Activision's Call of Duty a Triumph

The gritty details and impressive audio of this new console should impress gamers the world over

Activision's thrilling World War II franchise, Call of Duty, blasts its way onto the PSP in the exciting adventure Call of Duty: Roads to Victory. Surprisingly, it doesn't suffer from the pitfalls that plague most PSP first person shooters, and barring some unforeseen calamity, it should impress gamers the world over.

Like the console games before it, Roads to Victory follows the events of a real World War II scenario—the Normandy Breakout. The game's developer, Amaze Entertainment, tells the story through three different perspectives. Players start the game as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, part of the United States Army. Eventually, players unlock new campaigns that involve fellow Allied forces from the Canadian and British armies. They eventually work together to drive the occupying German forces back—which is easier said than done, considering that there are groups of soldiers and tanks in the area.

Call of Duty's Campaign Mode features over thirteen massive battles, each with a huge list of objectives and sub-missions. The first few levels take the player through Operation Market Garden via a small town to eliminate the overwhelming Nazi presence. Eventually, the player reaches a tower high above the town. Once there, they put down their gun and pick up a pair of binoculars. The player then has to "paint" incoming Panzer tanks by relaying coordinates to an awaiting artillery team. It sounds like an easy task, but watching these tanks becomes risky—the enemy forces protect their position with incoming fire.

Although first person shooters don't work well on the PSP, Amaze Entertainment has done a good job. Players control movement and strafing with the analog nub, while using the face buttons for looking around. The right shoulder button fires the weapon in hand, while the left shoulder button lets the player get precision aiming. While moving, the on-screen reticule automatically lights up red when a German soldier or another target gets in range. Once that happens, gamers press the left shoulder button for automatic targeting. In addition, the directional pad allows players to switch weapons, throw and "cook" grenades and pick up new weapons left behind by dead soldiers.

One thing to note, however—Road to Victory possesses several in-level loading sessions. For example, as someone works his or her way up a hill, the game pauses and takes a few seconds to load the next area.

Even with these small loading issues, Roads to Victory carries the same level of quality found in other Call of Duty games. The levels look outstanding, with their dark gritty details. The animations appear jerky at times, especially when the screen fills with characters. However, the frame rate stays pretty steady, around twenty to thirty frames per second. Players keep track of their objectives and fellow soldiers with a small radar in the corner of the screen. Though it seems a little too small for its own good.

Amaze Entertainment also programmed impressive audio. Classy war-themed orchestrations, rip-roaring sound effects (the guns sound just like their real world counterparts) and great voice work (like when fellow soldiers call out for assistance or give warning of an ambush) will delight people, especially WWII buffs.

Call of Duty: Roads to Victory also includes a variety of multiplayer options. Up to six players (each with their own copy of the game) hop into an AdHoc session, choosing their sides and taking part in games such as Capture the Flag and Deathmatch. However, the game doesn't support Infrastructure mode, shutting out the online community.

Apart from the online limitation, Activision's first attempt at a handheld Call of Duty shows excellent promise. Players shouldn't hesitate to answer this Call of Duty on March 13.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.