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Heroes of the Pacific

Score: 67%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: IR Gurus Interactive
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Arcade/ Flight

Graphics & Sound:

Heroes of the Pacific definitely has a flare for style. The visuals are saturated with vintage World War II era effects, like the black lines running across the screen and the old propaganda posters. However, once you get into the game, things start to look rather bland, or at least like we’ve all seen before. Secret Weapons Over Normandy has almost the exact same in-game visuals as Heroes of the Pacific, and that game is two years old. Everything about the graphics here is mediocre; nothing looks too terribly bad, at least not from a distance, but it all seems rather drab. Gunfire is weak, explosions are pretty average, and you can only get so detailed with WWII planes.

The sound follows close suit. Generic WWII tracks play constantly, filling your head with patriotic tunes. None of the score is really breathtaking or memorable, and neither are the sound effects. Again, you can only go so far to replicate authentic battle sounds, and unless you do something really spectacular these days, the audio experience will be easily forgotten.

I would have forgiven and forgotten if the entire sound experience had been left as average as it was, but when the voice acting kicks in, the speakers have to go off. The main character of the game is supposed to be some hot shot pilot, but his very voice sucks all the emotion out of any scene. He sounds more like a doped-up surfer than a 1940’s American Navy Pilot. The rest of the characters are much the same, either being totally clichéd or sounding like the developers dragged in people off the street to do the voiceovers.


Gameplay:

Heroes of the Pacific is about as generic a console flight sim as they come. The game is set in the Pacific theater during WWII and you, as a Navy pilot, must battle through mission after mission, practically taking on the Japanese Navy single handedly. The plot that is laid on top of the historic conflict in the Pacific is a bland one, and because of this, missions tend to drag on as the gameplay is hampered by the forced effort to include a story.

The campaign is a lengthy one and the mission types vary from dog fighting to dive bombing, from torpedo runs to flying the heavy bombers of the era. Despite this variation, each type doesn’t have what it takes to hold the player’s attention single-handedly. Every time the mission switches from one type to the other, it’s like a breath of fresh air that quickly turns sour again. Once a single mission of each type has been experienced, the fun factor is gone and things quickly become monotonous.

Heroes of the Pacific has included a meager wingman feature in an attempt to create a dynamic experience from mission to mission. However, it soon becomes apparent that each mission has one role for your wingmen, and once you have figured this out and issued the order, any dream of an open-ended mission is lost.

The amount of planes included in the game are the one thing that keeps the long trek on a slightly interesting track. Every time a mission is completed, you usually get to unlock a new plane, get some upgrade points, or both. Upgrade points can be spent on the various planes to increase their weapon capacity, maneuverability, etc. At first, it would seem like your choices in upgrades matter, but due to the overwhelmingly arcade feel, the upgrades become more of a job rather than a choice. As long as you upgrade something, you will stand a chance at the next mission, no matter which plane it is.

Heroes of the Pacific can be played split-screen as well as across a network of systems. It can also access Xbox Live, and a handful of different game types are offered. The standard Dogfight and Team Dogfight are included, where things are kill or be killed. There is also a Capture the Flag mode that has each team’s home base situated as an aircraft carrier. In order to ‘capture the flag’, you must fly low over the opposing carrier, then destroy one of three waypoint balloons and return to your ship. Fox and Hound is basically a game of keep away. As the Fox, you must kill other pilots in order to increase your score, but whoever kills you will then become the Fox. Finally there is Scratch One Flat Top. This is where each team has an aircraft carrier, and your objective is to sink the opposing carrier, at which point the game ends.


Difficulty:

Because it is cookie-cut in the form of games like Secret Weapons Over Normandy, Heroes of the Pacific is rather simple. Most of what it does is not new. When venturing into what is new, the game practically holds your hand all the way through it. With dive bombing, for instance, two lights will light up telling you if you have the correct speed and accuracy, leaving the simple job of pressing the button to the player. The AI is certainly not trained in the art of naval air combat; instead it relies on horde mentality, usually keeping in big formations until you are right on their tail. What is most annoying about the difficulty are the sudden mission failure situations you will run into. This usually occurs when you are escorting someone. Whoever it is you are tasked to keep safe will invariably die in a matter of seconds unless you never take your eye off of them. Your wingmen do little to help you here, which leaves the bulk of work in your hands to carry out whatever you goal is in an all too small amount of time.

Game Mechanics:

There are two types of controls you can use in any of the missions. The first is Professional. This mode gives you realistic control over all the flaps on your plane. The other type is Arcade, where you basically move your stick left, right, up, or down and the plane will speed off in that direction. The Professional controls are far too complicated for the fast-paced action that ensues during each mission, leaving you no other choice but to opt for the all too simple and incredibly unrealistic responsiveness of the Arcade setup.

Regardless of whatever control scheme you go with, there are a number of constants that are always with you. There is a speed boost which turns your plane into a sort of rocket, enabling you to launch yourself out of or into the action. The other is unlimited ammo. Instead of making you conserve your ammunition, your guns can overheat and bombs take a few seconds to reload. These features create an experience that is too simple to be very rewarding; you can’t get by without them, but to use them makes things uninteresting and almost automated.

Heroes of the Pacific has tried to rely on the allure of WWII more than the substance of the game in order to entertain its players. The result is an overly mediocre experience which quickly turns into the mundane. Games before it have done better, and it offers nothing innovative at all. By relying purely on a formula, Heroes of the Pacific has become less than the sum of its parts.


-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

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