Call of Duty: Finest Hour was a big disappointment. And when we say 'big' we mean so big that Activision dropped the original developer in favour of handing its esteemed (on PC at least) franchise to Treyarch and Grey Matter to take forward. And after playing the latest version at a very special event in the arse end of Poland, it's clearly one of the best decisions Activision has ever made. Big Red One is shaping up to be the best WWII shooter ever released on Xbox!
The first thing that struck us like a rifle butt to the nose was the colossal amount of detail in there. When we first saw the game up and running (a finished version of a level previously showcased at gaming expo E3) it took a second glance to figure out which version we were looking at. Was it PC? Xbox 360? Nope, it was in fact our mighty Xbox. It was then we saw the light and knew that this was the WWII game we'd been waiting for. What you see in these screens is what you'll see on screen.
Big Red One takes it name from a famous (in the US at least) division of the US Army. As such, the game follows the story of a platoon of soldiers and features all the cinematic intensity of Saving Private Ryan. One element that Treyarch focused on was making the game LOUDER. Feedback from the original revealed that a lot of people thought the battlefield was too quiet. Second time round, the sonic horrors of war are all around you making the atmosphere seem chaotic and frantic, which you'd expect it to be, not knowing whether the next bomb or land mine has your name on it.
Your band of brothers is constantly yelling instructions to each other about what to do next as well as just screaming in general as they face enemy flak. Over these cries for help are planes being shot down and crashing around your ears, tanks rumbling down the cobbled streets and non-stop gunfire. It's frightening just how much more this attention to sound has brought to the title.
From a visual side of things, Big Red One is everything that Finest Hour wasn't. The war torn environments look absolutely amazing, oozing detail from every nook and cranny. There's none of the awful rough-around-the-edges-look of the original. It's bright, vibrant and rammed to bursting point with rock-solid detail - as we're sure you can tell from these shots.
As already mentioned, the story-driven single player Campaign mode closely follows the US infantry's Big Red One. The plot revolves around fictional characters as they grow over three long years of intense war. The majority of the action is spread out over events such as Operations Torch, Husky and Overlord. Though a squad does accompany you throughout the game, you as the player don't have any direct control over them or their actions. That said, you won't be stuck with rubbish AI controlled soldiers with the IQ levels of a goldfish. The AI code has been ripped and expanded upon from Infinity Ward's PC original. And by God does it show.
During the opening level we gunned our way through, we'd be left for dead if it weren't for the Big Red Ones. As the bombs rain down and flak flies, your guys play an important role on giving you cover and clues as to what you should be looking to do next. This level of AI makes us wish that there was some form of Xbox Live or System Link co-op mode in there, where you could work together through the various campaigns. If we're thinking it, then you can bet that the developers are. Time will tell if it makes the final cut though.
Big Red One is looking awesome and full marks to both developers for pushing today's technology to its limits. We're already looking forward to playing the final game, which should be ready later this year. Until then we're going to keep looking at these screens and not playing Finest Hour. That was the past and this is the future!