A while back we reviewed IL-2: Forgotten Battles from Russian developer 1C: Maddox Games and publisher Ubi Soft. We were impressed with the fidelity of the flight physics, the feel and sound of the aircraft and of course the wonderful graphics. However, we had reason to lament the accessibility of the game and the very stolid campaign mode. It was, to be blunt, dry and soulless.
Oleg Maddox and his team of developers have moved theaters to the bright, sunny Pacific Ocean, concentrating the new game on the Pacific War between Japan and the United States, while also giving a nod to the Australians and Brits in the theater. So instead of a predominantly Russian-German cast of aircraft, Pacific Fighters features American and Japanese fighters, with some British planes like the Seafire, Spitfire and Beaufighter thrown in.
The terrain has changed completely. In fact, much of the time, there's very little terra firma to be seen. Should you choose the life of a carrier pilot, you'll fly, live and die over water. There are multiple dynamic campaigns available, for the USAAF, Imperial Japanese Army, Imperial Japanese Navy, US Marine Corps, US Navy, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Navy. Some of the campaigns offer the player a choice between the life of a fighter and bomber pilot.
Yet, despite all these changes and additions, there is absolutely no denying that Pacific Fighters is still just IL-2 at heart. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, if much of the flight sim community considers the flight performance of the aircraft to be very true to life (even if the controls are a bit touchy), one can hardly blame the developers for simply continuing the tradition. Change simply for the sake of change isn't bad.
This doesn't disguise the fact that this really is just a theater change, however. The criticisms we had of Forgotten Battles are just as true now as they were before - if not more so. The focus on realism and appeal to the hardcore community is all-pervasive. Even at the easiest difficulty levels, with realism turned down, it takes more skill to fly a plane in Pacific Fighters than it ever did in say... European Air War.
For all the notable achievements of the development team, like re-creating mobile aircraft carriers (and the AI pilots to be able to use them - both tasks sound a lot simpler than they really are), the fact is that 1C: Maddox Games stayed far away from the core issues that afflict their games, but we'll get to that later.