• Pacific Combat Pilot

    Pacific Combat Pilot

    By Gary Evans (1 February 2000)


    Fig. 1

    The Package.

    I am very impressed with the packaging of Pacific Combat Pilot by The Associates. The software comes in a nice sturdy box with a great picture of a Zero being stalked by a Hellcat on the front. Inside I found a 68 page manual, 45 pages of which are in English and the rest being basic installation instructions in French, German, Spanish, and Italian. (I did wonder why there was no instructions in Japanese). The first four or five pages covers basic installation and usage instructions, the next five pages contain a summary of the missions and then there are some finer points regarding particular aircraft and their controls, followed by 27 pages of descriptions and history of the included 27 aircraft.

    Installation.

    I recommend that users READ the instructions starting on page 2. I simply put the CD into my drive and thought the auto run option would install automatically. Not so! I didn't get far into the install routine before my system locked up. After a couple of attempts, I found the English folder on the CD and ran the install program from there. Add ons for CFS seem to be more procedure critical than FS98 add ons. After installing, I rebooted my machine and settled down for some quality flying.


    Fig. 2

    The Planes.

    20 Japanese planes are included with the package. Four of these are fantasy planes, ones which might have reached the prototype or evaluation stage but were not really in service. These are the Nakajima Kikka (an Me262 equivalent (fig. 1)), the Kyushu J7W1 Shinden (first flight 3 days before the end of the war), the Mitsubishi Ki-200 (similar to the Me163 Komet), and the Nakajima G8N1 four engined heavy bomber (production cancelled). In addition there are four marks of Zero, two versions of the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien, a Mitsubishi G4M Betty bomber, a Nakajima Kate carrier borne bomber, and my favourite, a Mitsubishi Dinah reconnaissance plane (fig. 2). The other 7 planes are fighters and comprise a Kawanishi N12K Shindenkai (George), a Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden (Jack), a Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar), a Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki (Tojo), a Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (Gale), a Kawasaki Ki-100-1 Goshki, and the Kawasaki Ki-100-2 Goshki. The last two were developed from the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien after a mating a radial engine with the airframe.

    Allied planes are represented by the F4U Corsair, the F6F Hellcat, the P51D Mustang in US and Dutch colours, a Spitfire VIII, a Mosquito fighter bomber and the Boeing B29. I was surprised that there was no P38, P40 or P400 included, as they bore the brunt of much of the fighting in the earlier stages of the war.

    All planes are superbly painted with a full range of moving parts and transparent canopies. This provides a visual feast in external view. Pilots in some even turn their heads as you move the controls. On the negative side, some of the detail is strictly 2D. Gun turrets in the bombers for example are like cardboard cutouts, as are some of the pilots.


    Fig. 3

    There are some things to avoid with these planes. For example most planes carry external fuel tanks which can be toggled in and out of view by hitting the / key. Be aware though that this command also lowers and engages the arrestor hook for landing on carriers, as well as opening the bomb bay doors on the bombers, so do not hit it on take off or you will be surprised to be "hurtling" down the runway at 7 mph! Other notable commands are shift 2 which will bring up an auto pilot panel, shift 3 which brings up engine controls, and shift 4 which brings up a Radio VOR and ADF panel. On the Zero for some reason the commands are shift 3,4, and 5 respectively.

    All flight models have been developed very accurately, as far as I can tell, and optimum speeds are only obtained at the correct altitudes, so don't be surprised at the slow speed of the Zero at low altitude for example. In actual combat the planes handle beautifully, and are the correct size, which is a perspective problem that seems to plague CFS.

    Sounds.

    Engine sounds are fantastic in this package. The fighter engines sound great, and the bombers sounds different again. Terrific attention to detail here. Also there is a neat bomb whistle as you drop bombs from the Kate, which coupled with the "open bomb doors" command (the / key) greatly adds to the realism. On the whole I would give this package ten out of ten for sound effects.


    Fig. 4

    Panels.

    All panels are easy to read and more than adequate for this type of add on. The B29 panel (fig. 3) is very good, but some of the others such as the G4M, look a bit ordinary in comparison (fig. 4). Gauges are easy to read, and controls easy to find. The panels are authentic enough to add interest, but the 3D mode is a waste of time, in fact, it is plain awful.

