I’ve been a big fan of historical games for as long as I can recall. I’ve settled colonies throughout the Roman world back in the days of Julius Caesar, led knights and men at arms in battles against French knights, commanded Moorish cavalry, and I was even a Viking once. Numerous German soldiers have fallen before me from the pixilated realm of Wolfenstein, to the better animated world of Call of Duty 1 and 2. With all this experience in my gaming resume, I felt well prepared to undertake whatever challenges Hour of Victory had in store for me. But as I waited for the package to be dropped into my mailbox worrying reports came from other troops in the field. The game was boring. The AI was dumber then a bag of bricks. You could stand still to heal. Despite this I remained hopeful that when, at last, the game did reach me it would justify my hopes.
Sadly, it didn’t.
What I will say right off the bat is that all the bad things that people have been saying about Hour of Victory are right. But I want to give the game a fair shake and say that some parts of the game, just some mind you, were actually enjoyable. Grabbing hold of the MG-42 and watching it shake violently as it spluttered round after round of ammo at the enemy, watching the bolt of the MP40 fly back with each pull of the trigger… in was in these moments that I found some brief enjoyment. For, despite its flaws, the game looks pretty good. The environments and characters are pretty well modeled, and if the developers didn’t take the time to properly model at JU-87… well, I’ll forgive them… this time.
I’ve seen bricks smarter than this…
But here, friends, is where it does not get enjoyable. The weakest element is by far the AI which, if the game was a high school dance, would be persistently dancing the hokey-pokey all night. A case in point… I’m running through a building. I run up some stairs, I turn right, and I run down another set of stairs before coming to a doorway. Just inside the door is a pile of sandbags behind which crouches a German soldier, his back to me, and helmet appearing just above the bags. I pull the trigger and the MP40 fires and knocks the helmet off the soldier’s head. Triumphant I move forward but…wait…what’s this? He’s still alive… but… he hasn’t even moved. So I take aim and fire once again… down he goes.
Congratulations buddy. You’re at the top of the Darwin Awards this year.
Another thing is that the ragdoll physics… well, they could use some work. I can’t recall all the times that I’ve fired at a soldier before they’ve stiffened up, bowed, and then jumped up into the air and fell forward. It was like an ad hoc ballet conducted right there in the street. I often felt as if, instead of fighting actual German troops, I was fighting a group of extras combed from other games, who were all amateur dramatics. That guy there who slides across the sand while still in a crouch… clearly an expert baseball player. That guy who can turn his feet up at the ankles so that he touches his forelegs with the tips of his toes before falling over… clearly a contortionist of some repute. And over there is Sergeant Schultz.
In Call of Duty you also played three different characters, but they all had the same levels of strength, speed, and endurance. What they’ve done in Hour of Victory, though, is that they’ve given you three characters with differing abilities. Now, that worked just fine in RE, but that same shoe doesn’t fit here, no. Taggert is a Covert Ops guy… he can sneak up behind people and stab them with his big knife and also pick locks to get into areas the other two can’t.
Least we know now who Jill Valentine’s Granddad is.
Bull is a sniper. He can climb ropes to get to sniping spots. Ross is a commando who can just charge through levels, spraying bullets around, and thwacking enemy soldiers with the butt of his gun. It’s a neat idea, but the downside is that all you need is Ross. I never needed to pick a locked door or climb up a rope… I just needed Ross to charge around the level, shooting them up and smacking them down, until the level was done. Good idea, bad planning.
Another thing about the game is that it lacks little sense of urgency… you start taking serious damage… eh, no trouble. Just duck behind some cover and stand still for a while; it’ll make everything better. Enemy soldiers will stand out in the open, carefully reloading their weapons, without even thinking to duck for cover even if you happen to be standing close enough near them to smack them upside the head for such wanton stupidity. I saw a German soldier actually run past me, crouch behind a pile of sandbags, and then turn around to shoot at me.
The only theme song this game needed was the theme song to Team America… or perhaps just Cleavon Little’s words in Blazing Saddles after outwitting the town’s people by taking himself hostage would do: “Oh, baby… you are so talented… and they are so dumb…”
In summation all I can say is that, if you really want to get your hands on a WW2 FPS worth playing, get Call of Duty. Anything else will lead to, as the boys in Deep 13 used to say, “Deep hurting! Deep hurting!”