The Call of Duty series has had an extremely distinguished and venerable history across multiple platforms. From the very first game, critics and gamers alike have been staggered by the quality of the game play and the crispness of the pixels. And with the PSP not exactly awash in quality first-person shooters, Activision has seized the chance to bring gamers back to the killing fields of World War II.
The first thing any gamer remotely familiar with the genre will notice is just how, well, familiar everything is. The game is fifteen or so fairly straightforward levels, filled to the brim with the usual swarming Nazi soldiers. Players crawl, duck, snipe, grenade and melee through the increasingly difficult AI while keeping a close eye on the all-important health bar. Initially missions are only offered in the American Army but soon include the British and even Canadian operations.
Some impressive cut-scenes serve to add to the atmosphere and allow Call of Duty: Roads to Victory to pull players into some powerful and moving storylines that recreate the Allies’ struggle for victory in Europe. A simple map and diary entry provides a rough indication of the level ahead before you are plunged into the gritty reality of urban warfare. At the conclusion of any given level, you’re ranked and awarded medals based on your performance or lack of, during that level. Bronze star is the lowest and can be accomplished rather easily while gold star may take a bit of practice.
Throughout each level certain objectives must be met before the soldier can move forward to the next checkpoint. These range from the comfortable - take out a nest of German soldiers, to the impossible - take out a nest of German tanks. Yet approaching these numerous tasks is made all the easier by the propensity of checkpoints and the ability to respawn after taking a stray grenade (usually your own). It is also at some of these checkpoints that one of the PSP’s main weaknesses rears its horribly ugly head: loading times. But it’s almost inevitable when you look at the graphics.
The game also provides players with a more realistic health bar; in fact it’s so realistic that there isn’t one. When near death the audio and visual side of things will give an indication how close to the black curtain you are. Heavy breathing, blurred vision and heart palpitations all give a good signal that it’s time to take a break and wait for your health to recover before moving on.
One of the reasons the PSP has always struggled in the first-person shooter genre is because of the control scheme. The lack of dual analog sticks really hurts the ability to fully control the movement in a way that would be more comfortable for the player. Call of Duty manages to nearly overcome this hurdle on the back of its ease of manipulation. The PSP responds quickly and accurately for the most part and is particularly easy for the novice to control when they have the auto-aim assist on. While the PSP controls aren’t the best, at least with Call of Duty: Roads to Victory they don’t distract from the game play.
So for those fans that are hungry for a portable beat-down on some evil Nazis, Call of Duty: Roads to Victory is for you. For the rest of us sane people, it will present a very polished and solid gaming experience.