Attack on Pearl Harbor Preview (PC)

With the announcement of Call of Duty 4 and the fuss surrounding the 'Modern Warfare' setting, you'd have thought it'd be at least a few days before anybody had to delve back into World War II in videogame form yet again. Unfortunately developer Legendo appears to have missed that particular memo, so here we go yet again; this time dipping into the events surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor. Thankfully Ben Affleck is nowhere to be found and the action offered up is a surprisingly promising arcade-shooter along the lines of Crimson Skies or Blazing Angels. Maybe we can squeeze one or two more games into the most over-crowded historical setting after all.

Attack on Pearl Harbor is an arcade experience through and through
Some nice graphical effects are on show

'Attack on Pearl Harbor' casts you as a pilot in the second world war, flying in a variety of planes and asked to deal with the titular attack before moving on to key events across the entire campaign. The action is broken up with various comic-book style cutscenes which lend the game a fairly non-serious tone and fit well with the straightforward and arcade sensibilities the core gameplay provides. This is one PC flying game that definitely doesn't need a £100 flight stick to get the most out of, and boy am I thankful for that.

The historical missions in the single-player campaign span a wide range of activities from straightforward dogfighting to attacks on distant targets, bombing runs and even torpedoing fleeing boats and other vessels. Initially told from the American side of the war, eventually players are able to choose the Japanese also; re-living the war though the eyes of the then-enemy. Over the course of the title players will undertake over 50 separate missions, and if this particular preview build is anything to go by, that's a fair amount of game to complete.

Initially your selection of planes is limited, but after each mission your armoury is increased, soon expanding to all of the usual flying machines you'll doubtless know off by heart at this point. The big draw here is that some of the planes are limited in number. You may start the game with two planes of a certain type, but as soon as these have been destroyed, they wont be sat waiting for you on the menu screen the next time you boot up your game. This might seem a little harsh at first, but it has the potential to encourage some extremely frantic gameplay as you duck and weave your way out of trouble and strive to keep your plane from exploding mid-flight.

Daytime and night-time missions are available
Sunset and a nice plume of smoke, a familiar sight to gamers

Each plane has a primary and secondary weapon system which can range from missiles to torpedoes or even alternative cannons, all of which deploy in a suitably simplistic manner that never gets over-complicated in the heat of battle. The dogfighting itself is at times spectacular, with the enemy bobbing and weaving in and out of sight in a decently realistic manner that rewards skilful manoeuvring and punishes over-dependence on simply going as fast as possible and aiming straight. As a cliché, 'easy to pick up and hard to master' would be suitably apt.

With that said, the flying model sits firmly in the Crimson Skies mould, which is no bad thing considering the ease with which your chosen flying machine can be piloted with a mouse and a keyboard. It lends the game a sense of immediacy and fun that suits multiplayer as well as single-player action, and if CDV handles this side of things well they could have a decent online title on their hands upon release. For those that are interested; plugging in an Xbox 360 controller improves things even further, and the game sets up all the relevant mappings automatically.

Audio and graphical fidelity are at a decent stage in this build, with not too long to go before release. At times the lighting on the ocean looked excellent from a high vantage point, particularly during the sunset missions and night-time sorties when the light catches the horizon. Whilst it wont break your system or turn many heads, given a suitably powerful machine it'll certainly hold its own against any of the recent arcade-flyers out there.

The game forsakes in-engine cutscenes for a comic book approach
You'll need a gamepad or joystick for any degree of proper control

Things are looking good then for Attack on Pearl Harbor; and as it managed to completely turn around my rather jaded initial outlook on yet another World War II title, I'll be giving this the benefit of the doubt for now. Whilst it's probably not destined to be a classic of the PC gaming world, we can certainly look forward to a competent and technically accomplished arcade shooter come release day, which should be any time round about now.