Publisher: CDV Software
Developer: Legendo Entertainment
Release Date: July 30, 2007
Buy 'ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR': PC
Based on the Pacific Theatre of World War II, Attack on Pearl Harbor is an arcade-style flight game that lets you fight for either the Japanese or United States in their respective campaigns. If you're looking for a historically accurate, realistic flight simulation, then you should look elsewhere. While most of the content in the game is based on actual battles, the storyline doesn't accurately reflect events, since you can nearly single-handedly win the war for whichever side you decide to play.
As an arcade flight title, the physics in Attack on Pearl Harbor break a few rules. You have an infinite supply of fuel, you don't have to know anything about flying to complete the missions, and mid-air collisions merely take off a fraction of your health bar. There is also no need to worry about WWII air combat tactics, since they were hardly applied to the game design or AI, if at all. The arcade-style gameplay may turn off some people, but it also serves as one of the game's highlights because it delivers a fun, refreshing action fix without bogging down the player with endless details. Whether or not the climb rate on a P-40 Warhawk is accurately displayed doesn't interest the average person.
Attack on Pearl Harbor features two campaigns: Japanese and U.S. Each campaign is divided into two halves, with each half consisting of 10 to 15 missions. Across both campaigns, the game has over 50 missions. The story is delivered through audio commentary during the missions and narrated comic book-like cut scenes, which are an interesting alternative and fit very well with the game's theme and style.
Each side has three planes from which to choose: fighter plane, dive bomber, and torpedo bomber. The fighter plane is for aerial superiority and comes with four machine guns and a dumb fire rocket, the dive bomber is for taking out ground targets and comes equipped with dual machine guns and three bombs, and the torpedo bomber is also equipped with dual machine guns and carries a torpedo for taking out naval targets. The mission parameters will determine which plane you choose; some missions will let you select any of the three, while others will force you to fly a specific one. The armaments may differ, but there aren't many differences between the three planes in terms of control, speed and maneuverability.
The aerial combat in Attack on Pearl Harbor is fast-paced and intense. Much of the fighting probably doesn't reflect real dog fighting, but for those who don't know about realistic flight (like myself), it was an enjoyable escapade. The keyboard and mouse work surprisingly well for controlling your aircraft: W is the acceleration, S slows you down, Q lets you look behind the plane, and the A and D keys let you look to the left and right, respectively. You fire your machine guns with the left mouse button and the alternate weapon with the right-click. The space bar controls your aircraft takeoff from a runway or carrier, and you don't even need to worry about landing, since the mission ends after you've completed your objectives. That's pretty much the extent of the flight controls, so you'll be flying around in no time without needing to read the instruction manual. You also have the option of using a joystick or gamepad, including an Xbox 360 controller.
All flying is done from a third-person perspective instead of the first-person cockpit view. You may have unlimited ammunition, but missiles, bombs, and torpedoes take a few moments to reload after you fire them. Your machine guns overheat if you fire them too much, which will render you unable to fire until they cool down.
You gain experience by shooting down enemies and completing missions, which will earn you higher ranks as you go through the campaigns. Earning new ranks has no added benefit aside from giving you extra lives with which to complete the missions. If you fail a mission, you lose a life, so new ranks are basically furnishing you with extra attempts. An upgrade system for your plane or weapons would have been a nice addition, though.
Many of the missions you play through are based on real battles that occurred during WWII, although most of the details about the fights were glossed over and/or altered for the game. Attack on Pearl Harbor does a good job of mixing up the missions so you'll get a nice variety as you play through the campaign. When the only real element to the game is flying combat, though, it's very easy for the gameplay to get repetitive. With only three planes in the system, there is only so much you can do to mix things up.
The visuals look surprisingly nice for a budget PC title. Upon closer inspection, the ground uses a fairly rough texture, and the land objects look somewhat blocky, but it doesn't hamper the experience much. On the other hand, the clouds and water effects look really nice, and the lighting effects really stand out when the sunlight glistens on your plane and reflects off the water. The comic book-style cut scenes add a nice artistic appeal, and the loading screen looks like an old paper map with folded creases in it and some discoloration. The frame rate stays silky smooth even during the most intense action sequences. While these touches can't make it compete with the graphics engines on big-budget titles, they do add an unexpected layer of polish.
The sound is somewhat mixed in quality. The music is well done and sets an epic overtone to the missions and fighting, but the sound effects are fairly average and consist of the usual machine guns, bomb whistles and explosions. There is no radio chatter amongst your fellow pilots, which seems somewhat odd, but you do get radio messages from your commander telling you about the next objective.
Attack on Pearl Harbor includes a fully featured online multiplayer mode that supports up to 12 players, in addition to a quick action mode, which allows you to jump straight into a battle. The replay value of the game is average; there may be a bunch of missions, but you're essentially the same thing in each one. If variety is what you're looking for, you can try to complete missions again with one of the two other planes — if the mission parameters allow it.
With its pick-up-and-play controls, intense combat sequences and surprisingly nice visuals, Attack on Pearl Harbor achieves its goal of providing relatively simplistic and fun gameplay. For people who like arcade flight mechanics, Attack on Pearl Harbor delivers a fast-paced action fix for the PC market at a budget price point.
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