Heroes of the Pacific
Developer: IR Gurus Interactive Ltd.
System: PS2 (Also on Xbox)
Players: 8 Player Online
The PS2 has long been the home of the arcade flight sim, largely thanks to Ace Combat making itself nice and cozy in the PS2’s disc drive. But while the single player flight game has found a home on the PS2, the multiplayer is at home on the Xbox, thanks to Crimson Skies. Now here comes Heroes of the Pacific, with it’s fancy online compatibility on the PS2. Does it have the right stuff to knock both of these giants off their perch, or does it get shot down in
Heroes of the Pacific puts you in the flight suit of Lt. Crowe, the son of an Army Air Force pilot who along with his brother signed up for the Navy to get away from life on the farm. Your brother and you both wind up stationed at Pearl Harbor, with you as a Lieutenant flying fighters, and your brother on the battleship Arizona. Ya. That’s the start of the story. And I don’t think I need to tell you where that one’s headed. But the developers of the game have managed to massage the storlyline enough to fit each major event of the war, giving you a chance to directly effect each battle.
In fact, aside from them laying it on really thick at the beginning, the story is actually quite enjoyable, almost as good as Ace Combat 4s. But they do dust off the revenge cliche, so I can’t praise it to heaven.
I’ve seen better looking games, even on the PS2, but I’ve also seen a number of games that would love to have “Heroes of the Pacific” quality graphics. Indeed, when you take a look at the amount of action going on around you in some of the later battles, the graphical quality is actually pretty damned good.
Some missions have hundreds of planes, enemy AND ally, in the air at one time. Add to that the ships in the water and the islands and land forces, and I’d say the designers did a excellent job of bringing this game to life on the PS2. It’s Xbox and PC counterparts probably look better, but the PS2 has nothing to feel ashamed of.
Sound is a tough one to call for this game. To start with, the sound effects, like the radial engines and the bombs dropping, explosions etc, all this is really well done. The music is nicely handled as well, and makes for a nice start to the game when you boot up.
The voice work on the other hand, is hit or miss. When you hear yourself or your fellow pilots, things are great. When you hear the enemy however, the developers take a staggeringly bad turn, either having people do their worst Japanese English voice accent, or scarier yet, they got them to do their best Japanese English accent. Either way, it sounds horrible. The kind of horrible that Ted Turner won’t allow on his networks anymore. This kind of voice acting is insulting to be honest, and I don’t have a Japanese bone in my body. Yes you like to be authentic, and yes you try to move the story along, but don’t resort to tactics that would get you blackballed in Hollywood.
The game has one flaw in it’s control scheme, and that very nearly killed this game for me early on. Like many games in the genre, you can choose to fly the game with arcade like controls or more sim like controls. The arcade controls are alright, but as I prefer to fly using the rudder, I always go with the sim option when given a choice. Anyway, the sim option does give you rudder control, but they chose to stick it on the right analog stick…along with the throttle control. This is, to say the least, annoying. Combine this with planes that don’t exactly manuever all that well (they aren’t jets after all) and you may well find yourself frustrated early on. Keep your efforts up however and you’ll be rewarded.
While I didn’t like the placement of the yaw controls, I can accept that the designers just ran out of buttons. With wingmen controls, an in-flight zoom similar to that found in Starwars Starfighter, weapon select buttons, primary and secondary firing buttons, the game has a lot of controls to get down. Fortunately there is a very good tutorial included in the game which will tell you what to do and how to do it.
The game plays very much like a cross between the PC flight sim X-Wing and Crimson Skies. Mission objectives range from protecting your home carrier to supporting an invasion to aiding a prison break, and the more mission objectives you complete the more upgrade points you get to upgrade your planes with. Some missions have a secondary objective of shooting down one hundred planes. The X-Wing portion of this comparison comes from the difficulty in completing some of these missions. Some of them can be a real bitch to do. You are given command of 4 wingmen, who will fly with you, attack your targets, defend an area if asked, or just break formation and engage targets as they find them. For the most part, they aren’t that great. There are missions though, where effective use of the wingmen will get you through to the next mission. Most of the game you can do it yourself. But there are some missions where that’s just not possible.
Like most other flight games you start off with the worst plane imaginable and then earn better ones the farther in you get. As you complete missions you earn upgrade points which you can put towards almost any plane in your fleet. There are some planes, mostly the bombers that get one or two missions, which cannot be upgraded in anyway, but for most of your fleet there are at-least 2 upgrades you can get, usually in weaponry or speed and maneuverability. Many times I earned a new plane and was able to upgrade it completely before even flying it once. So spend your points wisely.
I mentioned above that you can control a variety of planes in this game, from fighters to bombers to torpedo bombers etc. Because they vary so drastically from the flight model of the fighters, I’m going to give you a quick rundown on the bombers, dive bombers and torpedo bombers. Bombers can be anything from a PBY Catalina Rescue and Recon flying boat to a B-25 bomber. They are big and slow and are built to give and take abuse.
