This ambitious sim offers something for everyone.
World War II’s Pacific theater encompassed an ocean, parts of several continents and the shorelines of many islands in between. So when a game boasts a scope of the entire Pacific War, it would be easy to assume it abstracts the details and doesn’t bother with tactical minutiae. It seems near insanity to try to model engagements at low level, including individual aircraft, ships, logistics and more. But this is exactly what Pacific Storm tries to do.
Pacific Storm and sequel Pacific Storm: Allies ($15.99 PC, requires Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista, 1.7Ghz processor, 512MB RAM, 4GB hard drive space, 128MB 3D video card, Meridian4, www.meridian4. com) defy classification. Much like Battlestations Midway (reviewed in the July 2007 “Air – ware”), Pacific Storm and Allies offer several games in one. Players can take control of individual craft in an action mode, direct forces in a strategy mode or even play a leadership role in government and industry. In the “homeland” mode, players manage resources, develop technology and determine the locations of new military bases.
Pacific Storm focuses primarily on the historical conflict, while Allies adds new British missions and veers toward hypothetical scenarios by including experimental late-war aircraft. They are available as a combination purchase via the online distribution system Steam (http://store.steampowered.com).
The challenge for Pacific Storm is finding the right balance between its components. The action component won’t win over diehard sim fanatics, although it contains many simulation elements. It models stalls, speed management and ordnance types. Various aircraft classes definitely handle differently. The controls take getting used to, and purists will disapprove of the automatic takeoffs and landings. But users still have to manage a set of control inputs such as rudder, throttle, ailerons, flaps, bomb bay doors and landing gear. Allies improves the controls and adds fidelity via a more detailed damage model.
Most comparable strategy games will let you command fleets and naval aviation resources. But Pacific Storm includes surprising detail, even modeling the launch of a battleship’s amphibious scout planes. It also models troop experience, awarding improvement through combat survival. The game requires micromanagement to do well, and where some will enjoy it, others may find it tedious—even though controls allow them to pause time. The graphics are good if hardly cutting-edge. The games do a good job rendering hundreds of objects in real time.
While Pacific Storm’s vast scope makes it an interesting sandbox for “what if” scenarios, there are also many historical elements to the game. Campaigns emulate historical conditions, for example, by starting the United States with inexperienced troops and technically inferior machines. Stand-alone historical scenarios are included too, although the level of realism tends to be compromised for game balance. For example, the U.S. mission to shoot down Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto correctly begins with 18 P-38G Lightnings assigned to find Yamamoto’s G4M1 “Betty.” But where Yamamoto’s flight had six fighter escorts, Pacific Storm grants him dozens.
Pacific Storm and Pacific Storm: Allies are entertaining and represent good play value. In addition to the solitaire scenarios, they offer an online multiplayer component. But while there is something for everyone, these games are probably best for real-time strategy gamers who appreciate historical flair, a high degree of micromanagement and the chance to jump in the cockpit. Players can forego phases, letting the computer work out the details, but humans typically do some things better than the artificial intelligence. Note that while bugs initially plagued these titles, updates have resolved many of them.
Originally published in the March 2009 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.