Preview: Attack on Pearl Harbor Hands-On

Attack on Pearl HarborPlatform: PC
Publisher: CDV
Developer: Legendo Entertainment
Release Date: July 2007
Genre: Arcade Flight Combat
Players: 1-12


World War II has served well as the inspiration for countless strategy games and first-person shooters over the years, but as the WWII theme eclipses its saturation point in those genres (though that’s not stopping developers from creating more) it seems that flight combat games are becoming the next genre in line for reliving the world’s most infamous and exploited war. One such title on the horizon is Attack on Pearl Harbor, a flight combat game from CDV and Legendo Entertainment with sights set on providing PC gamers an action-packed aerial dogfighting experience with the casual audience in mind. With the completed game stuck in the hangar until its flight to retailers next month, I have had the pleasure of test piloting a pre-release preview build over the past few weeks and am now happy to report back with my early impressions.

Set during WWII, you’d think Attack on Pearl Harbor would be a realistic flight sim, but on the contrary (and to my pleasant surprise) it’s actually a very casual-friendly arcade combat game, with the wartime setting merely serving as a backdrop to set the game up rather than pounding you over the head with a dull, historically rich plot WWII games often present. The game’s single-player mode is divided into US and Japanese campaigns, each further broken down into two campaigns apiece, for a total of four campaigns spanning over 50 missions loosely based on major battles from the period, such as Pearl Harbor, the Battle for Midway, Iwo Jima, and the Doolittle Raid, as but a few examples.

Based on playing through the full first US campaign, a bit of the second and most of the first Japanese campaign, I can safely say that the single-player appears to be a solid offering. Little emphasis has been placed on story here, but so far the missions develop well and come with a wide variety of objective types, from torpedo runs and aerial dogfights to dive-bombing raids and escort and protection missions. As would happen in a real war, the campaigns actually continue to unfold whether you win or lose a mission, and as the campaigns play out you are also able to choose your own path, as multiple missions often provided at once.

In these missions there is a plethora of authentic US and Japanese aircraft to pilot — the US P-40 Warhawk and the Japanese A6M1 Zero, for example — under three classifications: fighter, dive bomber, and torpedo bomber. From the outset, piloting these aircraft is incredibly fluid and intuitive, with tight, accessible controls that take no time to learn effectively and an arcade-style gameplay quality that focuses on fast-paced action over any sense of realism (think Crimson Skies set in WWII).

Better yet, the game supports mouse and keyboard, Xbox 360 controller and flight stick control schemes to accommodate what you’re most comfortable with. Although the mouse and keyboard felt a touch more precise to me than the other methods, I found myself enjoying playing with a 360 pad in hand the most – the force feedback was a plus, and being able to lean back in my computer chair rather than hunching over the keyboard was obviously a more comfortable way to play.

The single-player seems to be holding up nicely so far, but where Attack on Pearl Harbor currently shows the most promise is in the multiplayer. LAN and Internet play for up to 12 players is supported, featuring deathmatch-style Dogfight and Team vs. Team match types and over 10 Pacific Theater map venues to choose from, such as Pearl Harbor, Midway, Wake Island, Japanese Coast, Pacific Ocean, and so on and so forth. Even in the preview build’s pre-release status, the online play ran exceptionally smooth during my time with it (save for a few minor latency quirks that are still being ironed out) and was a total blast to play due to the game’s quick-action style and intense airborne combat. In its current status, only text chat was supported, which I found tough to use given the gameplay’s fast pacing, however I have been told that the retail release will feature Xfire built in for chat and all that good stuff, so that’ll be a helpful addition for sure.

My only disappointment with Attack on Pearl Harbor up to this point has been its lacking production values, though admittedly it’s kind of unfair to expect mind-blowing visuals and audio from a casual budget title given the need for it to meet the system requirements of its target audience (I don’t think many casual PC gamers are equipped with a beastly gaming rig). It does seem like more could be added for those who do have more powerful systems, like maybe some higher-res textures and more satisfying damage modeling and explosions to be specific, but the game is damn fun as is, so I’m not going to bitch and moan too much over it.

Despite the dated presentation, Attack on Pearl Harbor has thus far impressed me with its instantly gratifying gameplay, interesting single-player mission progression and thoroughly satisfying multiplayer action, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the completed retail release and see how it comes together fully optimized and ready for final takeoff. I’ll report back at that time with my final review impressions. But until then, head over to www.pearlharbor-game.com and get your own taste of the action that awaits in Legendo Entertainment’s official single-player demo.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!