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Posted on Nov 21, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Pacific Storm – Game Review (PC)

By Larry Levandowski

Passed Inspection: Seamless transition from tactical screens to gameplay. Immersive feel of various levels. Mass production has never felt so easy.

Failed Basic: The AI’s penchant for charging to its death. A few glaring technical issues that can ruin the entire experience.

Pacific Storm
, published by Buka Entertainment and distributed by CDV, may very well be the start of a franchise that will change the way computer warriors think about World War II strategy games. Despite its ambition to reach greatness however, Pacific Storm is not great yet, just damn good. There is at least one very serious issue, and a host of minor issues that may cause many casual gamers to dismiss it; but that is OK, because Pacific Storm is not for them anyway. The game demands, and rewards attention to detail and high levels of concentration. It is has a lot of depth and is very rewarding for those willing to give the time necessary.

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At its core, Pacific Storm is a World War II RTS that spans the entire Pacific conflict. At the building block level, there are four major sub-games; a base and economy building game, a wartime grand strategy game, an operational 3d tactical game, and an air/naval first person simulator. The sub-games are just mediocre if evaluated individually. But like a work of Mozart, the genius is not in the individual parts, but how the pieces fit together to form a whole that is something new and exiting. The casual gamer, who jumps in to play only one or two of these sub-games, will be missing out; and probably be dissatisfied as well.

Campaign Screen Ruling the Pacific was never so easy

Gameplay is in a rare hybrid category that moves seamlessly from grand strategic war game, down to first person air simulator. At the highest level, you direct the entire war effort of Japan or the United States. But when it comes time to start the attack, you can go down to the tactical level and help the lads out.

The idea has been around a while, and seems easy to do: Take an air/ground/sea simulator, and combine it with a campaign game. It’s not easy to pull-off though, and the trash-bin of history is full of failed attempts. The problem is that these types of games demand a great campaign engine, and an excellent tactical engine; many games get one or the other right, but rarely both. There are games that have done it right however, and these are firmly placed in the pantheon of the Immortal Classics; the Total War Series by Sega, Lucas Arts’ Their Finest Hour, Jagged Alliance by Talonsoft, Campaign by Empire and X-Com UFO Defense by Microprose, to name a few.

The game starts when the player selects either the historical or non-historical campaigns for the US or Japan. British and other Allied forces are not available, so in the historical campaign, it is the US that occupies Hong Kong, Australia and Indonesia at the start. The campaign map depicts the entire Pacific Theater. Zones represent major sections of ocean and major military bases. Unit movement is distance/bearing based and not zone based however, and this allows the player great freedom. Fleets and aircraft formations move real time over the map using attractive 3d counters.

The first part of the game is all about developing your bases, military units, economy and researching new technologies. The choices and level of detail at this part of game can be overwhelming. Fortunately, automation is available for the logistics leg-work if players don’t want to dive too deep into the game.

Bases are developed by insuring the right personnel mix between engineers, soldiers and pilots. Historical figures are also available to take command and improve morale. Once the troops are in place, the player then directs construction of improvements like fuel tanks, warehouses, air raid bunkers, AA defenses and land based anti-ship artillery. Like most parts of the strategic game, these tasks can be automated.

At the home country level, the player can set production and research, while building new units. On the research screen, the player selects technologies to research. Better aircraft engines allow for new types of aircraft for example. Also, the game allows upgrades to existing designs of ships and aircraft with newer technologies: radar, self-sealing fuel tanks, cannons and at the higher levels of research, anti-air guided missiles. But constructing units is more than just production of planes of ships. As a player’s factories turn them out, the new equipment must be organized into formations and assigned crew. An easy to use organization tree interface allows management for the myriad of possibilities. In the game, a fighter regiment as 16 aircraft, a destroyer division four ships, and so on. Each individual plane or ship is represented, and its training/experience level tracked.

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