Games: Part 2

Gift guide

Games: Part 2

Call of Duty: Finest Hour

PlayStation2, Xbox, and GameCube

Activision, $48

The PC-based hit has now migrated onto console format, and it's yet another World War II-themed first-person shooter. In Finest Hour, you fight with the Russian, British, and American armies, which allows for a wide array of settings and scenarios, including sniper fire, tank battles, open-field engagement, and entrenched urban combat. Finest Hour boasts a high degree of realism: Particulars like reload times, weapon pick-ups, and practical physical positioning (standing, crouching, or prone) will affect your success. The outdoor scenery is fairly nicely realized, though many of the interior spaces are drab and lack detail. In most circumstances you get helpful support from AI squad companions. Fortunately you don't have to give them orders, and though you can heal them with your own medical kits, this selfless gesture is not generally rewarded. Screw band-of-brothers sentimentality and hoard the medical kits for yourself. The play is brisk and intense, but a variety of easily corrected problems mars the experience. I find it almost impossible to kill anyone with a grenade. They can't be thrown at varying distances and seem to explode without effect unless they directly hit their intended target. There is a certain amount of repetitiveness in the objectives (protect an ally while he repairs a vehicle, take out a machine gun nest), and some of the sequences run way too long without a checkpoint, so you end up repeating introductory, relatively easy segments numerous times until you learn how to survive long enough to reach the next save point. Still, there's no denying that this eagerly awaited release has come through with some serious excitement.

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