reviews\ Jun 13, 2001 at 8:00 pm

Pearl Harbor: Zero Hour - PC - Review

Sometimes a game comes along that allows players to alter history. You can traverse through time, seeing the injustice that was done, and correct it.

Then there is Pearl Harbor Zero Hour. You can view the carnage delivered by the Japanese surprise attack on December 7, 1941, but you can’t do anything about it. That is the major fault with this program. From ASAP Games and Simon & Schuster Interactive, this program deploys as a Pearl Harbor game, offering to let gamers dogfight, dive bomb and torpedo the enemy. Slight misconception.

Yes, you can do that, but not during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Actually, even that re-enactment is not that well done. For example, the ships were not lying next to the shore, nestled there, almost on the beach, unattached to anything. Yes, I should know. I spent five years in the Navy. No ship is ever lined up that close to the shore, outboard another ship with no anchor points. Waves tend to run a ship aground. Even with deep-water moorings, there has to be anchor points, or if the ships are outboard one another, buffers to prevent the ships from bumping. All the tonnard of battleships would cause a lot of damage. With one anchor, forward, the ship will still move, swing around as the tide determines. In this re-enactment, the ships are just sitting there, inanimate. The sad part is that they are better rendered than the ships in other parts of the game. And since this game bears the name of Pearl Harbor, one would reasonably expect an opportunity to participate, in some capacity, in that historical moment. You won't find it in this game.

Pearl Harbor, for whatever reason (yes, it is the 60th anniversary of the attack) is on the minds of a lot of people, mostly due to the high-budget motion picture. But what this game seems to promise and what it delivers seem to have little to do with the events of that fateful day.

Ok, you can do what the box cover advertises, just not within the realms of defending the American fleet sleeping so peacefully in Pearl. You can become involved in other mission that ‘replicate’ the conditions of the era.

Oops, slight problem there too. You are given a perspective that is above and behind the plane, which flies in a tight map, and fires at badly designed polygonal ships. Sure, they fire back, and the effects of hits upon your aircraft are well done. But enough to recommend this game? Nope.

When you are talking about flight sims, you have to hold a product up to the other games on the market. In that regard, this game stacks up poorly. Microsoft’s Combat Flight Simulator 2 WWII Pacific Theatre is much better at the combat, and putting gamers into the cockpit of classic planes. Bethesda Softworks Echelon – a futuristic flight combat sim – does a much better job of rendering terrain.

Yes, the environmental elements of the game are solid, but the controls are too touchy, do not respond to rudder controls, simplify landing and ship targets are boxy.

The sound is solid. But this game lacks serious touch with technology available to gamers. It is simplistic and unsatisfying.

The map boards are finite, and players are told where each target is approximately located. Fuel allocation is finite, which provides the only solid challenge in the game. Complete the mission, and then get back home fast. But it is tough to target when you don’t have that cockpit eye view of targets. You can dive, fire indiscriminately, but until you see the patterns of bullets upon the water, you don’t get a good sense on height, or targeting.

The attack upon Pearl Harbor was both a horrendous day in United States history, and a date that propelled the nation into the forefront of power upon Earth. It pushed the U.S. into World War II, brought the nation together in a single-mindedness of purpose, and served notice to the rest of the world that you don’t mess with this country.

This game is trying to capitalize on that recognition without delivering anything that is remotely connected with the true world of gaming – a chance to strategize, to avenge or stop that initial devastation. Games that have faithfully tried to recreate World War II scenarios, to give gamers an opportunity to redraw history, have little in common with this title.

So what does the game offer? You can manipulate 14 planes in 10 missions, which include Guadalcanal, Midway and Okinawa scenarios. Hmm, don’t see Pearl Harbor mentioned there, do you? And the word ‘manipulate’ is key, because flying these planes is highly simplistic, requiring little of the knowledge or skill that is generally needed by fans of most flight simulations.

In case, you haven’t received the message by now, I am very disappointed with this product.

It is rated for Everyone.


Install: Easy.
The game doesn’t require that much hard drive space is an easy install and uninstall.

Gameplay: 6.
A finite map, easy directions to take and horrible handling combine to make this game one that isn’t that hard to navigate through, but tough to enjoy.

Graphics: 7.
The terrain graphics, and plane damage simulations are well done, but do not tread new ground.

Sound: 7.5.
The audio is one of the strongest portions of this game.

Difficulty: 7.
Piloting planes such as the P-51 Mustang, or Corsair, is difficult. Not only are you hampered by no in-the-cockpit view for targeting, but there are no rudder controls, and the plane dances like an arcade joystick-driven marionette.

Concept: 3.
The title of this game is woefully misleading.

Multiplayer: N/A.

Overall: 5.
This is an arcade flight combat game misrepresenting itself as a Pearl Harbor battleground. While there are some graphical elements that are well done, for the most part, the game fails to tread new water in the field. It may have been a solid title, without the Pearl Harbor title, five years ago. It is a fair arcade, third-person perspective flight sim, and nothing more.


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