Imagine: powering up the throttle, feeling the vibration of the powerful engine run through the metal chassis of the plane, looking through the glass dome above you and seeing the end of the runway. Then you’re off, gaining speed, you feel the wind buffeting the wings, the wheels bouncing off the bumps and ridges of the flight deck. Then you pull back on the stick, you’re up, the nose of the aircraft reaches up into the wild blue yonder as the world you leave behind gradually becomes smaller. Ahh, the exhilaration of flying, the freedom, the peace, the tranquillity… Suddenly broken by a spray of bullets smashing into the flimsy skin of the P-51 Mustang. Bank left, bank right, dive, climb, do whatever you can to avoid getting hit and engage the enemy.
That all sounds a little romantic, I know and that was what I was hoping for when installing Air Aces: Pacific, from Wastelands Interactive, a Polish games developer who has previously specialised in a selection of, not too bad, turn based strategy romps. According to the blurb, AA:P’s main features are:
– Realistic aerial battles.
– Dynamic scenery.
– Tens of simultaneously active planes.
– Variable reality settings.
– Several available planes.
– Career mode.
Sounds good so far, right? Then I looked at the glorious screen shots, wow, I thought – this is going to be cool. Oh dear, how very wrong was I.
Firstly, the game. Create a new profile for yourself and you are presented with the usual, run-of-the-mill start menu for new mission/campaign, settings, realism level etc. Select new campaign and you get to choose from a variety of combat aircraft, some of which can be unlocked by completing missions in the on-going campaign. You are then presented with some info regarding the state of the campaign and the mission briefing, which can be ignored, if you want, as pressing ‘Tab’ in-game will display your current objectives. Finally, after all that, you start on the flight deck of your aircraft carrier, looking from behind and slightly above the chosen plane. Pressing ‘W’ starts the engine and off you go, tally ho and all that, to shoot down the enemy. To begin with you have an unlimited number of rounds, five missiles and two torpedoes. These can be used to lay waste to the Japanese forces, who come at you with planes, ships, gun emplacements and suchlike. Complete the mission and land back on your aircraft carrier to start the next one, which incidentally you can land on at any time to re-stock your weapons or replenish your health.
Now for the result of all the above. This game is, without a doubt, the worst I have played for a long while, I’m sorry to say. I try to find the silver-lining with everything I test, but this game is truly terrible. The graphics look like they have been created by a ten year old with one of those make-your-own-3D-sim jobbies that crop up now and then, although the explosions look good the first time you blow up an enemy plane. The texture used for the water reminds me of the old 3D benchmark tests, it looks okay from a distance, but up close it becomes quite shocking. The sound is, well, there, which is a good thing because I was ready to cry after ten minutes of playing and it drowned out the noise of a grown man sobbing into his keyboard, but it’s like it’s been sampled from an 8-bit processor. The so called ‘realistic aerial battles’ are about as realistic as the LEGO-looking trees that occasionally dot the landscape and the ‘variable reality settings’ are basically the difficulty settings, which have no effect on the actual flying of the plane. The missions are either ridiculously easy or stupidly hard. For instance, Mission One asked me to take off and fly over a hill on an island – which I did – then land back on the carrier. Wow, nothing like having an absorbing tutorial mission! I had another gripe with Mission Three, which asked me to shoot down an enemy recon plane. I took off from the flight deck and within five seconds, the mission failed. I tried again and the same happened, in fact it did this over and over again before finally crashing out to my desktop. What really bugged me, however, was the fact that I couldn’t even re-start the game again to test it, the blasted thing kept crashing every time I loaded it. I had to uninstall it then re-install to get it working again. By the way, I fixed the problem after many attempts, by installing, playing past Mission Three, then exiting and applying the update, which allegedly fixes some of the other bugs that the developers are aware of. I was not a happy chap, I can tell you. Wastelands Interactive, you owe me an hour of my life!
Overall, the stability of the game is terrible, the graphics are third rate (at best), the spelling mistakes on the main menu and throughout the game are unforgivable, sound effects are like listening to a Texas Instruments Speak and Spell. This game is bad, very, very bad. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama once said, ‘When you come across such a chance for practising patience and tolerance, you should treat it with gratitude.’ So I would like to thank Wastelands Interactive for giving me this precious opportunity to cultivate and practice patience.
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