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Call of Duty: Roads to Victory

For: PSP

What's in a name? Unusual accuracy, in the case of Roads to Victory

Product: Call of Duty: Roads to Victory | Developer: Griptonite Games | Publisher: Activision Blizzard | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Shooter | Players: 1-6 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: US
Call of Duty: Roads to Victory PSP, thumbnail 1
It's easy to understand video gaming's ceaseless fascination with the most recent World War. Games which employ modern warfare as a backdrop struggle with the complex, detached nature of contemporary combat. It's also difficult to provide an inoffensive but believable enemy to fight against, so we're normally left to slug it out with uninteresting generics such as 'terrorists'.

No such problem with Hitler's bombastic Third Reich. And, as for on-the-ground fighting, 1940's weaponry and artillery offers a recognisable form and a straightforward function – no messing about with drones or laser targeting. Despite the dark historical theme, World War II also boasts a warm (and entirely inappropriate) kind of third-generational nostalgia for us Brits, evoking Sunday afternoons spent watching stiff upper lips destroying the bridge on the River Kwai.

Whether all that justifies the relentless onslaught of WWII first-person shooters or not is debatable, but it certainly helps explain the care and vision that has been lavished on this video game, the first title in Activison's massively popular Call of Duty series to arrive on PSP.

The game centres on the liberation of Paris, casting you variously as an 82nd Airborne Division infantry soldier, a Canadian First Army rifleman and an elite British Parachuting Regiment commando. As each character, you must shoot your way through a series of interlinked missions and, in doing so, play through your own version of history.

What is immediately striking is the game's arresting visuals: the flare of mortar fire lights up the greys and browns of Normandy's shell-shocked buildings in what is a remarkable graphical achievement on the handheld. Yes, levels are tightly corridored and there aren't many ocean-wide vistas to behold, but the sense of claustrophobia as you inch from building corner to building corner only adds to the realistic sense of deadly urgency.

The gameplay follows the tried-and-tested FPS formula, with your character able to switch between two carried weapons at once. Series stalwarts such as the Thompson submachine gun, M1 Garand and the German MP40 are all included, and trading hardware with fallen comrades and enemies in the field is as simple as a button press over their limp wireframe body.

Impressively, the game successfully welds the PSP's akward control system with the shooter genre. Movement is handled with the analogue nub and aiming with the four face buttons – players who preferred Medal of Honour's opposite scheme are sadly not catered for, however.

Precision aiming and quick targeting is helped by a gentle auto-target system, which mostly manages to walk the thin line between mild assistance and patronising hand-holding.

Switching to manual aim is as simple as looking down the rifle butt and, in this view, it's extremely comfortable lining up and taking shots. The D-pad allows for instant reloads, quick weapon swapping, grenade throwing, holding of breath (to steady your aim) and switching between three stances (standing, crouched and prostrate). Roads to Victory developer Amaze should be lauded for implementing what is as seamless a control scheme as can be expected on Sony's hardware.

Gameplay, meanwhile, is mixed up with set-piece after set-piece. You'll variously be able to gain control of German MG-88 rail guns, take out tanks with stolen Panzershreks and use binoculars to call in air strikes on German armour by tagging them with red smoke.

Excitingly, some levels are even set entirely in the air, requiring you to work your way quickly from gun turret to turret defending against waves of attack fighters, and this variation in gameplay helps the game from becoming over-familiar too soon.

On the downside, a raft of unlocks don't quite manage to make up for the weak six-player ad-hoc only multiplayer mode and on this score Roads to Victory loses out to the more full functioned rival, Medal of Honour Heroes. But, for players after a compulsive, good-looking and, above all, thrilling single-player campaign, this is the easily best war going.

Call of Duty: Roads to Victory is currently available in the US. The UK version is due for release on March 30th.
Call of Duty: Roads to Victory
Reviewer photo
Simon Parkin | 16 March 2007
Brilliantly tailored to the PSP, with varied gameplay and astonishing audio and visuals, this is an easy recommendation to WWII fanatics and civilians alike
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