I am sure you are expecting me to start off this review with some sort of witty remark about how overdone WWII FPS games are. Well I intend to take the high road here and completely avoid any cheap shot at making fun of the genre’s over-population problems. Developed by nFusion Midway’s Hour of Victory is a mediocre shooter with average visuals and a problematic multi-player component. There really isn’t anything inherently wrong with the title outside of the fact that it does very little to distinguish itself from all of the other titles that have come before it.
Let’s begin from the purely visual side of the equation. You would think that a game built on Unreal Engine 3.0 would dazzle the eyes, but here it feels more like just a bullet point for the back of the box. The tech here feels old and dated when compared side by side with other games running on the engine. Textures pop-in during cut scenes and the frame rate suffers more than it should considering the hardware it is running on. Animations are tolerable but the poor hit detection and sticky points scattered around the environment are enough to drive anyone mad. There were several instances throughout the game where my character would get stuck on a seemingly invisible corner thus causing me to fight to get loose from the jaws of poor design.
Granted the further you progress in the game the better things seem to get. For example some of the later level designs are fantastic such as the castle level and some of the outdoor environments. Particle effects and explosions are also nicely done, even if not on the same level as the launch title Call of Duty 2. Sounds are also a mixed bag with an outstanding overall score and some questionable voice acting that comes across as well written and poorly delivered.
Of course all of this can be overlooked if the game is at least competent in the game play department. The big hook with Hour of Victory is that you can take on the role of three completely different operatives before each mission begins. These classes are broken down into the three cores of basic game mechanics with Ross, who has more health and plays the role of brute force, or Bull who relies on sniping skills to attack enemies from afar, or you can take the stealth route with Taggart and rely more on sneaking around as opposed to facing the enemies head on. On paper this all sounds like a brilliant take on the genre, unfortunately the game doesn’t take full advantage of this aspect.
The problem with this idea is that every level has the same objective and none of them take full advantage of any of the three’s special abilities. The only exception to the rule are the levels which force you to use a specific character such as the prison level that requires you to use stealth, as a result you will be forced to play as Taggart. The rest of the levels only offer alternate paths to the same destination and none of them ever really affect the overall game play mechanics. This means that your best bet most of the time is to stick with Ross as he is the one with the most health, which in the end is the one thing that will help you make it to the end of each very short level.
Speaking of the single-player did I mention that this is one of the shortest games in recent memory? You can literally sit down and finish this game in one afternoon as the core campaign lasts just above five hours. Sure if you are an Achievement junkie like myself you will want to play through multiple times with each character to get the coinciding awards, but outside of that there really isn’t much reason to revisit the main game upon completion. To further complicate matters Hour of Victory does not balance difficulty very well as the early levels will breeze by without much effort, until you reach a certain escort mission where the man you are protecting resides in a giant tank that will somehow get taken out after only a couple of shots.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel though as the later stages in the game really make up for a lot of the earlier disappointments. The last hour or two of the campaign will have you coming back for more as it seems the balance was finally figured out at the end stretch. It is a shame that this wasn’t implemented earlier in the game as it would certainly have done wonders for getting people hooked, but alas the single-player remains as average as they come.
The rest of the game play is lifted from just about any other game of this type from the last five years. The HUD displays a radar system that works almost too well as you can literally see any enemy at all times so there is no surprise as to where your foes are. The health system also takes a nod from titles like Halo and CoD where staying out of harm’s way will allow you to heal after a few seconds. HoV does add a stamina meter though that allows you to sprint past enemies if they are overwhelming you. Unfortunately due to poor AI and linear structure you can literally run past most missions without ever firing a shot.
The last piece of this puzzle is by far the most disappointing. It is hard to imagine an FPS game these days without an online component, and while HoV does have said online mode it really pales in comparison to most others on the market. There are three different modes online that support up to 12 players at once: Team Deathmatch, Devastation, and of course Capture the Flag. All of these are littered with problems such as bad design and some horrendous bouts of lag. In our play test it was near impossible to fill up an entire room with players so finding online bouts may pose more challenging than most gamers are willing to deal with. Sadly the worst part of it all is that none of these modes are intrinsically all that fun even when you have a full room so if you are picking this one up for the online portion, you may want to re-think that decision based on lack of players alone.
The biggest problem that faces Hour of Victory is that the bar for WWII FPS games on the Xbox 360 is set ridiculously high by those that came before it. The game itself is a proficient attempt and honestly not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. While the multi-player is easily the most disappointing aspect of the game fans of the genre that simply cannot get enough World War II action will find enough here to warrant a weekend rental. While it is certainly a cliché to complain about how many games there are in this genre I can honestly say I would miss them if they were gone. Hour of Victory is a nice first attempt that simply falls flat when compared to the founding fathers of the genre.