Call of Duty: Roads to Victory
While Medal of Honor used to be the benchmark World War II video game, Call of Duty has quickly taken its place. Medal of Honor’s focus heavy emphasis on scripted events turned off a lot of gamers who easily fell in love with Call of Duty’s more open-ended approach to World War II. Even though players were still stuck following a linear track, Call of Duty felt much more open and real than Medal of Honor ever did and the series exploded from its PC roots onto every console around. The most recent console that Call of Duty has brought the Great War to is the PSP. Though the series has been a great success across a variety of platforms, the game loses some of the magic in this new portable form.
Once again, players are set into the boots of three different characters fighting the war from different fronts. You start as an American, but as you progress through the game, you’ll also fight from the British and Russian perspectives. But while previous Call of Duty games used these different nationalities to tell unique stories, a lot of that has been lost in Call of Duty: Roads to Victory. I didn’t feel particularly attached to any of the heroes. I honestly rarely even paid attention to any scenes that did try to narrate after being disappointed with the first few. Perhaps the lack of storytelling was an attempt to appeal to the pick-up-and-play attitudes of handheld gamers, but I feel that it’s an omission that ultimately hurts more than helps.
Roads to Victory’s stages take place across a variety of battles in the European Theatre. Once again, the PSP fails to capture the magic of the Call of Duty games. While previous games in the franchise have been well known for their locations and using those locations to their fullest extent, the battlefields in Roads to Victory are less interesting and more constrained due to the PSP’s limitations. It seems that you’re constantly following a strict path while the game holds your hand and guides you along, which certainly limits the fun and excitement of exploration. The heavier emphasis on scripted events feels more reminiscent of a Medal of Honor game rather than a game in the “leading WWII franchise.”
Of course, as a first-person shooter, the controls in Roads to Victory are not very good. Typically, you have to aim using the face buttons and move around using the analog stick, which creates a much-less-than-desirable aiming system. To compensate for the slow and awkward control scheme, the developers included an incredibly overbearing auto-aim system. As long as your aiming reticule is remotely close to an enemy, your shot will be locked on to them. You gun might not actually point at them on your screen, but you bullets will magically curve in air and your shot will be deadly as long as that red aiming halo floats around them. Thankfully, your enemies will give you plenty of time to kill them – their AI is best described as “lacking.” There were several instances where I thought a German soldier was my own ally because he wasn’t shooting at me, only to discover that he was my foe when he started shooting at me after I was standing directly next to him.
But, despite all of my criticisms, I must point out that this truly is one of the better FPS games that have hit the PSP. The game is really easy on the eyes – the dark grit of WWII really shows well on the PSP’s still-brilliant screen and a surprisingly far distance draw really helps create the illusion that WWII is happening right in your hands. And not only is the game beautiful to look at, it’s also original. That’s right, this is an original game developed for the PSP, so you won’t have to trudge through boatloads of “classic” Call of Duty missions that you’ve already played through to get to the few new levels. The sound effects are also what you’d expect out of a big console game. Instead of weak, tiny sounds, you’re treated to all the big explosive effects you’d expect, plus a lot of voice-over work.
What do you get if you purchase Call of Duty: Roads to Victory? You get a great looking and sounding game that delivers exactly what you have wanted in a PSP game: a genuine, new experience. But, you also get a game that is hampered by the very system that it’s been carefully designed to run on. The lack of a second analog stick on the PSP is a huge pain and the system simply doesn’t seem capable of recreating the experiences that have made the franchise so famous and revered. It’s reasonable to assume that this won’t be the last Call of Duty game to grace Sony’s misunderstood handheld, and I honestly think with some improved AI and better storytelling, the developers could actually deliver a worthy addition into the franchise. As it stands, this is a ho-hum adventure that will keep you playing, but it just doesn’t deliver on what we’ve been taught to expect.