Tuesday, February 2

Game review - Hour of Victory

What's the most underdone and scarce of all gaming genres? World War II shooters. I mean, there's only twelve Medal of Honor games (and two expansions), four Call of Duty games set in WWII (and two expansions), three Brothers in Arms games (and six spin offs also in WWII), the Wolfenstein series (although they're actually quite different from the rest), the first Battlefield game, and countless freeware games on the internet. I'm sure there's more out there, but those are the main ones. So yeah, this game genre isn't overblown at all. Yet out of all of these, there exists a game that stands out in excellence. That game is known as Hour of Victory for the Xbox 360.

While in most WWII games you are forced to play as one character or another, in Hour of Victory, it gives you the choice of three guys to play as. The British commando Ross, whose simply HARDCORE, Bull, the American sniper who can climb buildings with a rope and snipe people in the face, and then there's Taggart, I'm not really sure where he comes from, but he sneaks through enemy lines undetected and can pick locks. As you can see, these different characters offer much in the realms of gameplay variety.

This was one of the first games to use the awesome Unreal 3 engine, and it really shows.

The buildings are rendered, the guns are fully modeled, and the characters actually have faces. This is the way to show off the Xbox 360's hardware and the Unreal 3 engine right? Well...not really. The graphics are pretty bland and not really worth describing.

But the soundtrack, oh the epic soundtrack. You gotta love the epic soundtrack. Every level has it's own music theme. That's right! Hardly anyone in the gaming industry does that anymore. And how good is the music? Well, it keeps looping over and over again, and it's kind of bland. In fact, in one level the music just gets on your nerves more than anything else as it loops every thirty seconds. Ok fine, the music sucks, but there's the voice acting too right? Right? Well, there is voice acting...that's about all there is to say about that. Actually, Ross the British commando sounds more Russian than anything. The script is really bland, and you often can't hear it over the music. It's a real problem when the music is louder than the speaking, and there's no option to change their volume individually. Alright then, but what about the sound effects. I'll save you the time and say they're just lame. Alright, so the sound is pretty lame too, but you still have a story, right?

Well, the game certainly has a story...a story of pure epicness. This is WWII, and there's no way to make WWII not have an epic story. So which parts of the war are we fighting in? Remember that one officer who was locked away in a tower and they sent an army to save him? You know, that one...guy. Ok, they never gave a reason why this officer is so important to the army, so I guess that one was kind of weak. But there's still two more chapters in story mode. One's just defending a city. What city? I'm not actually sure, but it's a city that had to be defended, so that's important to the war. Then there's the final chapter, and oh boy is this one epic. It involves a German Nuclear reactor. The second the allies win, they'll blow it up. This would kill many allies and thus make Germany win the war somehow.

Ok, this is actually pretty lame. I'm pretty sure Germany never became a nuclear power of any kind during WWII. So why would they make the final mission disabling some reactor before it wiped out the allied forces. Again, how would that help the Germans? By then, all their forces were either fighting in Berlin, or they were captured. By nuking the city, you not only wipe out your own forces, but you destroy your capital and massacre many civilians, and for what? Killing a few allies when there's many more around the country? There's absolutely no logic in this part of the game whatsoever.

This game is still awesome though. The graphics suck, the sound sucks, the story is stupid, but the gameplay is always what makes game good anyway. So lets talk about the gameplay. Like I said before, you can use one of three guys. The commando has double health, the sniper can climb buildings to reach high ground the others can't, and the spy can pick locks to get into buildings the others can't. What's the point of all of this? I'm not really sure since the higher buildings and picking locks only gives you an alternate path through the level with the same number of bad guys. Alright, well that makes the commando the most useful of the three since he has double health...and cause' he's HARDCORE!

There is a melee function, but it's tied to the shoot button. When you get close enough to an enemy, it melees him instead of shooting him. This gets really annoying for several reasons. 1, I'd rather choose when I shoot and when I melee. 2, you have to be dead center on him. You look slightly to the left or the right, and you just shoot air. 3, sometimes the game decides to use melee for you when you're too far to hit your enemy. I honestly don't think anybody even tested this game.

So in the first level you find yourself fighting through a city. The buildings all look the same, save for a few you can enter. You're fighting off three or four Germans at a time as you have help from one or two generic soldiers. This is actually more realistic to war in general. Most war zones have a few shots fired here and there, and maybe one or two soldiers killed. This is even true in WWII. Usually in movies and games they just show you the big battles where bullets are flying everywhere and soldiers are dying all over the place. This game shows you what war is really like...enemies standing right in the open and shooting at you with no cover at all. It's also important to note that you have so much health that you can just run up to the enemies and melee them to death, just like in a real war. Yup, the game's that easy, and I'm playing on Hard people.

