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Pacific Storm
by Jason Lobo
Dec. 26, 2006

First Impressions
I was excited to get a review copy of Pacific Storm from Buka Entertainment, a Russian based software company. The game concept is absolutely a dream come true, the mixing of several game genres into one massive game. I was curious how Pacific Storm would stack up to such classics as the Great Naval Battles series, Pacific Fighters, and War in the Pacific. With these games as my measuring stick, I started to play PS. I installed the game and I was very impressed with the opening movie. Nothing gets me more excited to play a game than a good intro movie, and Buka hits the magazine with their intro. PS has an in-depth tutorial mode covering all aspects of the different modes of the game and a very comprehensive manual. The tutorial is a must! It helps explain the complicated camera movement system, which took some practice.

Air sim: B-
First of all, this is not a hard-core flight-sim. There are damage bars, unlimited ammo (which is re-loadable), and red/green triangles to track all the planes in the sky. Buka made it clear that this is an "arcade-style" flight-sim, so on that note, I cut them some slack. I liked the airplane selection. You can fly a plethora of US and Japanese planes, from lowly scouts, such as the OS2U Kingfisher, to the most massive bombers, B-29 Superfortress. Other planes in the vast air arsenal include - Japanese: The classic Zero, the Ki-43 Hayabusa, the exotic J7W Shinden, G4M Betty, D3A Val, B5N Kate, and three types of scout planes. United States: Nine types of fighters, P-38, P-39, P-40, and the P-80. Bombers include Dauntless, TBF Avenger, A-20, B-25, B-17, and massive B-29. I tested the Pearl Harbor scenario, the Leyte Gulf scenario, and the bombing of Nagasaki.

At Pearl Harbor, I was totally blown away at the level of detail of the Pearl Harbor map. Buka spared no details here, there were plenty of buildings, fuel tanks, and various other structures. The first neat feature in the flight sim mode is that you can jump into any plane (on your side) and fly from third person or from first person. The key layout was very easy to use. You can easily move between pilot and gunner positions of the plane using the numeric keypad. I jumped into a B5N Kate and dove at the nearest battleship. As I closed, a torrent of flak came my way. I watched my damage bar drop rapidly, the next think I knew, my plane exploded and was spiraling towards the earth. Next plane! I jumped into another Kate and headed towards Battleship Row. I dove down, lined up my target, torpedoes away! I switched to third person and watched the torpedo strike the battleship. I exited out of the plane, which was shot down five seconds later, and switched to a Val dive-bomber. In third person, in the bomber, there is a bomb reticule that shows when to drop the bomb load. I found the air-sim AI to be fairly aggressive. The defending fighters pounced on my incoming bombers and, in turn, my fighter escort valiantly fought off the incoming fighters.

The Nagasaki mission is a very tough and surprising mission. It's a good thing the Japanese didn't have any of these weapons at their disposal during the actual mission, history might be different. In this scenario, you face the highest point of the Japanese tech tree. You start out with several waves of attacks before the B-29s arrive. In your strike fighters, you must take out multiple flak sites, which are fiercely defended by air cover. I quickly realized I was in a hornet's nest of top line Japanese fighters. The next part of the mission was to eliminate several surface to air missile sites. I turned my Hellcat to fly to the target area, only to have it suddenly explode. There weren't any fighters around, and there wasn't any flak -- SAMS! To say the least, I did not get very close to the SAM sites. Enter the flight of B-29s. There are only three Superfortresses and none can be lost. If the SAM sites didn't get taken out, the mission ends really quickly. I never was able to drop "The Bomb."

AI Bot running SUBSIM, what could go wrong?!

Tactical: C-
True to Subsim form, the first vessels I went looking for were the subs. Pacific Storm has an impressive armada of ships to choose from. The Japanese Fleet consists of: the Zuikaku and Akagi aircraft carrier classes, the Nagato and Yamato battleship classes, three heavy and light cruiser classes, such as Mogami, three destroyer class, such as the Kagero, the B3 (I-58) class submarine, and two types of merchant ships. Some of the featured ships in the US Fleet are: The Lexington and Essex class aircraft carriers, the Colorado and Iowa class battleships, three types of cruisers, such as the Baltimore class, three types of destroyers, such as the Fletcher, the Gato class submarine, and two types of supply ships. When you start a game, the historical names of the ships will randomly be assigned. On one mission, I sailed the legendary USS Barb and the next time I played, it was the Cavalla.

