Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: June 25, 2007
If you were to walk into a game store, close your eyes and randomly throw a coin in any direction, chances are good that you'd hit a first-person shooter set in World War II. The market is oversaturated, to say the least, so when a new title is introduced into the genre, it must either set the bar higher in terms of gameplay or bring something new to the table to make you stand up and notice. Unfortunately, while Hour of Victory tries to achieve both of these things, it fails miserably. What we're left with is a boring, uninspired shooter in which your goal is to kill a bunch of Nazis again.
The game begins by introducing you to your three protagonists: Ross, the Commando; Bull, the sniper; and Taggert, the stealth operative. According to the opening narrative, these three were chosen not because they represent the best the Allies have to offer, but because they are the best. Your three characters are hand-selected to prevent a Nazi plot to build an atom bomb, which would, as you might imagine, spell doom for the Allied Forces.
I wish I could say that the execution of the story was as good as what I just wrote because that's a story that I'd probably enjoy. Unfortunately, Hour of Victory takes the confusing route by throwing your characters from one locale to another without ever really explaining what you're doing there. At one point, my job was to prevent Nazis from reaching a reactor. Why? I don't know. It's what the words on the top of the screen told me to do.
To its credit, Hour of Victory does attempt innovation with the three-character approach. In most levels, you begin by selecting which character you want to use, and each character has his strengths and weaknesses. Ross can take twice as much damage as the other two, and he's better in a straight-up gun battle. Bull, as a sniper, has a higher accuracy rate, and Taggert can sneak silently and hide in shadows, waiting for the right moment to spring on the enemy with his knife.
This is where the innovation starts to fail because the characters are way too unbalanced. Ross can take way more hits, so it's just easier to use him. Since he's stronger, he can also melee-kill enemies in one hit, which can lead to some rather fun speed-runs, in which you see how fast you can dash through a level without shooting a single bullet. The other two, however, die way too easily. Being a sniper is no use if the enemy can spot you a mile off with their regular weapons, and as for Taggert's sneaking, 99% of the game takes place in the daytime so you're lucky to find a shadow, much less one you can wait in to attack your opponent.
The three also all have their own special abilities. Ross can move heavy objects, Taggert can pick locks and Bull can use his grappling hook to get to higher ground. This is the other place that the innovation fails miserably, as there are only a handful of places where these special abilities come into play, and they all achieve the exact same goal. For example, you may have to get over a wall. Now, if you're Bull, you can climb over it; if you're Taggert, there's a locked door you can go through; and if you're Ross, there's more than likely a cart somewhere to push out of the way. It would have been interesting if the characters were able to apply their special abilities in various locations across the map, or if different areas were unlocked based on the character and ability used.
To be fair, there are a couple of levels in Hour of Victory where they force you to play as a certain character, and these are a lot of fun. Taggert's level is full of dark places and tight corridors, where you can sneak up on your enemy. Bull's level takes you to the rooftops, where you use your trusty sniper rifle to protect an Allied tank battalion moving through Berlin. All in all, the three-character approach is a phenomenal idea, and I wish the developers would have put more effort into it. As it is, you usually end up choosing Ross unless the game tells you otherwise, and it becomes just a standard run and gun.
The graphics are pretty hit and miss. Most of the environments are really, really well done, but all of the character models look really, really odd. Their faces appear to be misshapen, and their body movement is unnatural. The sound is as uninspired as the gameplay. You have the standard orchestral score that tends to accompany anything set in World War II, and the sound effects are muffled and run together. All of the automatic guns sound exactly the same, as do all of the rifles. Although you don't get to hear a lot of it, the voice acting is good, and you can tell that at least some effort was put into that area.
Now, I've spent a good portion of this review trashing Hour of Victory pretty harshly, but the worst aspects I've touched upon are the tolerable parts. There are other issues that, when encountered, make the game seem just plain broken. First and foremost is the enemy AI. For being members of the "superior race," these Nazis sure are stupid. They often run directly at you in order to get to cover, stopping only to go around you. Oftentimes, they'll stand with their guns pointed directly at you, but not shoot, almost as if they can't see you. They tend to fire and kill each other before you get a chance. With troops like this, it's easy to see how the Axis lost the war.
There are also some pretty severe clipping issues. Numerous times, I would back up against a wall, trying to find some cover, only to get stuck on the wall and leave myself open to enemy fire. The clipping issues are even worse when you're driving, and the situation isn't helped by the broken driving mechanics. At a few points, you'll be required to take control of a tank and wreak havoc on the city, but unfortunately, these tanks don't help you as much as you'd like. You can't really move forward and turn at the same time, so you have to go to the corner, turn right and then start moving forward again. In the levels where you need to use the tank, all of the enemies have Panzershrecks, and two rockets will destroy your tank. When rockets are flying around, you shouldn't have to start and stop as you move through the city.
The campaign is also really, really short, which might be a blessing, depending on how you look at it. You can beat the entire single-player game in about five hours, and unless you want to go through each level with the different characters in order to gain the achievements, it all ends there.
All you're left with is the multiplayer, which is just as bad, if not worse, than the single-player experience. You have three types of multiplayer: Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Devastation. Devastation is the only original mode Hour of Victory brings to the table, letting players fight to control a bomb and blow up five enemy targets. While the modes seem mediocre at worst and mildly innovative at best, you'll never really get a chance to test drive them. At most, there are only a few people online in any given game, and if you do find one where the action is heavy, the controls, lag and clipping issues will be enough to turn you off.
Now, despite all of these complaints, there are some minor shining points to touch upon. Hour of Victory has a good level of difficulty. While the enemies are stupid, there is no shortage of them to shoot, and if that's your thing, you'll find plenty of stuff to keep you busy. The later levels are especially tough as you try to move through them, and it's a nice change of pace from the relative walk in the park you experience early on.
Unfortunately, the many, many problems of Hour of Victory easily outweigh any good you might find. Sporting an uninspired story, severe clipping issues and boring gameplay, Hour of Victory is one to avoid, which is disappointing because they started out with such an incredible premise and just failed to make good on it.
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