The value of playtesting really cannot be understated. The 360 has been privy to some lustrously polished titles of late, with gems like Forza 2 and The Darkness brightening up this miserable excuse for a summer. And with each, you have to admire the poor bastards that played through the same sections day in, day out to make sure that everything worked as it should and that nothing was glaringly wrong. With that in mind, you have to wonder whether the quality assurance guys on Hour Of Victory were ignored to rush the game onto shelves or whether they somehow overlooked the constant barrage of blunders that make up this total shambles. Either way, somebody needed to stand up and say something because, in this bedraggled state, Hour Of Victory is frankly unfit for public consumption and a complete waste of everyone's time and money.
But before the inevitable shoeing starts, here's a little on the concept itself. nFusion's 'big idea' to make its mark on the WWII shooter genre is to offer three different character to take into the fray. Your covert ops chap can cut through fences and pick locks to sneak through levels and perform stealth kills with throwing knives, the sniper offers better mobility and the opportunity to scale ropes to reach higher ground (even if his 'improved accuracy' does make aiming painfully sluggish) and the SAS beefcake is all you'll need for the latter stages of the game, able to take a little more punishment and move infrequent heavy obstacles.
Each of these unique actions comes replete with its own cut scene, with some more annoying than others. Find a glowing rope, for example, and Bull will chuck his own grappling hook up in exactly the same spot rather than use the existing means. Landing a stealth kill, meanwhile, is seemingly a matter of chance - even when directly behind an unsuspecting foe. On the plus side, most of these animations render you immune to bullets, so you can make a run for a locked door or stray rope and hope to find yourself safe when the short sequence finishes.
One of the lesser known facts about the Nazi forces is their knack for teleportation. In fact, Hour Of Victory is the first source to document this, often surprising you with enemies spawning right in front of your eyes. Like so many other elements of the game, this is just downright unacceptable in a modern full-price title, and we saw an awful lot of the pause menu as we tried to drink in what had just happened. We glitched through a cable car floor and fell to our deaths. We witnessed Germans sliding towards us motionless. We had to mêlée an officer out of a wall when he became stuck so he could lead us through a level (said officer went on to kick down a gate that wasn't there). We were told to 'man that flak gun' as the imbecile telling us to do so pointed in totally the opposite direction. And that's just a few of the shocking incidents we encountered - to list them all would require far more space than we've given to this entire review.
It seems wrong to dwell so on incidental errors though, especially when the constants are equally appalling. Hour Of Victory is by no stretch of the imagination pleasing on the eye and once things kick off, headache-inducing frame rate issues do nothing to help this sorry cause. The over-the-top orchestral score is pompous and self-celebrating almost to the point of feeling like a joke on the part of the composers. It gives the game an air of horribly undeserved pride.
Level design is basic as can be, ushering you through the most linear take on World War II that you're ever likely to encounter. Even the AI can't pull anything back for Midway's new IP, with Germans running around like dizzy children or just refusing to acknowledge your presence, rather than showcasing any sort of tactical initiative. Most things in this world are blessed with at least one redeeming feature but in this case, we're still struggling to find even circumstantial evidence of one. Live play is probably as close as it gets, benefiting massively from the removal of much of the nonsensical single player slog yet still being totally overshadowed and outclassed by the Call Of Duty series in this respect.
But perhaps the most crushing aspect of Hour Of Victory is that even when it does try something new, it just never manages to make things work as they should. The main evidence for this is the almost totally redundant use of your three soldiers' individual skills. More often than not, these simply offer an ever-so-slightly different route around the same obstacle but the number of occasions on which this forced choice alters gameplay enough to warrant its inclusion can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Elsewhere, giving enemies the ability to duck out of the way of obvious mêlée attacks is a great concept, but it just doesn't work. Apart from the fact that there are so many single-shot kill weapons, there's also the annoyance of the dodge animation triggering way after the strike should connect. It's little more than another splatter of frustration in an already arduous game.
The easiest way to look at it is that Hour Of Victory simply isn't a finished product. Frequent crashes, scrappy fundamentals, all kinds of jaw-dropping glitches and rudimentary errors in missions conspire to make this one of the sloppiest and most embarrassing 360 releases to date.
Every aspect - from concept to execution - is so sorely flawed as to make even GoldenEye: Rogue Agent blush and to find a game so virtually meritless in this day and age is a rare thing indeed. Had this been a budget title designed to beat Call Of Duty 2 onto the shelves, Hour Of Victory could possibly have scraped some semblance of purpose. But surrounded by stronger, more recognisable and most importantly finished rivals as it is, there's just no logical explanation for the existence of this upsetting mess. 'Several Hours Of Abject Misery' would have been a far more fitting title.