From its familiar heads-up display to its combat system and objective-based missions, The History Channel: Battle for the Pacific appears to be a carbon copy of nearly every other World War II–era first-person shooter. And as far as the gameplay itself is concerned, it is. However, the appeal of this game lies not in its similarity to other games, but in its focus, which favors historical accuracy over cinematic spectacle.
Activision (publisher of the popular World War II series Call of Duty) teamed up with the History Channel to develop Battle for the Pacific, sprinkling real battle footage and documentary clips from the History Channel throughout the gameplay. Missions are modeled after real battles, replicating the marines’ defense of Wake Island, the epic land conflicts on Guadalcanal and in the Philippines, and the assault on Iwo Jima. By focusing on the Pacific theater, the game features a setting that is often underutilized in the war game market. And by using the History Channel as a resource, the game manages to achieve a higher level of historical accuracy than other war games.
The game also features historically modeled weaponry, but it seems that the developers missed a genuine opportunity to improve upon the arms flaws found in other World War II shooters: the M1 Garand’s en bloc clips can indeed be reloaded while partially expended, and it is hardly possible that the Japanese bolt-action Type 38 rifle could ever be reloaded and fired as fast as this game would make it seem. One could argue that these traits were included to incorporate a pacing and strategy element to the gameplay, but in a game that makes historical relevance a priority, they might have done more to ensure an accurate arms experience. Pacific’s controls and AI are also clunky and less polished than some higher-budget games. The missions them selves are repetitive, and the campaign length is short for the $40 to $50 price tag.
Those are particularly important criticisms. Well-crafted, original gameplay is perhaps the most important characteristic of any video game. If a game’s creators can incorporate an educational experience into a fun, challenging game, so much the better. But considering Pacific’s drawbacks, hardcore gamers looking for a challenging and original war game may be better off with one of myriad other high-quality World War II shooters. Battle for the Pacific is better suited for the history buff who is less concerned with the gaming experience itself and more interested in playing a game for a historical experience that is more immersive and engaging than watching a television program.
Originally published in the July 2008 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.