    If you are using FUJI, FLY, or FS2000, and love the 3D view shots of your aircraft interiors, then you will be disappointed here, CFS just doesn't cut it in this area. I have yet to see a 3D view in CFS that does, so it is no reflection on the authors of this package.

    Scenery.

    Included with the package is scenery for Rota, Tinian, Aslito, a US carrier, and a Japanese carrier. The scenery is very much FS98 in quality, and probably not the best example either. Given the quality of the artwork on the planes, I would have thought the scenery could have been better, but it is certainly adequate. The Islands are surrounded by nice sandy beaches (fig. 5), and there are mountains for placing artillery and pill boxes and stuff like that. History buffs will be a bit confused with the carriers, the US one (fig. 7.) looks a bit like the Saratoga, but she never had triple turrets on her deck, the Japanese carrier (fig. 6) I think, is likewise representative of the era rather than an actual ship.


    Fig. 5

    The nitty gritty of the package is the campaigns and missions. There are 20 of them, 10 for each side. If you take off from an aircraft carrier you might like to remember not to hit the / key, and also go to full emergency power to avoid getting your feet wet. You can also toggle map view on to aid your navigation up the flight deck. Missions are quite challenging, and vary from reconnaissance missions to find enemy fleets, to softening up invasion beaches and attacking or defending aircraft carriers or other shipping.

    When you select campaigns, you will have to pick custom, as the package doesn't load Japanese as a default campaign. Pick a name and you are off. Interestingly, even though the campaign is the defence/invasion of Saipan, you are still treated to a picture of Southern England in the map box when selecting campaign or single mission. Given the problems with other add ons where suitable pictures are displayed, that might not be a bad thing, as it doesn't really matter anyway, you can take a look in map view at any time during your missions.

    All campaign missions are available as single missions too if you want to practice before getting into the serious action. Missions are not too easy either. In some of the early missions in the stock standard CFS campaigns, your wing men took care of the fighters while you were almost free to hit bombers. It was also not uncommon to complete a mission where your squadron shot down 11 enemy planes and you got 9 of them.


    Fig. 6
    Not so with this package, if you ignore enemy fighters you do so at your peril. Believe me, they are all over you! One thing though, I did manage to down 3 enemy bombers in one mission before getting shot down and the debriefing table told me I had got 3 enemy fighters. Not sure if this is a package error or a CFS error. All in all, I think the campaigns and missions are an improvement over the standard ones.

    Quick Combat.

    In this mode all planes are available as either flyable or enemy planes. This is great if you want to have a go at four engine Japanese bombers or fly them. By using rear view and jinking about a bit, I even managed to down an attacking fighter from my heavy Japanese bomber. Whilst basking in this unexpected glory, I was promptly shot down by the replacement. Quick combat is also great for matching the supreme manoeuvrability of your Japanese fighters against the heavier allied types too. Speed wise in level flight, only the Ki-84 can mix it with the P51, Corsair or Spitfire though, and even then it is a bit slower.

    One thing you can try, if you are game, is to emulate the exploits of St. Sgt Matsumi Nakano or Major Kobayashi and ram a B29 in a Ki-61-1. Both these pilots downed two B29's each in this fashion and landed to relate the tale.


    Fig. 7

    Lastly, if you want to experience all of the aircraft, go to free flight and select them one by one. You can explore them all visually, as well as using the go to option to check out the new scenery. 3D objects are not available in this mode, but it is a leisurely way to check out your chosen planes capabilities before mixing it with the enemy.

    In conclusion, Pacific Combat Pilot is a great add on from The Associates. I already had Combat Pilot number 1, so I was not surprised at the quality and handling characteristics of the aircraft in this package. The textures, sounds and moving parts are excellent as are the transparent canopies. The missions and campaigns are good, and the scenery is reasonable. Above all, you get the chance to fly some great classic and unusual planes, and fight against new enemies. Just be careful when using the / key and you should get hours of enjoyment out of this worthy add on to CFS.


    Test System:

    • Aptiva PII 233 MMX
    • Voodoo III 2000 PCI 16mb video card
    • 64mb RAM
    • MS Sidewinder Force Feedback Joystick

    Gary Evans
    [email protected]


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