Back to Bataan! Fair History, Fair Game Play
There just aren't enough WWII flight-sims anymore. That's why it was a pleasure to see a new release for the genre, especially with the setting in the Pacific. The European theater was undoubtedly interesting, but from the perspective of a gamer, flying CAP missions, torpedo bombing, dive bombing, and ground strafing in the Pacific far overshadow the run-of-the-mill escort mission that make up a large part of European theater-based WWII flight-sims.
The era and setting for a good flight-sim are set, so how does the rest of the game fare? Unfortunately, mediocrity is the key word to describe this game, but there are some interesting and well done aspects - and here they are!
The visuals are beautiful, there is no doubt about it. Nothing beats the site of a Japanese Zero blow to pieces before your mighty .50 caliber machine guns. (Historical Note: Japanese planes did, quite often, blow up when shot - their fuel tanks were not self-sealing like the Americans', so a few hot bullets and bam!). The skies and terrain are gorgeous and the detail on the plane models are well done. There is some music in the game, mostly themed. So while in some selection menu there will often be a Japanese-esque theme playing, while the actual game play has that robust American sound, complete with allot of strings and horns.
The meat of any flight-sim is, of course, the actual game play. "Heroes" does not drop the ball like many others in this genre; the developers have built a sturdy and usable flight-control system. There are two choices at the beginning of every mission: arcade controls, or realistic controls. Most will choose the arcade controls as they work best for the small PS2 game pad. Controlling the aircraft in the game should come naturally to most gamers: push the thumb stick to the left and the plane turns left.
There are many different types of missions that mix up the game play nicely. Some of the more interesting ones have you flying a B-25 bomber, or a PBY Catalina flying boat. And quite surprisingly, the AI controlled gun crews in the large bombers perform quite effectively. The diversity of combat missions is one of the few major strengths this game has.
If I had to compare this game to a particular aircraft I'd have to choose the P-40 Warhawk. It looks cool, flies nice, and gets the job done, but when compared to the competition, there need to be some improvements. The primary failing of the game: the flight-control system. Please note, I am not contradicting myself, I did indeed state that it gets the job done, but this subject requires some further discussion. When compared to the controls of a game like "Ace Combat 4", "Heroes" falls sadly behind. It was as if the developers could not decide to make the controls completely arcade-like, or completely realistic. The developers decided on an amalgam or compromise in "Heroes", which is sad, because had the developers jumped instead of leaned to one side or the other, the controls could have been quite a delight.
What is most frustrating about this game is the difficulty in turning, rolling, and looping. The computer assisted arcade controls assist in the turning, but by doing so they restricting the latter two maneuvers. This can be quite deadly when engaged in a dog-fight. When fighting, I had to accelerate away from the fight, then rush back in and try to take the enemies head on, which usually resulted in my plane getting some damage. Which brings me to the next failing of the game, the lack of damage your plane receives when shot. The planes you'll fly are nearly indestructible on the normal difficulty setting; hell, you can even smash into other planes more than once and still survive! This is just ridiculous.
Finally, (speaking of ridiculous), the writing for this game is quite bad. When you're character, the hero of the Pacific, yells "Oh man!", you know you're in for trouble. The writing is silly.
The Bottom Line
This is not a bad game. "Heroes" does a serviceable
job, (no pun intended). The game has many fun moments, but few are very standout. The visuals are nice to look at, but there is allot of bad dialogue. The controls work, but there is some frustrating limitations. There is an attempt at conveying some historical stuff to the gamer; there is actual WWII footage strewn throughout, but it isn't anything you haven't already seen on the History Channel. "Heroes" runs the straight and narrow path down the center of the grading scale. If you have grown up on games like Sierra's "Aces Over the Pacific" or even LucasArts "X-Wing" and "Tie-Fighter" games, then you'll most likely be a bit disappointed by this title. And if you have no idea what those games are, then there is a good chance you'll like this game allot.