Flying under the radar, Damage Inc., Pacific Squadron WWII emerges keen to offer the ultimate World War 2 arcade flying experience. It does so by allowing pilots to control all manners of aeroplanes from fighters, dive bombers, torpedo bombers and even the humble scout plane. On paper, it should be the ideal title for the amateur flight buff, keen to play a more mainstream experience than a game obsessed with all the finer nuances of flying. In reality, Damage Inc., Pacific Squadron WWII misfires on all cylinders, even despite its best efforts. There's an enjoyable game in there but it's clouded by frustration and repetition.
Things begin quite badly, at least for collector's edition owners equipped with a shiny new Saitek Pacific AV8R Flight Stick. The introductory tutorial ably puts controller users through their paces but turns distinctly vague when using the stick. It's more a matter of muddling through and seeing what all the buttons do for one's self rather than relying on the game to explain all. Unfortunate given the stick's relative accuracy otherwise. The tutorial isn't the strongest, regardless, given its propensity to be a little too finicky especially when lining up a landing.
World War II buffs will enjoy the fairly accurate looking planes on offer here
Still, things turn quite fun at first. There's a cliched story to contextualise and attempt to humanise what's going on but actually flying is pretty enjoyable. At first, at least. It's quite simple to fly nimbly around the skies, dodging bullets and completing as many Immelmann turns as the heart desires. Combat is quite intuitive, also. Appreciating that moving targets are harder to shoot at than stationary ones, the game provides players with a red arrow near the enemy planes. This is then the guide for where to aim at to shoot them down. It works well and it's satisfying the first few times. It can be awkward, though. RB initiates a slow-mo bullet time style effect, making it easier to line up shots. It's unlimited with no gauge controlling its usage, which is handy given how quickly it becomes vital. What isn't so handy is that the right trigger button shoots, meaning a cumbersome grip of rb and right trigger at the same time. Throw in the fact that there are 104 different aeroplanes to shoot down in the first mission (and they're just the ones that are essential for victory) and Damage Inc., Pacific Squadron WWII runs a dangerous gauntlet of tedium very early on.
Things do attempt to turn more varied, fortunately. Other planes come into use with players controlling scout planes, dive bombers, torpedo bombers and heavy bombers. Each offer different strengths and ways of using them. The scout planes are relatively relaxing to use with mission goals involving flying to certain checkpoints in order to take photographs of an enemy target. Some combat is required but given the light weapons available, it's rarely challenging. Dive bombing brings with it its own challenge as there's quite a knack to figuring out how to dive bomb. The weak tutorials rear their head again as it doesn't really go into depth as to the best way to dive bomb. Players must ensure they're aiming at the target from a steep angle while also at a fast speed. Practice is most definitely needed here due to the lack of guidance. Fortunately, there's plenty of opportunity as, again, much like the dogfighting levels, such mechanics are overused a tad too much. It makes Damage Inc., Pacific Squadron WWII more an exercise in repetition than anything else. Unfortunate given short doses of the same action is satisfyingly entertaining.
Many of the missions either involve protecting or destroying ships and aircraft carriers
As the game progresses, so do the irritations. Checkpoints start being placed in unusual positions with some missions feeling decidedly buggy. One mission in particular requires the player to fly at extreme speed in order to return to a nearby island in order to save ground troops. It requires lightning fast reactions which feel more like the developers mistimed their checkpoints than wanted to offer a huge difficulty spike. Another mission requires the weak scout plane to take out 130 surface units within a tight time limit, despite only having the use of a very weak machine gun. It doesn't feel challenging, it feels cheap and frustrating.
Damage Inc., Pacific Squadron WWII tries to pick up the pace with the use of boss battles of sorts. Players must defeat an Ace Squadron of Japanese fighters at regular junctures, but that just reinforces Damage Inc., Pacific Squadron WWII's ability to give with one hand and take away with another. For every ten minutes of fun, there'll be a similar length of time in which players want to tear their hair out and give up.
Dive bombing is satisfying, once eventually mastered
There's more to Damage Inc., Pacific Squadron WWII than just the campaign mode with a co-op option and multiplayer functionality. Neither are quite enough to help it much, however. The co-op mode merely involves replaying past missions. The multiplayer offers similar modes that we've seen elsewhere with Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch equivalents. There's also a Last Man Standing mode in the form of Survivor. Most enjoyable is the Scratch One Flaptop mode which involves two teams fighting to sink the other team's aircraft carrier in time. It's the mode that I can see most players gravitating to, purely because it offers something a little different from the usual multiplayer crowd.
Taking out a kamikaze fighter moments before it hits your beloved aircraft carrier.
Platform Played: Xbox 360
DAMAGE INC. PACIFIC SQUADRON WWII VERDICT
Ultimately though, none of it is enough to lift Damage Inc., Pacific Squadron WWII above mediocrity standing. Most of the missions outstay their welcome with shooting down so many planes each level, quickly becoming tedious and dull. There are some nice ideas in here and the variation in plane types is a nice touch. It just all feels far too overused and occasionally awkward.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Taking out a kamikaze fighter moments before it hits your beloved aircraft carrier.Platform Played: Xbox 360