Pacific Fighters - game review

Date: 2005-03-08 11:44:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Fans of advanced flight simulators have not had much reason to complain lately. Some have not flown well with Il-2 Forgotten Battles yet , and in the meantime, two more additions to this game ( The Last Days and Case Blue ) have already been released in the West. As if that was not enough, the game Pacific Fighters (PF), based on the Sturmovik engine, set in the Far East, was recently released. This is a big step forward in the development of this deserved series, as game producers have not spoiled players who wanted to pilot machines in the colors of the Land of the Rising Sun. If you've been dreaming of finally sitting at the controls of the swift Zeke and launching a cloud of black smoke into the sea of a few fat American B-17 bombers, this is your chance. A nice surprise from the manufacturer PF is the ability to install the program as a separate application (if we do not have Il-2 Forgotten Battles ) or as an addition to Il-2 Forgotten Battles (in the latter case, Aces Expansion Pack is required). Unfortunately, it does not look completely pink: if the game is installed as a standalone version (standalone, not as an add-on), then in the multiplayer option we can only play with people who have done the same. On the other hand, the PF treated as an "overlay" on the Il-2 FB allows the player to access planes from all theaters. Well, the conclusion is simple: if you don't already have an Il-2 FB, it's high time to stock up on one.

What's new in Pacific Fighters ? First of all, the equipment. If you look carefully around the sky and the earth, you will find as many as 60 different machines, although in fact most of them are variants of 20 basic types. As an American, you can sit at the controls of such planes (in several varieties) as the F4U Corsair, F6F Hellcat or F4 Wildcat. In addition, the previously known versions of the P-38, P-39, P-40 and P-51, as well as the A-20, B-25 and SBD Dauntless bombers are available. Unfortunately, it is not possible to fly torpedo bombers (e.g. TBF / TBM Avenger or TBD Dewastator). Added to this are a few British machines, such as the various "island" variants of the Corsair, the twin-engine Beaufighter, and Hurricane, Seafire and Spitfire. On the other hand, the Japanese also have nothing to complain about: such machines as the famous A6M Zero (Zeke), Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar), Ki-61 Hien (Tony), Ki-84 were at the disposal of pilots from the Land of the Rising Sun. Hayate (Frank) and the D3A1 Typer 99 (Val) dive bomber.

However, it is not only the presence of the new "machines" that can make the heart beat faster. After starting the first mission, you immediately notice the great quality of graphics and the game authors' maniacal attention to detail. The elements of the cockpit - from the control stick, through clocks, switches, various levers, to the places under the pedals, worn with paint - have been made with great attention to detail; it is no exaggeration to say that the PF could serve as a training program for pilots of the time. Looking at your plane, you can easily see that in some places the paint is peeling off the fuselage and wings, and if you have a powerful enough computer, you will spot sailors operating the anti-aircraft guns on the ships! Equally careful was the preparation of huge air battlefields, covering large swaths of the Pacific and its islands. Flying just over the water, we can watch its color change or admire the waves crashing on the shore. Unfortunately, when our plane crashes in the jungle, this effect looks a bit worse - the machine dives under the plane of round patches imitating tree crowns. But this small detail does not spoil the overall good opinion of PF's graphics.

The game takes place, as I have already mentioned, over the vast expanses of the Pacific. Playing the role of the pilot of a selected formation (you can choose from Japanese fighter and bomber aviation, Australian or British aviation or finally three air formations of the American army), we can take part in both dynamically generated campaigns and numerous historical missions (e.g. attack / defense of Pearl Harbor, Battle of Midway, Operation Coral Sea, etc.). The game provides very flexible options for adjusting the difficulty of the game to the pilot's skills. If we want, we can skip take-offs and landings, enable the use of a virtual cockpit (view from the "tip of the nose" of the plane, with basic indicators in sight), ensure immortality, infinite ammunition, etc. With extreme settings (maximally easy and completely realistic) they are just two completely different games. If you have completed a dozen or so missions with the facilities enabled, do not be quick to think that you are already a master - in the realistic mode you may have problems even with the usual take-off from the airport!

An even bigger problem arises when you do not have the wide surface of the runway under your wheels, but the short, swinging deck of the aircraft carrier! However, even if you take off and successfully complete your task, the real test of your flying skills begins the moment you need to land back. There is a reason why pilots operating from aircraft carriers enjoy the greatest respect among the airline brothers. PF realistically captures these difficult conditions; you need to carefully control the speed, height and angle of approach to the landing site. If you make a mistake, the plane will crash into the deck heavily and jump into the sea by jumping or fail to catch the hook on the dynamometer line stretched across the deck and end up overboard as well.

Unfortunately, in the pursuit of maximum realism, the authors of the game went a bit too far. After starting the game and activating the automatic remote control, you can easily go for tea or even have dinner before anything notable happens on the screen. For these several or several minutes, our machine grinds the air busily, on its way to meet the opponent. Maybe such a solution is in line with historical realities, but it does not work at all in a computer game - the idea of "action-packed, dynamic campaign" blows like smoke over a shot down enemy. Theoretically, this problem is eliminated by the possibility of accelerating the time even eight times, but it was not better to just shorten the waiting time for contact with the enemy to the necessary minimum? On the other hand, there is also an option to slow down the passage of time (up to four times), which is a very important facilitation, especially useful for beginners. Thanks to this, the opponent does not thrash in the sight circle like a drunken fly, but locates himself with sluggish grace at the intersection of the cross. Interestingly, during some missions, we can not only be a pilot, but also sit on the position of a rear gunner and give a solid portion of lead to intruders trying to get us from the rear.

A separate problem is the underdevelopment (in terms of testing) of some missions. This review is based on the unpatched version of the game, so these comments may not apply to all currently available PF versions. What's the problem? Well, it happened that after the start of the mission, my plane tried to take off ... from the surface of the water. Sometimes it also happens that enemy planes crash into the ground for no reason or the mission is successful, despite the fact that throughout its course you have not seen a single enemy. Another problem that may be encountered is the unrealistic development of the stall problem, that is, the sudden loss of speed in sudden turns, associated with the aircraft entering critical angles of attack.

In terms of sound, the game is quite pale. Even during the hottest battles in the air, there is silence, broken from time to time with a dry message or perfunctory congratulations from your companions after shooting down the enemy machine. This is definitely not enough - here, after all, a few (ten) people are fighting for their lives. Theoretically, the matter is explained by the fact that at the beginning of the war the Japanese did not use the radio for communication between planes at all, but I am not convinced by this explanation. The gang of engines sounds rather average, only a juicy stacatto of cannons as the bullets rip through enemy machines sounds nice to the ear of any real pilot.

To sum up, PF is a good game, sometimes even very good (graphics and realistic representation of the pilot's working conditions), but it also has many weaker elements (underdeveloped flight physics model of some machines, long waiting for combat contact with the enemy). Well, who can you recommend this title to? If you are a declared fan of the series, it is worth checking "what it really was" in the Pacific, but if you are one of the "Sunday pilots", start your adventure with sky-high fame with Il-2 Forgotten Battles .

Rafał "Yossa" Nowocień

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