In Call of Duty: Finest Hour players will be able to experience the cinematic intensity and the chaos of battle as never before – through the eyes of ordinary soldiers fighting together as a squad through the epic moments of World War II.

The original Call of Duty was an astonishing success, with superb single-player experience coupled with a marvelous multiplayer experience. Then came the announcement that COD was coming to Xbox, and Xbox gamers have awaited anxiously the newest installment of the COD series…Finest Hour. Now, will it live up to it’s COD name?

Finest Hour includes an excellent storyline that leads to the fun game play that all FSP (First Person Shooter) gamers crave. As in the original Call of Duty, Finest Hour allows you an opportunity to play as various characters. Each of these characters have their own point of view and this makes for an interesting experience in “someone else’s boots”. You start your adventure with a little history lesson. The film footage and narrative take you into the events surrounding your character’s challenge. Your first character, Russian Alexander Sokolov, tells the story of how he became a part of the Russian army. After completing a mission as Alexander, your life is saved by a sniper, also Russian, named Tanya Pavelonolov. Later in the game you get to become Tanya and snipe the Nazis along side Alexander Sokolov. This was an interesting way of identifying with different characters within the story. This is a cinematic event masquerading as a video game, and the cut-scenes added greatly to the experience.

COD: Finest Hour appealed to the FPS gamer in me with some outstanding and realistic, (almost) firefights. A word about the firefights first…as in real life, when you shoot an enemy during a wartime firefight, you do not know if he is indeed dead. In law enforcement and in military, you are trained to “double-tap”…that is to fire 2 rounds in quick succession. This technique is just for this purpose…you do not know if he is down only or completely down and out. Also, different weapons have different damage effects in real life, and this was no different in the game…a KAR 98 would take out an enemy with less shots than an MP-10. This adds to the realism of the game and also adds to the difficulty. The firefights are in solid and realistic settings that also add to the cinematic quality. But what happens when YOU get hit? Shock Mode…you have kind of a red tint to everything around your character, and everything is really slowed down. This happens most often when an artillery shell lands too close to you. It really makes it interesting if you are surrounded by Germans…like one of those dreams where you are moving like you’re stuck in molasses…oh, but enough about my psychological problems.

A good variety of mission styles seem to keep the gamer entertained. You might be taking an enemy airfield with tanks or protecting your tank sapper with a sniper rifle, or even taking out an enemy machine gun nest. This makes the game most enjoyable, but only IF you can get around the bugs and glitches…not to mention freezes. I experienced some random freezing, and sometimes doors would refuse to open and I would have to go back and restart that level. I was also not impressed with the checkpoints…in COD we became used to multiple checkpoints in each level but there was a serious lack of checkpoints in Finest Hour. I also got a little frustrated at the freezes and the quick deaths on medium level due to some unknown bug, (or is it just my lack of skill when it comes to the console controller?)…I would often have to get away from the game for a little while and then come back at it later from a different direction…kind of like working on a 1978 Chevy Monza where you HAVE to get away from working on it for a few minutes, or else beat the poop out of it.

The graphics seemed to get the job done but appeared a little dark and colorless at times. Maybe that was to add to the mystique of the game. The weapons are decent, and fairly realistic. I have a few of this era weapons among my antique weapon collection, and have even fired several of them. The weapon models also reacted properly during firing conditions. The damage was fairly accurate for each weapon, and this added greatly to my pleasure. I also enjoyed sighting through the iron sites to increase accuracy. Another way to increase your accuracy is to crouch or even, (dare I say it?), prone. Yeah guys…proning is part of this game too so just get used to it!

I really enjoyed the sound of Finest Hour too. The sound effects were crisp and accurate with surround sound, like bullets whizzing past your head. I enjoyed the music also, as it seemed to add to the game quite nicely, adding suspense during battle scenes and increasing the mood of the moment.

The controls were simple and effective though some past control features seem to have been left out of this latest offering. The controls are: Left Thumbstick: Move around Right Thumbstick: Look around Black Button: Pick up items and interact with environment White Button- Reload Y Button: Change stance up or jump B Button: Change stance down (crouch/prone) Right Trigger: Fire Weapon A Button: Melee attack Left Trigger: Aim down sight X Button: Thrown grenades or place mines Back Button: Multiplayer Scoreboard Left Trigger + Directional Pad: Lean left or right Directional Pad Up: Use first aid kit Directional Pad Left: Change Weapons Directional Pad Right: Change Item Start Button: Pause menu and mission objectives.

One of the things I like about console gaming is doing so with my son. To that end, the only way I can do so with Finest Hour is with Xbox Live mode, as this has no split screen mode. Xbox Live allows you the ability to play up to 8 maps currently, and 4 game modes: Team Deathmatch, Regular Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Search and Destroy. Search and Destroy is timed and includes one team trying to bomb a target and the other trying to stop them, similar to Counter-Strike’s Bomb Defuse and Halo 2’s Assault.

Overall, I enjoyed the game greatly, and wish I could say I loved it but the dreaded glitches, bugs, and freezes got into the way too much. It’s really a fine FPS though, and offers enough to keep the gamer interested and challenged. And if you can get around the problems, it’s a great game to play and maybe even learn a little bit about one of history’s most incredible wars…WWII. I say it’s definitely worth a play.

Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)