Heroes of the Pacific - Codemasters
Flight sims have generally been a mainstay of PC gaming however the Ace Combat series carved out a niche on the PS2 by taking a more 'arcade' approach to the genre. The major drawback to the Ace Combat series was the lack of multiplayer and online action which fans were all clamouring for. Now showing up on the radar is the WWII themed Heroes of the Pacific from Codemasters but is it top gun or does it crash and burn?
Heroes of the Pacific puts you in the role of Lt. Crowe, a US pilot who along with his brother join the Navy to become flyboys. The story begins with Crowe and his brother stationed at Pearl Harbour. You don't have to be a genius to guess what happens next, but thankfully Ben Affleck is nowhere to be seen. While Crowe makes it through the initial battle/tutorial mission by the skin of his teeth, his brother is not so lucky. This is a great way the developers introduced a personal element into the otherwise historical storyline based on the major battles and events of WWII. The story is well told throughout although a little bit cheesy and cliché in parts.
Graphics in the game are more functional than stunning, but what did impress is the way that the game handles the sheer amount of action on screen during some of the dogfights. In certain missions you will be facing off against entire Japanese squadrons as well as being flanked by some of your own wingmen.
The game does a superb job making you feel part of the action and conveys the intensity of the situation.
Sound in the game varies from good to appalling giving a result that is somewhere in the middle. Firstly the in-game sound effects are done really well from the background hum of your Warhawk engines to chattering machine guns and explosions when you drop your payload. These effects and the musical score really add to the authenticity and give the game a 'Medal of Honour' feel.
On the other hand the voice acting in the game is shocking and can get pretty repetitive as you progress through the game.
Comments from your wingmen are pretty good however your enemy sounds like your drunken mates taking the piss out of the staff at a local takeaway.
Also in the tutorial mission the instructor's voice is so irritating that I resorted to chasing his plane and smashing into it kamikaze style just to shut him up.
A game like this lives and dies by its control method; the pad is literally crammed full of controls using every button/stick available. The game offers two control methods, arcade and simulator, the main difference being that with sim being that you get control of a rudder to steer instead of banking with the arcade controls. The analogue sticks are used for your throttle and direction/height, shoulder buttons for firing weapons and buttons for weapon select and wingman controls.
I found it took a while to get used to the controls however eventually they do become second nature given a little patience. Overall I think the developers did a good job of fitting all of the in-game functions onto the controller available.
The tutorial teaches you the basics and is a good starting point if you can put up the irritating instructor barking the same orders to you over and over again.
The flight engine in the game can be punishing at times. Some of the WWII planes are not terribly manoeuvrable and have a tendency to stall. Stall kicks in if you are flying too slowly or you turn or climb too quickly. Generally you won't be flying too slowly but in the heart of battle is it very easy to stall as you are desperately chasing that final bogey. When you stall your plane takes on the aerodynamic properties of a house brick dipped in lead and you plummet to the ground - stalls can be recovered but it is a tricky skill to learn as your view becomes disorientated as you freefall. This is frustrating if it happens towards the end of a difficult mission and in this case I think the flight engine sways too much towards realism over fun.
The main campaign mode takes you through a number of missions while unfolding the story and historical events. Mission objectives range from defending your own base to leading an invasion or destruction of a specific target. Completion of each mission awards upgrade points with which you can invest in better weapons and planes.
On a number of missions you are assigned a team of wingmen who you can command to attack, defend and seek out targets. Some missions rely on you effectively using your wingmen but on occasion they seem to have a mind of their own and can be a real pain to control.
One nice aspect is that you can choose the type of plane to use in most of the missions, these range from fighters to bombers and dive bombers. The planes handle very differently and carry very different weaponry so the way you approach and complete the mission varies greatly depending what plane you choose. This adds to the replayability factor of the game as missions can be taken on numerous times with a different plane. Overall the campaign mode is good fun and the game offers 4 levels of difficulty to take on so you will be occupied for a good few weeks. Some missions can be frustrating but generally the game is well balanced.
Other modes include Vs mode, Instant action mode and an on-line mode. These allow you to dive straight into the action and take on up to 7 others in any of the planes that you have unlocked and dogfight with your mates. Although I did nt try out the on-line mode all reports seem to be positive and the game runs well in this mode.
The presentation of the game, from menus to the storyline to in game action all combine to give you a real taste for that period in time, which really adds to the gaming experience.
Heroes of the Pacific is a great attempt at a WWII arcade/flight sim, while not to everyone's taste the game is well presented, looks good and is fun to play.
The controls need a little patience to begin with and parts of the game can be frustrating but overall I give this game…………………..
7 out of 10