Ok, so while smaller battles rather than large battles isn't a huge problem...unless the AI is so stupid that they don't really use cover or move when you throw grenades. In games like Gears of War, the battles are generally on a smaller scale, but the AI is actually smart. Not in this game though, the enemies are the stupidest I've seen since the N64 days (and they're still smarter in Goldeneye and Perfect Dark). They'll take cover, by standing with their backs to some crate that only goes up to their mid-back. I encountered countless enemies who just ran right by me without even acknowledging my existence. I also lost count of the times enemies would shoot at nothing - no joke. Another time I saw some enemy just walking around as if he was patrolling the area...IN THE MIDDLE OF A BIG GUNFIGHT.

Yeah, in case you couldn't tell already, this game is awful. On the plus side, the game has checkpoints and saves the level you're on. This is a huge improvement over Bomberman Act Zero, but since checkpoints and saved games are so common now, this isn't really a plus. If you quit the game and come back you have to start the level over, but because the levels are usually so short, that's not a problem. What is a problem is that many of the levels don't have checkpoints where they probably should.

Anyway, I reach some leader of an unknown rank who tells me "Jerries attacking from all sides." That's all he says...seriously. Then some explosion knocks me down. He uses a very cheap animation to pick me up and then the game continues. I fight off an attack from about ten or so German soldiers, and then it's over. Huh...some attack. Why is this single-room building so important? Well, I guess because it has a radio in it. Another thing is that when your defending a location and go to far away, they don't even warn you, you just automatically fail and have to start again.

So I fight my way to some arch, but they won't let me through until I kill all the remaining Germans. Dude, you have like three soldiers there and you're invincible, I'm sure you can hold off these idiots who don't even move forward. Anyway, I kill off two enemy soldiers, walk through the arch, and the level's over. Yup, a 2 minute level with about 20 or so enemy soldiers in the blandest city ever...great intro. In the next level fight my way to anti-aircraft guns. Ok...why am I fighting through an area that my allies are guarding? They must be doing a pretty lousy job if their only guarding one side.

So I use the anti-aircraft gun to shoot down bombers that are trying to destroy my radio towers. Yup, that's the level. Another 2 or so minutes as long as you win the first time. I couldn't really hear the guy that told me what to do, so I failed once.

Let's skip ahead to the second act of the game. I'm supposed to rescue some officer from a big castle. Why? Because he's an officer, should I need another reason? Anyway, the three characters talk about the objective in a 30 second cutscene...really informative guys. We then cut to the first level, where I'm riding a cable car to the castle. Even though all three of the characters were coming to this castle, I'm on my own. So much for consistency.

While the first act was way too easy, this level is stupidly hard. Yup, the game goes right from being too easy to being too hard. The enemies are still stupid, but now there's like twelve of them in a single room. There's barely any cover, so I had to keep moving. I soon discovered one of the games biggest problems...the health regeneration is hit-and-miss.

Let me explain the Health Regeneration for a second. You're supposed to stand still for it to work. Why can't it regenerate slower when your moving I don't know, but your supposed to stand still. Sometimes your health comes back right away, sometimes it doesn't come back at all. That's real nice, having health regeneration that doesn't always work. There's no explanation for this, and it always seems to happen at the worst possible time. I died at least 15 times in one level simply because the health didn't regenerate when it was supposed to. I honestly don't think anyone actually tested this game. They just threw in a bunch of levels, wrote AI code for about twenty minutes, and slapped the price tag on that. Seriously, I've played games where you take hits seemingly out of no where, but this is ridiculous.

Anyway, back to the stupid level. I fight my way through this castle. For three levels, it's the exact same thing. Too many enemies with no cover to hide behind, and I'm on my own. Out of no where, I get a few allies that I have to protect. Wait...I thought it was just the three guys coming to this castle. Was there anyone in charge of consistency here? And why are we guarding some random position when we could be fighting our way through the castle? I don't know, this game makes no sense.

I eventually get to some stealth level where they force me to use the Spy, and let me tell you...THIS LEVEL IS HORRIBLE! Seriously, every time you get caught (I guarantee you will), tons of new enemies spawn in the most illogical places you can imagine. As I'm sneaking through, I'm clearing the hallways and killing everyone. Since my other two guys are guarding the entrance to the sewers (that's right, the Germans are actually guarding the sewers,) there's no way they can get in. And yet the enemies are spawning behind me, beside me, and everywhere. The hit and miss health regeneration really becomes a problem here too. Oh yeah, the level's extremely weak music loops every thirty seconds too, making this level even more enraging.

After 25 stupid deaths, I finally reach a checkpoint. Now things get stupid. I'm fighting my way through some sewer-ish prison (under a castle) and we start getting everyone's favorite enemy respawn. Yeah, to disable the enemy respawn, you have to reach certain locations. I hate infinite enemy respawn in general, but this game shows it's downright worst side. The enemies spawn in the most illogical, impossible locations. Again, I've cleared out all enemies leading up to this point, and not only are they spawning behind me, but right in the open directly behind me. YOU DON'T SPAWN ENEMIES ON THE MAIN PATH IN THE OPEN IN AN AREA THE PLAYER HAS ALREADY CLEARED! The only exception to this rule is if there's a teleportation network, but they obviously didn't have that in WWII.

