Call of Duty: Roads to Victory Review
It's tough being a PSP developer nowadays. It wasn't so bad back when it was just the PS2 and Xbox alongside the PSP, but now that people are expecting HD graphics on their home consoles, it makes the PSP and its limited graphics capabilities look pretty ugly in comparison. Few games showcase this huge disparity better than Call of Duty. On home consoles, we get great visuals and fantastic sound, but on the PSP those same games have to lose a massive amount of detail to run on the handheld platform. Compare Amaze Entertainment & Activision's newest PSP title, Call of Duty: Roads to Victory to Call of Duty 3 on PS3 or Xbox 360. Amaze put in an impressive effort to get a World War 2 shooter going on the PSP, but it's just nowhere near good enough.
While WW2 shooters on home consoles often struggle to innovate after so many titles have to recycle the same enemies, weapons, and environments, it seems like the developers threw out even the possibility of coming up with anything new on the PSP. Roads to Victory recycles every stereotypical WW2 situation, from blowing up tanks to manning a machine gun while German troops idiotically charge in large numbers, to assaulting a number of Nazi-fortified places we've seen a dozen times in past games. The closest thing we get to a unique new situation is with the level where you are in a gunner's seat during a bombing run, defending a group of bombers from German fighter planes. But even that has been seen before if you've played Treyarch's last-generation Call of Duty games like Big Red One.
Controls are always an issue with first person shooters or similar action games on the PSP, mostly because there is only one analog stick and people are now used to using two sticks to play. The best solution so far has been to map the face buttons to aim to give it a feel similar to having two analog sticks, and while it feels really awkward at first, it does grow on you eventually. Roads to Victory then puts the fire button on the right trigger and the Iron sights aiming mode on the left one, and various stuff like ducking, reloading, switching weapons, and throwing grenades go onto the directions of the D-pad.
There's now a built-in aiming system that will help you kill enemies without having to put your crosshair right on them - this is helpful especially if you're not used to using the face buttons to aim with. The issue is that certain weapons only get this auto-aim at a certain distance, so you'll need to close the space if you want to use certain guns with the auto-aim. And since you lose all auto-aiming when you press that left trigger, I have found that it's often better to simply let auto-aim do its thing and not use the iron sights at all.
Sure, we get a lot of the weapons and sounds that make up a good World War II shooter here in Roads to Victory. But the annoyances and disappointments stack up early on, and the game is just not exciting enough to make it worth it. First, the levels and environments have had most of their detail yanked out in order to keep the game running at a decent speed on the PSP. Empty buildings are everywhere, and you won't see more than a few soldiers at once in most cases. Next, you aren't allowed to save in mid-level, and while the missions are relatively short, there are only 14 of them. The whole game will last you five hours at most, and with no online play (only local wi-fi is supported, for up to six players, in a number of games that you've seen a bunch of times before), this one is simply not worth it unless you are dying for another World War II game on your PSP.
The historical accuracy of the missions and the quality of the AI in Roads to Victory seemed to be pretty far down on Amaze's list of priorities for this one. The missions rarely take advantage of those great battles which, admittedly, we've seen plenty of times already - but the alternative seems to be making generic levels up with only faint ties to real conflicts during WW2. It's not a good alternative. And the AI is about as brain-dead as it can get without making the game laughably bad. Both your squadmates and the Nazis get confuses so often that it seems like they're just waiting for you to kill the few enemies you see, yawn, and move on to the next linearly-laid-out encounter. After a few missions, it becomes clear that this game is just plain boring.
When comparing Call of Duty: Roads to Victory to the other WW2 shooter on the PSP, Medal of Honor: Heroes, I at first thought that Activision's effort was better overall. But after several hours of play, the difference becomes clear: while Roads to Victory is pretty polished, it's neither very exciting nor very original. And in this rather tired genre, originality goes a long, long way. For that reason, I'd have to recommend Heroes instead, and if you've already bought that, then skip Call of Duty and let's hope that PSP developers can work in some way to make WW2 shooters more fun with future releases.