Attack on Pearl Harbor Review
|Genre:||Air Combat Action|
|Release Date:||July 30th, 2007 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Craig Laycock (Cragtek)|
There are bogeys everywhere! Six at 12 o'clock, another four on my tail. Gunfire whizzes past my cockpit. I hear an explosion behind me and one of my squadron flies past having cleared my six. I owe that man a pint.
I'm Japanese, by the way. Not personally, but in the latest action/arcade/aviation release Attack on Pearl Harbor (irritating American spelling and all). You see, in this romp, the rights and wrongs of fighting for both Axis and Allied forces are put to one side and, instead, the game is simply "dedicated to the service men and women on all sides who fought bravely for their countries" (lifted from the manual). Interesting.
Of course, this does mean that you can bomb Pearl Harbor to bits (although there is sadly no option to bomb Michael Bay, Ben Affleck or anyone else involved in the crime against humanity that was the motion picture). The moral outrage of this is neatly averted with the inclusion of the option to fight on the American side and sink as many Japanese ships as you can manage. So we're all even.
You're probably thinking: "Hang on, you can bomb or defend Pearl Harbor? What happens if you shoot every attacking plane out of the sky and your fleet is unscathed?". Well it's quite simple really - the course of the war, and history, is changed. Yes, this game has no regard for such trivialities as historical fact and (I hope you're sitting down, Simon Schama) you're free to muck up the space-time continuum to your heart's content. Nice.
The emphasis, as I'm sure you've gathered by now, is very much on pick-up-and-play fun. And, as far as these things go, Attack on Pearl Harbor is pretty solid. It's not a game you're likely to play for any length of time in one sitting, but dipping in every now and again for a dogfight is quite satisfying. There are two main problems though:
Problem one: The AI isn't great. If you've got a bogey on your six, shaking them off is simply a case of flying in a big loop, or going round in a circle. They make no attempt to follow you and you're free to blow them to bits as you neatly end up on their tail. This may have been by design (in order to make the game less difficult), but, frankly, I just find it a bit annoying.
Problem two: The missions. Don't expect a lot of variety. You're going to be either; blowing up ships, destroying ground targets or shooting enemies out of the skies. There are a couple of recon missions, but these tend to end in a you-against-the-world massive dogfight anyway. Everything in this game is a variation on a theme. But if you're only playing in short doses, this repetition is tolerable and the AI isn't too much of a hindrance - it's still great fun to go out there and fly around like a 1940s Top Gun.
Good stuff: Well, the presentation is excellent. Sound quality is very impressive, the music is rousing enough and the visuals are pretty decent. They're not going to win any awards, but they're certainly nice. One annoying effect, however, is horizon blur. I'm not really sure what the point of it is, but it effectively renders everything you see beyond a certain distance a blurry mess. I don't find that either pretty or conducive to gameplay, but thankfully there is an option to turn it off. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.
The in-game art is also pretty solid. The (admittedly very loose) narrative is conveyed through a comic-book format, which works very well. The maps, level loading screens, menus and other graphics all stay true to the overall feel of the game, which, in concert with the music, brings across a wartime feel to proceedings. The voice acting is also quite decent. Again, it's not Oscar-winning stuff, but it certainly doesn't stand out as being bad, and having your Japanese or American general bark "mission complete" to you over the radio is a welcome relief come the end of a frantic dogfight. There isn't a huge amount of other dialogue to judge the voice acting on, but not a bad effort overall.
One gripe I have (which, having looked around, seems to be mirrored in other reviews) is the lack of online multiplayer. It's not that it isn't there, it's just that nobody plays it. Ever. I checked on and off for a week and never saw another soul online. I tried hosting a server and at one point even left it on for a few hours. Nobody joined. I therefore won't attempt to comment on the online side of the game, but as far as I can tell it's going to be straightforward dogfighting action. It's a shame, because playing online against humans would eliminate the irksome AI problems of the single player game.
Back to the solo game, the campaigns you can play are pretty decent. They're short (it took me a couple of hours at most to complete one of the Japanese ones), but if you're dipping in and out of the game anyway, that won't be a major concern. There are two campaigns for each side and, as you might expect, they generally involve blowing things up and winning the war. If you're stuck on one mission, the game's quite happy to let you play the next and come back to it. You're rewarded with medals and experience, but I'm yet to see any real benefit to this. You can't spend the experience points, or sell your medals on eBay like a real war hero, so I suppose they're just something to smile at and go "aww, that looks shiny".
On the flight side of things, this isn't Microsoft Flight Simulator X. The mechanics are pick-up-and-play and even a toddler could be up and running in minutes blowing people out of the sky. Whether you'd want your kids doing that is a whole other question. Your choice of aircraft doesn't really affect anything other than the kind of weapons at your disposal (rockets or torpedoes, for example). If you take them at face value, the flight dynamics are extremely satisfying - and little things like dive-bombing are implemented very well (your plane will screech as it dives, just like in the movies).
Don't expect to draw the curtains and lock yourself away playing this one. It's the kind of game you're best off dipping into now and again and, if you ignore the minor faults, it's a decent way to spend 20 minutes on a lunch break.
- Decent presentation, art and visuals
- Good fun in small doses
- Satisfying action
Not so good stuff
- Dopey AI
- A bit short
- Lack of variety