I quickly created a small Japanese convoy, consisting of two tankers and a destroyer in the Battle Planner. The Battle Planner was very easy to use. I was very impressed with the choice and quality of the maps. I picked my subs for my wolfpack; the Gato and the Cavalla then headed out to sea. In the tactical mode, the game is more like an RTS game than a sim. Point and click. You do have a limited first person control over the secondary weapons (anti-aircraft guns), but you have no control over the main weapon platforms of the ship. I was really disappointed that I could not actually control the ship and main guns of the ships. Perhaps Buka's goal was to have this aspect of the game to be an RTS and not a sim.

I clicked on the map and the sub automatically turned and sailed to that spot. The subs also auto engaged the enemy, which they quickly destroyed. I let one of the destroyers attack me. At periscope depth the destroyer made quick work of my sub but at maximum depth, my sub slipped away. You only have 6 torpedoes to shoot until you need to reload. The reload time was horribly slow (the game ended before I loaded a single torpedo), so choose your targets wisely.

While the graphics are fairly good, I found the gameplay options very limited and the AI seemed kind of iffy at times. I was somewhat disappointed with this. I was surprised that the merchant ships made no attempt to evade me, but sailed straight at me. The destroyers seemed to know where I was, and fired at me until I went deep. The sub has three basic settings: Surfaced, periscope depth, and maximum depth. To sum up the attack, I clicked on the map, my sub sailed that way, and then I clicked on a target, the sub attacked, scenario over. I was disappointed with the narrow focus on this aspect of the gameplay but I don't think the designers had subs in mind as a main feature when they designed the game.

Even within the team vs. team battle mode, there is actually a lot of variation. Some games will be big fleet showdowns of a hundred players; others will prohibit the use of torpedoes or exclude carriers, or will be only for the capital ships. Some of the most rewarding and flexible play is actually found in small but dynamic Destroyer vs. Destroyer skirmishes of perhaps a dozen players.

I then played the Leyte Gulf engagement and experienced PS in all of its glory. I started play with the US Task Force. I quickly launched my scout planes and every carrier plane my computer processor could handle. Hordes of Japanese fighters, dive bombers and torpedo planes were boring in on my battle group. I selected one of my fighters and searched out my first target. I started a head on pass with a Japanese fighter. We fired at each other at the same time. My damage bar dropped to half and my controls ceased to respond. I left that plane and found one of my scout planes, which had reached the Japanese task force by now. My first scout plane was taken out by the flak, so I jumped into the second. In third person mode, you have a bombsite aiding you in your bombing run. I lined up on the lead destroyer and let him have it. Missed! Two large splashes aft of the destroyer! Back to flight school with me.

Enter the Yamato. with its cruiser entourage. They opened fire on my task force, rapidly sending my lead destroyers to the bottom. I quickly switched to my torpedo planes, which had reached the Japanese task force. I jump into one plane, tracers and flak are whizzing all around the canopy. WHACK, WHACK, WHACK, the torpedo bomber burst into flames and spiraled into the ocean. I chose another torpedo bomber, lined up on a destroyer... torpedoes away. Scratch one destroyer.

There are no reloads of your main ordinance, so I picked another bomber with a torpedo. This time, I used the Japanese strategy, kamikaze. I picked a target, and dived towards another destroyer. It hit me with its flak, but too late. Ka-Boom! That evened the score for ship loses. Then I went after the Yamato. My remaining destroyers launched a torpedo salvo against the Yamato and the remainder of my torpedo bombers homed in on the mighty battleship. Four torpedoes strike her. A torpedo found her magazine and produced a fatal hit. Down went the Yamato.

