hour does have a few plus points over the Medal of Honour series; the broader look at WWII, the cinematic moments, the soldier background, and overall presentation does push Finest Hour ahead, but it falls apart in places others succeed. AI is atrocious and the various glitches and problems make the game suffer immensely. Complete all this with tank sections that just lack much enjoyment, and you have game that is all war and no shooter.






First Person Shooter



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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