With the obscurities of the Hungarian, Finnish, Danish and even Slovakian contributions to World War II nicely covered, Pacific Fighters gives Oleg Maddox and his team of flight sim-creating desk pilots a chance to stretch their muscles with a part of the war that's been somewhat better documented.
Not that they had much choice mind you. Aside from perhaps simulating Arthur Lowe and Clive Dunn taking to the skies of Warmington-Upon-Sea in a rickety glider built from matchsticks, there wasn't really much left in the way of WWII air combat for them to turn their attention to.
So, is this a sequel? An expansion pack? A separate entity in its own right? Ah, Comrade Maddox, you tease us so with your category-defying antics. Pacific Fighters is all of those things and none.
Here's the deal: you don't need any of the previous IL-2 titles to run Pacific Fighters - it's a standalone. However, if you do add it to IL-2: Forgotten Battles (or the Ace Expansion Pack) it acts as an upgrade, enhancing the existing mission content, aircraft choices and engine performance like some kind of game-improving fairy godmother; but without the risk of everything turning into a pumpkin just as the final slow dance of the night kicks in.
What's on offer is pretty much everything that happened in the Pacific theatre of war, from the Pearl Harbor attack to the battles for I wo Jima and Guadalcanal. Good taste prevents things going as far as the horrifyingly ultimate ending to any war displayed at Hiroshima - there are some elements of what we laughingly call real life that are simply unacceptable fodder for so-called entertainment.
Everything else you'd expect from this rigorously authentic series is present and correct, from carrier take-offs and landings to Maddox's customary inclusion of lesser highlighted aircraft such as the Japanese Vais to the US air force's A-20 bombers. All are exquisitely detailed and, even though the game engine has undergone some tweaking, it's still recognisably the IL-2 code and it's still remarkable how good it looks after all this time.
However, there's definitely something lacking in Pacific Fighters, as though the box labelled 'magic sparkle' was running a bit low this time round. It's as solid, competent and thrill-packed as the previous entries in Maddox Games' single-handed assault on the flight genre, it just doesn't really do anything that we haven't seen before. Nothing major at least. Sure, we haven't been able to land on aircraft carriers or fly Japanese aircraft in the series until now, but on a fundamental level there's nothing here that grabs you by the lapels and shakes you into submission.
It can be argued that this is little more than a stopgap, a vanity project for Maddox and his team before the substantially different Battle Of Britain project arrives next year. An exercise in completism if you will. If you haven't jumped into the IL-2 arena before, you now have two excellent entry points (this and Forgotten Battles). Satisfaction is guaranteed either way, but you certainly won't need both. Unless you're as into completion as Oleg Maddox appears to be.
Download Pacific Fighters
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Well, It Was never going to be a platform game, was it? For Oleg Maddox, creator of the frankly stupidly popular IL-2 flight sim series, with the war over Europe's skies well and truly chronicled, there was only ever going to be one place left to turn.
Pacific Fighters pretty much does what it says on the tin - though it's a tin that's never been opened much in terms of flight sims. "At the moment there is only one real competitor for us," says Maddox during a trip to sunny Manchester, promoting the game ahead of its October release and referring to Microsoft's Combat Flight Sim series. "It's good that we have competition because if we didn't we'd stay at the same level, only adding new aircraft each time, for example. Companies that we've seen going this way always go down after some time. My principle is to keep raising the level - and to try and not make things worse than they were before," he laughs. Would he prefer more competition? "No! One competitor is enough," he grins. "Especially when it's as big as Microsoft!"
Come Sail Away
Maddox's demonstration centres around the main hook for this new title - the aircraft carriers. An impromptu carrier landing competition fin which yours truly makes it looks like child's play while everyone else ends up swimming with the fishes) shows off the complexity of the new weather and environmental systems. As the waves crash against the side of the ship's hull, the carrier bucks and rolls with uncanny precision. While there aren't any actual carrier controls in the game ("This is a flight sim," Maddox growls rather disdainfully when asked why), small touches such as taxiing around the deck, folding the planes' wings up to make room for parking and landing guidance all help the mood.
As does the totally enhanced graphics engine. While it's not fair to say that Pacific Fighters is a complete departure from IL-2, the added visual effects -rolling waves along beaches, sun reflections of the sea, lagoons and coral reefs, ships creating spray and leaving a wake as they sail - do enough to make things a worthwhile investment for existing IL-2 owners.
As has become the norm with Maddox's titles, the choice of planes ranges from the familiar to the never before seen. "For years we've never seen more than about three per cent of the Japanese aircraft in games. We've never seen the Seafire or the seaplanes flyable for instance," he explains. "The Japanese authorities have made many, many blueprints available to us that have never been published in the west." To further aid the research, Maddox and his team even travelled to Japan to look at one of the only surviving Mitsubishi Zero cockpits.
Despite all that, Pacific Fighters will be for many simply an interim pleasure, until the long-awaited Rowan's Battle of Britain project arrives some time next year. Maddox graciously granted us a sneaky peek at some of SOS's object models while we were there and, frankly, if you think the screenshots on this page look good, you ain't seen nothing yet. Maybe there's life in the flight sim genre yet.