Torpedo bombers are designed for one thing, flying low and slow and dropping torpedoes at enemy ships. Dive bombers are fairly quick and can pull out a dive fairly easily. The controls for both the torpedo attack runs and the dive bombing are really well done, in fact if I was describing the dive bombing alone I’d call it excellent, while the torpedo attacks were simply good. I’ve never been one to have a good time dropping bombs, mostly because my accuracy sucks. Not in this game however. Pinpoint accuracy. And since you are flying in an arcade flight sim, you get all the bombs you want.
One point that I must mention. The game can be exceedingly frustrating at times because you will find yourself under constant attack by enemy fighters that have really nothing else to do with their time but attack you. That is their sole purpose in life. Usually these planes aren’t a big enough hassle to make you deal with them, but in at least one mission towards the end you WILL deal with them if you want to finish the board, it’s that simple.
The balance in the game is a bit hard to judge. There are a few “boss” fights, which are fairly difficult, but nothing impossible. As well, due to the nature of the war, you wind up getting better and better planes to fly with while the Japanese are stuck with planes that aren’t quite good enough. The designers try to compensate for this by throwing hundreds of planes at you. They also give certain opponents planes that the Japanese had on the drawing board but which rarely or never saw combat, like the Shinden, which was an advanced prototype plane that would look more at home in Crimson Skies.
This is an area where Heroes really shines. For the first time the PS2 has a game that compares favorably to Crimson Skies on the Xbox for online play. The game isn’t as fully fleshed out and there is no ranking system that I could determine. You’re online however, and you can play in many of the same game types. Thanks to the addition of dive bombers and torpedo bombers, the designers also added a sink the enemy carrier game, where you and your squadron mates can defend your carrier while attacking the enemy one. The connection, with headset mic support, is by Gamespy and wasn’t as good as I would have liked. There weren’t a huge number of players hosting games, but the waiting wasn’t horrid and the lag wasn’t game killing. This will vary depending on your local and connection speed. Over all I’d say I’ve finally found a use for my network adapter. I bought the thing 3 years ago. Ya.
Anyway, the single player campaign also rates fairly high on the replay scale. Once you complete the campaign you can play again with all of your unlocked planes, and also play using the Japanese planes you have encountered. I could see this game appealing to those who love to conquer a game, do every single thing there is to do in a mission, that sort of thing. Some missions have quiet a variety of things to do, not all announced.
The replay options still aren’t done, either. I’ve mentioned that the game tries it’s best to take you into each and every major moment in the war where air power played a major role. And at this they do a pretty darned good job. But some of the moments in the war where air power is used don’t make for excellent game levels. So instead of mangling the history, the designers decided to include some historical missions, separate from the campaign, where you take the role of an actual pilot during ww2. One such mission sees you ambushing and shooting down Admiral Yamamoto, who planned and then lead the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The presentation of the game, from in game menus to storyline to in game action all combine to give you a real feel for what it might have been like to be flying back then. So for that it earns some kudos from me.
If you enjoy games like Ace Combat, Air Force Delta, and especially Crimson Skies, this is a game you’re going to want to try. The speeds aren’t as fast as the first two I mentioned, and the controls aren’t quite as refined, but the game is still a solid entry into the genre.
Well, World War 2 has been fought and won so many times now on just the PS2 that its hard to give a game based on the conflict any kind of points for originality. And yet I’m going to do it anyway, because nobody else has done a WW2 flight sim. I’ve often complained about companies like Namco taking real world fighter aircraft and putting them into an alternate universe to make sure they don’t offend anyone. Well here is an example of a company that decided not to do that. Yes I called them out for using bad voice acting at best, but at least they’ve decided to use real world events and not shrink away from trying to be realistic about it.
The game is addictive enough to make you want to finish it, and the multiplayer does make me want to go back and try my luck against some more people in a dogfight, but I don’t know that I can see myself playing through this game 5 or 6 times. It just depends on how much the controls bug you. If you can get good with the arcade controls, or if you can somehow manage to make the sim controls do your bidding, then there’s nothing in the game that can’t be conquered.
I’m a stickler for details. So it bothers me when I see F-18s in movies marked up to be Air Force when the Air Force has none, that kind of thing. Well the same thing applies to me in games. You start the game flying from Hickam Field in Hawaii, which was an Army Air Base at the time, in an Army Air Corps P-40 Warhawk. I realise it’s to give you a front row seat for the action during the attack, but it does wind up taking away from the experience, at least for me.
This gets worse the farther into the game you get, as you find planes that never even saw a carrier in their life taking off…and landing the wrong way. An aircraft carrier is like a one way street. You don’t take off one direction and land another. It’s just not done. So I gotta slap the designers on the wrist for that.
Yes this is nitpicking. But it’s the little things that make a game great, and if we don’t call them on it nobody will, and they won’t know they screwed up.
Replay Ability: 8/10
Short Attention Span Summary
The game makes it back on a wing and a prayer. Not quite Ace Combat, nor is it as good and polished as Crimson Skies, it’s still better than most games in the genre. I look forward to a Heroes of the Atlantic and or Heroes of Europe.