Attack on Pearl Harbor Review


Attack on Pearl Harbor probably carries the distinction of being the only game to be named after its first level. The game actually spans the entire Pacific Theater conflict of World War II, and can be played from both the American and Japanese perspective. But that's not the only thing deceptive about this game. PC games featuring World War II vintage aircraft are usually flight sims with realistic flight models, however Attack on Pearl Harbor is purely an arcade shooter that happens to be set in the skies. So now that you know what the game is not, let's take a look at what the game actually is.

When you start to play Attack on Pearl Harbor you'll immediately see that the game has no pretensions on being taken as a serious flight sim. The game's menu screens and cutscenes are done in a comic book art style complete with panels that are designed to evoke images of the action comics of the day. The comic action setup for the missions serves as a good segue into the missions with their comic book like take on aerial combat. Planes are freed from the constraints of the Laws of Physics and can perform turns, climbs, and dives without regard to such concepts as momentum or lift. You can fly at only two speeds, normal and turbo, and about the only thing that you have to worry about are collisions with either the ground, other planes, or the bullets aimed in your direction. You view your aircraft from a third-person chase camera, so you always have a wide view of the action and the planes around you. In case this wasn't enough to help you spot enemy aircraft, the game adds a couple more measures in the form of a 360 degree radar and a HUD-like tick mark above all of the enemy aircraft in view. When you're bearing down on an enemy you even get assistance from your aiming reticule which turns red when you are properly leading your target to hit it. And lastly you are given infinite ammunition, not just for your guns but for the fighters' rocket launchers and the bombers' torpedoes or bombs as well.

Missions begin with your plane on the ground or a flight deck, but takeoff is just about automatic. To takeoff you simply hold the turbo boost button until your plane lifts off and pulls up its gear. Once in the air you may have a few seconds to enjoy the scenery but the action is almost always instantaneous. On those occasions when you'll have a little time to look around, you'll notice that the game features some nicely rendered aerial environments complete with time of day and weather effects. If you get close to the ground you'll notice that features such as buildings are roughly rendered, but from a little altitude they look just fine. The planes themselves are nicely detailed and feature some great combat animations. As you fire your guns you'll see the casings trailing behind your plane and the smoke coming out of the barrels. The fire, smoke, and damage effects are all pretty impressive, and enemy planes burst into satisfying fireballs when you record a kill.

The campaigns give you a little leeway in selecting your missions, often giving you the choice between fighter or bomber missions at each juncture. Which you choose is more a matter of preference than anything else as mission selection, and even mission success, has no real effect on your progress through the campaign. The limiting factor on your mission options is your aircraft inventory. You performance in each mission will go towards the automatic addition of additional planes to your hanger and if you are shot down in a mission than a plane of that type, fighter, dive bomber, or torpedo bomber, will be removed from your available inventory. It is conceivable for you to run out of aircraft and face an early end to your campaign, but since you can replay a mission as many times as you'd like this is not a likely occurrence.