The attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway, the Battle of Okinawa – the Pacific Theatre of World War II contested some of the fiercest air battles ever seen. Published by Kalypso Media, Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers PlayStation 4 Edition lets players experience intense next-gen air combat from both sides of the war first-hand. Step into the boots of Admiral Lucas Stark (US Navy) and coordinate the defence of Pearl Harbor and the liberation of the Pacific Ocean — or win honour and glory for the Japanese empire as Admiral Hideaki Hashimoto (Imperial Japanese Army).
The start of the game sees you control an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. Most of Air Conflicts’ complication is located in the game’s three fundamental combat mechanics: dog fighting, bombing, and torpedo runs. You start out by going through routine training missions, which aim to give you a grasp of the controls and games mechanics. I actually found controlling the aircraft easy to handle, but timing bomb drops and aiming proved to be a tricky task.
Upon completion or circumvention of Pacific Carriers’ training mode, four campaigns await, split between the perspective of the Americans and the Japanese. With four campaigns on offer, Pacific Carriers tries to do something a little bit different with its mission structure, in that there are a number of optional missions you can attempt as you progress through the campaign. This does offer some nice variation and keeps things different enough to keep it interesting. Prior to each mission you choose to command one of three aircraft carriers, 22 battle ships or aircraft from a collection of 18 famous airplane types, such as the Japanese A6M “Zero” and the Aichi D3 “Val,” or the American F4F “Wildcat” or F4U “Corsair” and outfit it as desired with guns and payload—a heavier payload will slow you down, while focusing too much on guns will hinder your ability to take out big targets.
In arcade mode on-screen icons help guide your actions. Simulation mode places more of the control in your hands. You can play from the point of view of the US Navy or Imperial Japanese Navy, while the “instant battle” game mode allows dogfights and bombing. You slowly acquire experience points and skills, which allow you to conflict more damage to ships. If you’ve played “Legends of War: Patton” this might appeal to you, as the campaign has some similarities. You can manage your pilots, change different weapons on planes and have camouflage on the planes.
At first I found shooting down planes and dropping bombs to be satisfying, but was frustrated that it caused such little damage. It took a lot of time to master how to perfectly time dropping bombs onto ships. The game allows players to shift to a comrade’s aircraft. As such, a press of the select button allows the AI to take control of planes that have depleted their munitions or badly damaged. If one of your planes goes down, there is still a chance that your pilot bailed out and survived. If you are not pleased with the outcome, you can always restart a mission or redo the last checkpoint. Like previous installments, the AI occasionally forgets what it’s supposed to do and I also experienced the occasional frame rate drop from time to time.
Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers PlayStation 4 Edition looks good, with decent lighting, nice camera angles and the aircrafts themselves look good. I liked the HUD layout, which is simplistic but usable. The water shades are incredibly beautiful especially when bullet or cannon fire impacts with the water and since the majority of the game is naval sea carrier battles, it makes the game visually appealing. The plane and ships models are beautiful crafted and realistic as our the explosions when planes fall from the skies and break up and fall apart in unpredictable and random ways and ships actually sink if they are destroyed. When you dive you will see the cockpit actually shaking and hear wind sheer, other sounds like engine splutter, explosions and the cracking of machine guns are ultra realistic too. The music feels epic and suits the gameplay well, with symphonic tracks that work nicely.
Overall, Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers PlayStation 4 Edition has some moments of fun gameplay, whether its shooting down an enemy plane of torpedoing a ship. It’s a shame that it’s so hard timing bomb drops and the little impact they often make. Also some of the game mechanics could have been explained a bit more clearly. I enjoyed being able to switch from various viewpoints, including from inside the cockpit itself and the competitive online multiplayer mode where you take on up to 8 players or buddy up with friends, to take on new enemies across Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Carrier Battle or Team Deathmatch was great fun and adds replay value. While marred with occasional glitches, dodgy AI and some tricky controls, the game is fun enough to keep you entertained.
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