Flight simulator games don’t seem to visit consoles all that much or often do very well, though they do occasionally crop up from time to time in games like Ace Combat, Dogfight 1942 or Birds of Steel. Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers focuses on the aircraft carriers’ role during World War II, which makes sense since eight battleships were either damaged or destroyed in the December 7 attack. You’ll experience the events of Pearl Harbor and beyond, allowing you to play as both the American and Japanese pilots for various missions and dogfights.
Air Conflicts is more arcade-styled than other flight simulators, but an interesting note to bring up about realism is the fact that all of the planes in this game handle somewhat differently. You can pilot American and Japanese planes by playing through their respective campaigns, with three types of planes each. There are fighter planes, dive bombers and even torpedo-hauling planes to pilot in the game, each having their own handling style, and the weaponry attached to your plane will have a significant effect on how quickly you can maneuver your plane.
Notwithstanding, the pilots of the planes themselves can also gather XP by destroying targets and learn seemingly randomized skills which don’t seem to impact gameplay much, but at least there’s a trophy/achievement to collect for babying one pilot to maximum level.
While on the subject of not allowing the game to bore you, there’s actually a fair selection of game modes. You can jump right into the Instant Battle mode, which lets you fly around and gun down enemy pilots immediately. A Survival mode is also available and it’s exactly as it sounds: You fly around and attempt to survive wave after wave of enemy fighter planes.
There are also two campaigns available, which are comprised of Battles, Missions and Patrols. Battles are the levels that actually progress the campaign to the next section. Missions are optional levels with varying objectives. Patrols are…different, and I would imagine were interjected for the purpose of providing a relief from the normal gameplay. They’re ultimately extremely boring, however, as you’re given a three minute long time limit to look around and identify castaways for rescue, incoming bombers that need to be defended against and even sometimes don a flak cannon yourself to shoot down incoming suicide planes. The problem with these is that too little goes on in a three minute time frame, with maybe one thing happening every forty seconds or so while you spend the rest of the time spinning around in circles until the next scripted event pops up on the horizon.
There’s also an online combat mode where you can face off against fellow players in an all-out aerial dogfight.
Visually, the game looks great on the surface: The water is gorgeous and all of the planes are detailed quite well. Many of the objects on the islands don’t share the same attention to detail, unfortunately, as the trees and buildings are reminisce of what could have been seen on the PlayStation 2. For the most part, you shouldn’t be close enough to these objects to actually discern the ground objects’ quality unless you’re getting used to doing bombing runs, which are actually quite a large amount of the beginning of the game. You do a lot of bombing at the start, with the very first mission in the American campaign being focused on it, so there’s potential to notice the graphical inadequacies very early on in the game. Bombing takes a bit of getting used to, but thankfully you have a wingman who confirms whether your explosives destroyed any targets or not, plus the ability to look directly behind your plane to help you learn how to better time your drops.
Now while there’s a lot of content in the game, the campaigns are quite long, there are also a significant number of problems. There’s really no story to this game outside of chronicling some specific events for World War II, no character development, nothing like that. While this was an extremely emotionally charged time, much of the dialogue can be equivocated to, ‘Things aren’t looking great, go blow stuff up.’ So it’s not exactly the most riveting plot around. The music is also extremely repetitive and warrants a mention, because the game just plays the same short tracks over and over while in a mission. There’s no real variation in the music, which isn’t necessarily a big deal, just more of a minor annoyance.
Outside of the minor problems listed above, however, were a plethora of glitches. In the very first mission you’re sent to minimize the damage done to Pearl Harbor from the infamous attack, and among your first objectives is to shoot down every enemy fighter you can see. All was well and good for me until one of the few remaining fighters flew into the ground. Let me reiterate for clarity: The enemy plane didn’t hit the ground and explode, it flew into the ground, flying around below the surface. The ground also stopped bullets from hitting the aforementioned plane while it was sand-surfing, so a small wait ensued before it could be finally taken down by machine gun fire.
Another interesting bug that occurred was also early on, there were two ships that needed to be destroyed with torpedoes, but one of them surprisingly became invincible. The first ship went down no problem with the spotter confirming the target was hit: The second ship, on the other hand, would not be confirmed hit by the spotter. In fact, the spotter wouldn’t say anything. A solid half an hour was spent dropping one torpedo at a time trying to take down that ship, but unless the torpedo was a clean miss, the spotter wouldn’t say anything. Restarting from the mid-mission checkpoint didn’t help either, as that one ship was still invulnerable the second time around. It wasn’t until the Battle was completely restarted from the beginning that the ship actually went down. This sporadically occurred another time during the course of the game, but restarting the mission solved the problem, though its quite the odd thing to have happen in the first place. Freezes were another problem that popped up every so often, specifically around the Philippines mission.
To summarize: Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers offers a good number of game modes and two fairly lengthy campaigns with varying objectives. The visuals for the ocean water and planes look fantastic, but the remaining pieces of the environments leave a little bit to be desired. There are numerous glitches and mind-boggling design choices throughout the game, though if you can look past those there really is a great time to be had, flying around whilst bombing targets with even an enormous B-52 at one point.
The story is practically nonexistent, though the odds are that no one is actually considering purchasing this game for the intriguing plot developments. There’s a lot of content to enjoy, and even a multiplayer component to mess around with for as long as the online population stays active. Just don’t be surprised if one of your targets flies below the ground and you have to wait for them to resurface before you can finish them off.
Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers got off to a rocky start, but bounces back pretty well to ultimately earn 3 GiN Gems.
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