Although the World War II first-person shooter genre has been flooded of late, the Call of Duty series has remained the leader of the pack. While the latest game, Call of Duty 3, didn't go down well with all FPS fans, I found it to be an action packed experience that didn't relent for a moment. Having appeared on practically every home and PC system over the last few years, the PSP will soon get a taste of war in the shape of Call of Duty: Roads to Victory.
Although still going through the final stages of development prior to release, the opening four levels prove that the PSP might be able to handle first-person shooters if they're tailored to fit the system's controls. From a setting and story point of view, Roads to Victory is typically Call of Duty, giving you missions from British, American and Canadian perspectives during the Normandy breakout campaign of World War II. It's the actual gameplay that will make or break this handheld FPS though.
On the PSP the levels aren't as long or as complex as those on console and PC entries in the series, but developer Amaze has done a great job of bringing the expected Call of Duty moments and gameplay to the PSP. In the opening levels there are plenty of set pieces, some tank spotting and even a section that takes place entirely in the air. Call of Duty staples, like cooking grenades and the heart attack inducing grenade warning icons, also make an appearance. It's clear that every effort is being made to make this a proper game in the series that will please fans and newcomers alike.
Good controls are always going to be the key to creating good action games on the PSP and Call of Duty does the best with what it's got. By default the analogue stick is used to handle player movement, while the four face buttons on the right (Square, Triangle, Circle and X) act as directional controls for aiming. To say it feels awkward is an understatement, but thankfully some heavy handed assistance from the built-in auto-aim does wonders to counter any less than delicate aiming. Switching to aim through your sights also helps with accuracy, with your crosshair switching to an enemy as it does in the console games.
By now we all know what to expect from the PSP in terms of visuals and Roads to Victory offers that familiar look of almost PS2 quality. Four levels isn't really enough to get a good sense of the overall experience, especially as they were all from the American campaign, but things are shaping up well - the chatter from fellow soldiers is also present and correct. The level of detail in the environment isn't quite what you'll be used to from recent shooters and textures are a little muddy, but it's a solid looking game when compared to its PSP rivals.
Call of Duty: Roads to Victory certainly feels like an authentic game in the series, albeit one with a slightly arcade slant to the gameplay. How well the heavy and essential auto-aiming with hold up over an entire game remains to be seen, as does the six-player multiplayer support. With the game due for release in March, though, we won't have to wait too long in order to see what the final game has to offer.