Strategic: A
The campaign mode in Pacific Storm is where the propeller hits the water. There are two types of campaign modes, one that starts pre-1941 and the other starts at the beginning of the war. In the pre-war mode, you have until late 1941 to have your country ready for war. I elected to play as the Japanese and start in the pre-war mode. This is a free for all land grab. I quickly captured Wake, Borneo, ant the Western Aleutians. One vital aspect to the game is to maintain your supply lines. As in the real world, your ships only have a limited sailing distance, so you need to build refueling points (and defend them). Building a base is more than just capturing a point on the map. In Pacific Storm, you need to build barracks, warehouses, fuel storage facilities, base defenses, and an airfield.

To build all of that stuff, you need people, and a lot of them. You initially need engineers to start the building process, but you also need to send pilots, sailors, workers, and hero characters (such as Yamamoto) to maintain the base. You need to advance your technologies, build your economy (which is vast in this game), build and fortify bases. The technology tree is your standard weapon evolution and improvement. Some of the more surprising weapons in the tech tree are missile ranges, sonar jamming, and super weapons- vis-a-vis nuclear bombs and biological bombs. This is where the game takes a complicated turn. Fortunately, you can automate most of your supply convoys.

In order to keep your government performing at top efficiency, you have certain tasks to perform, and whether it's building a bunker or invading an island, you need to move fast to keep on top of everything. You can create an assortment of ammunition, such as the various types of torpedoes.

Once you have your economy and forces strong enough, it's time to declare war. Attack one of the enemy fortifications and it's game on. You will quickly apply all of the skills learned in the flight-sim and tactical modes. When you come in contact with the enemy, you can take command of the battle or allow the computer to decide the battle. As much as I love PS campaign mode concept, after about an hour, I found myself totally overwhelmed with things to manage. I wish they made some smaller campaign modes, such as the Guadalcanal campaign. I think this would have been a good learning campaign, and easier to manage. One good side to the campaign mode is the time compression. You can make the game go as fast or as slow as you like, which is nice when you have task forces sailing very long distances. PS has a wide range of upgrades in their technology tree. From lowly concrete bunkers to nuclear and biological weapons.

For those of you who'd rather mod Pacific Storm than play it, this looks like this is a great fit for you. It seems to me that Buka is very accommodating to modders. I had no problems with multiplayer. Multiplayer was pretty straight forward and easy to use. I had no problems connecting on my LAN. The basic multiplayer modes are instant air action, where you start out on your carrier or island. You are both fairly close to each other, so you don't spend hours looking for each other. You can also engage in surface action. One of the plus sides is that you can add AI players and play in co-operative mode.

I was disappointed with the game sounds and gunfire graphics. I really felt like they decided to cut corners there and let the "community" come up with their own sounds. While I really enjoyed the game music, I felt some of the music fit a spy-hunter type game and not a World War Two game. Another downside was I had several program crashes. The biggest disappointment I found with the game was the lack of greater control over the surface ships. I would have really graded the tactical mode higher if you could exercise greater control over the ship than just the anti-aircraft guns and the direction it sails.

Overall Grade: B
Pacific Storm is a very enjoyable game, despite its initial learning curve and occasional game crashes. I feel the game hits the bulls-eye with the wide range of planes you can fly, the quick mission generator, and the vast scope of the tactical campaign mode. There is such a wide range of possibilities of gameplay; I think an interested player will be able to wring a lot of repeat play from Pacific Storm.

Rating:  81

Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/
Game play Repeat Play Stability
Multi- play Mission Editor
14/20 8/10 8/10 5/10 17/20 10/10 5/10 4/5 5/5
BONUS: +5 website & mod support  


Publisher: Buka Entertainment/CDV Software Entertainment
Lesta Studio

  SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Intel Pentium 4 2400 MHz or similar. Active memory: 768 Мb Video: 3D speed-increase unit (GeForce FX5600 or Radeon 9600), 128Мb HDD capacity: 1500Мb Remote control units: keyboard, mouse, joystick Operating system: Windows 2000, XP DirectX: 9.0b and higher; Sound: any DirectX compatible sound card; Joystick
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