Heroes of the Pacific
Gaming has changed over the years and one of the main ways it has changed is the different perspective and approach developers take toward creating games. Short attention spans and a low boredom threshold have meant that a game has to appeal from the outset, if not then the developer faces losing the gamer to something that has a greater Ďpick-up-and-playí draw. Fortunately Codemasters, famed for their massively addictive Micro Machines series, havenít fallen quite so deeply into this current trend.
With Heroes of the Pacific, Codemasters have created a little gem of a WWII flying game that requires application, patience and a desire to see more of the game. Why? To begin with Heroes of the Pacific isnít a game you can just plug and play, the control system is initially unforgiving and mildly frustrating. For gamers used to handbrake turns and over-steer, flying one of the many authentic aircraft will take some getting used to. As with most flight simulators, hitting the ground means death and itís something youíll be doing a lot of as you learn the ropes Ė unless youíre an experienced flight sim pilot. However once you have grasped the basics, there is a whole lot worth seeing in this game.
Beginning with the classic intro sequence and options screen, Heroes of the Pacific replicates the art and style of the WWII era with aplomb. In a similar approach to the Medal of Honor series a great deal of work has gone into producing a front end that is both attractive and effective in summarising the vast array of options at your disposal.
As the title suggests the game takes place in the Pacific theatre of WWII, where you play an American Navy fighter pilot called Crowe on one of four difficulty levels; Rookie, Pilot, Veteran and Ace, across five games types; Instant Action, Missions, Flight Training, Multiplayer and historical.
Due to the need for gamers to familiarise themselves with the controls, anyone playing this game for the first time should start with Flight Training. Learning the various commands not just for your fighter but also your wingmen is important, the fighting sections specifically should be used extensively so you are proficient with the three different types of aircraft on offer; fighter, dive bomber and torpedo bomber. Unfortunately not all of the training objectives are clear and even though they are necessary, youíll be itching to get into the action.
In the main section of the game, Missions, there are ten levels starting with the attack on Pearl Harbor and concluding at Iwo Jima, taking in famous battles such as Midway and Guadalcanal en route. Each level is split into three objectives that vary from protecting bases or important personnel to destroying raiding craft or Japanese bombers. As the levels progress the action becomes more frantic and incessant, shooting down 60 or 70 enemy planes is not uncommon and a lot of fun. On the downside, some of the missions require a lot of flying between objectives where nothing else is happening and you can only shoot so many planes and tanks before it becomes a little repetitive. Additionally the loading times throughout the game are a nuisance, they reduce the intensity of the experience and are frustrating at the wrong moments.
The difficulty curve is well balanced and adjusting between the two control systems, Arcade or Professional, proves a satisfying challenge. On the latter two difficulty settings enemy accuracy is much improved and some tactics are necessary to survive the combat situations. As the difficulty increases, so too does the feeling of tension, as objectives begin to overlap causing you to make thoughtful choices about the relative importance of each task. However you can blow through the main campaign on the default difficulty in under a day, so crank up the difficulty from the outset.
Multiplayer further extends the replay value of Heroes of the Pacific, with the possibility of both split screen action and online gaming offering the ability to take on human opponents in familiar modes such as Capture the Flag, Fox and Hounds and Dogfight. Split screen mode is a little awkward, cramming such a large landscape into two separate windows is distracting and can lead to unexpected deaths. Also expect to be flying lonely skies in the online community, itís not really a game well suited to online play and is unlikely to find a following there.
Graphically the game is adequate, with a smooth frame rate and some good looking plane models. There are some nice touches in the form of smoke emitting from a planeís flaming fuselage and the sunlight glancing off the wing of your plane as you fly between the clouds. Sound is well used, with the combat effects making the bedlam going on around your plane seem frantic and dangerous. Overall this isnít a game for WWII purists because it has much more of an arcade feel that skimps on depth, meaning this is definitely one for the action junkies. Given that flight sims are normally the domain of the PC, Codemasters have made a decent attempt at adapting the genre for the console market.
Reviewed by Owen Jones © 2005