Version tested: PSP
Like all the other games in the Call of Duty series, Roads to Victory is bursting at the seams with cinematic intensity and gritty historical realism. It depicts World War Two from the perspective of the American 82nd Airborne Division, the Canadian 1st Army, and the British Parachute Regiment, and it's full of nasty Nazis, big explosions, shouting soldiers and lots of shaking cameras. And it's probably one of the best first person shooters on the PSP. But like all the other first person shooters on the PSP, Roads to Victory is constrained by the technical limitations of the platform.
Those limitations include textures that rarely rise above adequate quality and glitches that range from the mildly annoying to the incredibly irritating. Over the course of the game's 14 short missions you'll get stuck on the scenery, and shot through walls that prove impervious to your own firearms. Your squad mates will do all they can to impede your progress and you'll find yourself restarting checkpoints with limited ammo and all the replacements will have disappeared. It's the sort of list that plagues most similar titles on the PSP, but the most obvious, and most obviously damaging limitation is the lack of a second Analog stick.
As with most similar titles on the PSP, Roads to Victory attempts to make up for it by implementing an auto-aim system, and as with most similar titles on the PSP the result feels like an uneasy compromise. Clearly the PSP's face buttons aren't up to the job of precision aiming, so some sort of auto-aim is entirely necessary. Indeed, Roads to Victory doesn't even offer the default FPS controls where movement is mapped to the left stick and look is mapped to the right stick, which can sometimes cause confusion in the thick of battle, but in general the default set up works pretty well. It's just that it feels a bit of a cop out to have the auto-aim do all the work for you, and it essentially leaves you two choices of difficulty: astonishingly easy or ham-fistedly hard.
Those concerns aside, however, Call of Duty masks the limitations of the PSP pretty well. It has all the bluster of its console big brothers: the big bangs and shaky cams and squad mates shouting at you that create a believable sense of WWII atmosphere. Sound effects are particularly effective, and with the exception of the obligatory comedy British accents, the sense of battlefield chaos is perfectly distilled. That goes some distance to alleviate the basic corridor run and gun that forms the basis of the majority of missions.
The other thing is that the game packs in an enormous amount of variety to keep you distracted from its failings: over the course of the three campaigns you'll take over aircraft turrets and gun emplacements, and there are sniping sections, protect and escort missions and just plain running round trenches shooting everything that moves missions. A lot of these sections essentially stop you moving, which is the most obvious way to offset that non-existent second Analog stick, but the game's use of smoke and mirrors is actually pretty good - good enough to sustain your interest over its brief lifespan anyway.
Nevertheless, there are occasional niggly sections where enemy numbers (or their ability to shoot at you through concrete) outweigh the advantages of auto-aiming and you'll find yourself dying repeatedly. Which makes the decision not to allow mid-mission saves just perverse, particularly on a portable gaming platform that you might want to, for example, play with while, say, travelling or moving about. And the game's ad hoc multiplayer is unlikely to get much use by the majority of players so it doesn't matter that it supports six players and all the modes you'd expect (ie. deathmatch, king of the hill and capture the flag). And, ultimately, while it masks it well, the game is beset by limitations, and it's short.
So there's certainly something to be said for the unrivalled sense of atmosphere and the three reels of archive footage and all the other unlockable extras (including PSP wallpapers and encyclopaedia-style summaries of in-game weapons and vehicles and so on). But really this is a game that makes you wonder why people are still churning out first person shooters on the PSP - not least because it's probably one of the best, and yet it's still not really good enough.
6 / 10