So after countless stupid deaths and screaming at my TV (literally), I finally rescued the officer. We then fight are way out. My objective is now to protect him...even though he's invincible. Even so, more pointless deaths, and...this guy is horrible at following me. He doesn't really help despite the fact that he's holding a gun, and he got stuck five times in eight tries. I finally beat the most annoying, frustrating, enraging game level I've ever played, only to get to another enraging level involving a tank. Unlike your human player, the tank doesn't regenerate health. That wouldn't be a problem if there weren't 17 panzerschreck soldiers, 12 other tanks, and countless random soldiers trying to kill me. The officer stays in the tank too, so if it blows up, I fail. If I stray too far from the tank, I automatically fail. This game sucks. I even got the tank stuck several times...on leaves. The one time, I tried to free it and it spontaneously exploded. Wow! Weakest...tanks...ever.

Then we get to the nuclear reactor chapter I mentioned before. The cut scene explaining the story is less than a minute long, which gives us plenty of emotion to work with...NOT. I am once again forced to use a specific character, this time the sniper. This level got so stupidly hard that I finally decided to move it down to easy. Even then, it was still stupidly hard, and this is coming from someone whose beaten three COD games on veteran, both Gears of War games on Insane, Halo 2 and 3 on Legendary, and Timesplitters 2 on hard (the hardest of the games I just mentioned). It might be because I just hate this game so much, but it really is too hard. I fight my way through the lamest looking city ever, in the smallest big battle ever, and then I reach some building.

Cue level starting cut scene. The three characters run towards each other from different directions and one of them says,

"So, what's next?"

That's the whole cut scene, I'm not kidding. If I was playing on hard, this level would be stupidly hard. On easy, it's not too bad. Pretty soon, I reached a checkpoint where it gave me the objective titled "Defend your fallen ally." Wait what?

Ok, I have three legitimate points against this objective.

1. Usually when you say an ally has fallen in combat, that means he's dead. So the first thing that ran through my mind was "Why am I defending someone whose already dead?" What's the point? He's...dead, so we should just move on. Then I saw some loser lying on the ground, making moaning noises I could hardly hear because of the overly loud music. OK, that's all fine and good, I'm defending someone whose fallen down? Just stand up and take it like a man. Then I though that maybe they just gave the objective a really poor title. Don't title the objective as "Defend fallen ally," maybe something like "Defend injured ally." See, word choice is important here.

2. Where are all these enemy soldiers coming from? Seriously, they're all coming from the front of the building, which I just cleared out. Are they coming from outside? Impossible since the entire allied forces are out there. This is one of the more consistent problems with this game. The enemies just come out of the most illogical places. Why are they so desperate to attack an injured enemy anyway? Shouldn't they be ambushing the main forces or something?

3. This is the worst one. What was the story at this point again? Oh right, disable the nuclear reactor before it kills the allies. As stupid as that part is, here I am defending one injured guy when I can be using this time to stop a nuclear reactor from killing millions. What makes this one soldier so important? If the nuclear reactor goes off, he'll die anyway. [Metal Gear Solid 4 spoiler here] Is his DNA the key to unlocking some AI system that's in control of the world or something like Big Boss's is? [end spoiler] Seriously, the US made some pretty stupid decisions in WWII, but this is completely insane.

So after two more levels, I stopped the Germans from overloading this reactor. By the way the reactor looks nothing like any kind of reactor, even in science fiction. So I get to the last level, where I'm supposed to capture some general who I've never heard of before. The level that follows is just dragged on and on by weaving through the same room several times while fighting off more infinitely spawning enemies. I finally reach the general, only to have the most annoying final fight ever...even on easy. I actually won by some glitch after dying at least twenty times.

The game has online multilayer, but I'm sure nobody plays it anymore. Therefore, I'm going to act as if it doesn't exist.

The only reason to play this game is for the achievements, and even then you'll have to play through three times to get all of them. It's nothing but a cheap ripoff of Call of Duty and Metal of Honor. Oh, and you get the same achievements regardless of the difficulty level you play on, so you might as well just play on easy. Everything about this game sucks, the gameplay is hidious, the music is annoying, the voice acting is dull, and the graphics are of a cheap last-gen game (just with added High Definition). The story is so rushed and confusing that there might as well be no story, and they don't even give you a proper conclusion.

This is by far the worst game I've ever beat. Because there is a demo on Xbox live, there is absolutely no reason to get this game, you are welcome.

Big Bad Ben's two word review: Hatefully bad!
Wow, that was longer than I thought it would be.

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