Another epic RTS/simulation hybrid covering the fight between the Allies and the Japanese in the Pacific during WWII comes nipping at the heels of Battlestations: Midway. Unlike its fun-but-slightly-dumbed-down arcadey cousin, the emphasis in Pacific Storm: Allies is on the astounding scale of the conflict, and on fiddly real-time strategy rather than shooting things to pieces in person.
The concept is great: a Total War-style strategic recreation of the war, with you controlling all building and construction options on the zoomed-out map, and then taking control of individual battles as you and the enemy clash over control of individual territories.
But ye gods, running a massive war-effort spanning thousands of square miles of ocean, fleets of ships, armies of men and squadrons of planes is a headache. Troops have to be shipped to bases, engineers provided to build installations, pilots available to man aircraft, sailors delivered to crew warships.
The sad thing is that military housekeeping appears to absorb approximately 95% of your time, with all those ‘boring’ tasks such as piloting torpedo bombers on death-defying attack runs against enemy carriers and manning anti-aircraft guns against Japanese Kamikaze assaults reduced to something of a sideshow.
When you do find time to put down the spreadsheets and have a battle, they’re often massive-scale affairs, simultaneously challenging your graphics card to render every bomb, bullet and bulkhead, and your cranium to keep track of what’s going down. This latter task isn’t helped by an ungainly interface that can’t cope with the millions of planes and ships throwing buckets of hot lead at each other, often reducing you to panicked spectator, trying to figure out who’s doing what to whom and why. Jumping into the cockpit of any plane or behind the guns of any ship is always an option, although in a basically pointless sim-lite fashion.