claim to originality falls almost exclusively on its level of
immersion. From the opening screen, youíll find yourself drenched in
rich, realistic sound while watching the world at war around you
through the eyes of one of several different characters. Instead of
being a one-man army, you are merely another soldier in the thick of
battle. Planes fly overhead and drop bombs on distant targets,
troops charge the front with you, people shout orders at others in
the din of war, and your environment just feels alive. Itís truly a
great feeling, and few games manage to pull you so quickly into the
Yet, after just a short time youíll start to see how heavily
scripted the game had to be to maintain that level of immersion.
Certain triggers can be missed and suddenly troops just stop in
their tracks with no idea what to do next. Meanwhile, youíll find
yourself reloading levels on occasion so you can learn what events
to be prepared for because scripted traps will catch you unaware the
first time through. Instead of being a living, working environment
in which you are the player, you soon realize just how much this
world needs you to keep going, and just how much it relies on you to
be in the right place at the right time. It doesnít kill the
enjoyment of the game, but it definitely detracts from the euphoria
you started to feel at the beginning.
Another way that the game tries to separate itself is in how it
presents each level. Instead of focusing on one character throughout
the entire war, it focuses on several different characters spanning
three short and distinct campaigns. Youíll have the chance to jump
from a new recruit thrown into battle for the first time, to a
female sniper, then to a tank commander, all in the first campaign.
Each character offers different background stories, points of view,
and playing style, but you never get to spend enough time with any
single one of them to really get a feel for what drives them in
battle. Bringing the number down to maybe three or four characters
for the length of the game would have done a great deal to help you
connect to the story. However, I think itís important to bear in
mind that it actually is one of the few first person shooters with
some form of a story, so itís hard to condemn the game for trying.
Regardless of character development, the events that occur during
the game can definitely be riveting at times, and there are moments
when youíll think to yourself that more games should try so hard to
keep you glued to the action.
In terms of gameplay, Finest Hour is a very competent
shooter. Each weapon feels suitably different, with varying levels
of control that will require a bit of getting used to. The only
drawback is that each level only features a handful of them, and you
rarely get to spend much time getting used to them before itís on to
the next group of weapons. The levels are designed very well for the
most part, with blistering deserts, cramped towns, and interesting
villages to wage war in. The AI puts up a fairly decent fight
(assuming you donít break the linear scripted events), and does its
part to make people dive for cover and act realistically. Thatís not
to say that itís perfect, since there are still moments when
characters will get stuck and bounce back and forth behind corners,
or when the enemy will happily run in straight lines across the open
ground while you snipe them one by one. But when compared to the
competition, it holds up well enough and doesnít detract from the
Just to mix up the action, vehicles take a large role in gameplay as
well. From driving a tank to manning guns while someone else drives
a jeep, it goes a long way to keeping missions feeling fresh.
Varied level design keeps them from feeling like youíre just a
steamroller crushing troops and blasting tanks that get in your way.
Youíll be told to drive through walls, blast nesting machine gunners
from buildings, and doing the ubiquitous escort duty. And while the
vehicles (controllable in first and third person points of view) are
relatively fun to use, they do have some slight control issues,
especially during close quarter battles where youíll find yourself
getting hung up on debris that lay outside your field of vision.
The game does an admirable job in terms of graphics, with lots of
interesting textures, well-designed characters, and only a hint of
slowdown thatís never really detrimental to gameplay. In fact, the
only real complaint I would lodge against the presentation is that
weapons have a tendency to be found floating in place above where
the enemy was gunned down. Itís a minor thing, but it can still be
jarring in a game that focuses on realistic environments.
Where the game really gets to shine is in the audio department. With
a Pro Logic II system, the immersion gets taken to a whole new
level. Planes can be heard from behind as they fly overhead,
explosions rumble all around you, the enemy can be found by their
gunfire direction, and echoes bounce around in confined spaces. Itís
a simply breathtaking experience, and enough to warrant a rental if
for no other reason than to hear how effective the audio can be at
deepening a gameís level of realism. Voiceover work is equally
commendable, and the sheer amount of commands and conversational
fodder helps further the feeling that thereís much more going around
you than just what you can see in front of you.
Clocking in at approximately twelve hours the game is a relatively
short trip, as are most shooters, and the developers tried to make
up for the length by including multiplayer capabilities.
Unfortunately, lag hampers play all too often, and thereís not much
more to it than what most shooters come standard with: deathmatch,
team deathmatch, capture the flag, and assault. Still, itís playable
enough and should provide some extra bang for your buck, even if