We mentioned that the development team hadn't addressed the issues that were bugging us in the first game, and here it is all summed up: the campaigns have no soul. They may be very technically correct - after all, you start a mission on the ground, usually at the end of a line of aircraft waiting to take-off. You wait for them to start their engines, power up, take off, and then it's your turn. You follow them around, find your spot in the formation, circle around as you wait for other groups to get in the air, and then you proceed to your target. Very, very dull.
No doubt historical aviataion enthusiasts are thrilled at the prospect of flying in formation and being told off when they veer so much as a few dozen feet too high, too low, too far ahead or whatever, but it's just not the kind of thing that's possible to get excited about. Worse, unlike so many previous games in other franchises, there's no "skip ahead" option to the next sequence - the best that Pacific Fighters offers is a fast-forward time clock.
Of course, there are some strange things that the AI does and expects a player to do on his sorties. A favorite tactic of close air support aircraft like IL-2s is to find their objective (a town or an armored column), line up and hit it - all from the same side. Not being a World War II IL-2 pilot myself I can't exactly testify whether or not this is historically accurate, but it doesn't seem like very effective. After all, it permits the enemy the ability to focus their AA fire in only one direction without having to worry about splitting it. Should the player decide to try something independent, he'll quickly receive complaints from his AI flight leader in the radio chatter.
Much of the appeal of the game is in multiplayer for many players. There is no tougher competition than a living human being, especially when he has two years of experience under his belt, a Saitek X-45 or X-52 HOTAS system, rudder pedals, and using TrackIR is second nature to him... while you fly in with your Microsoft Sidewinder and keyboard. On top of that, many of the most popular servers disable padlock - so not only are you without the goodies, you don't even get built-in
If that wasn't an intimidating enough barrier to entry, to actually get there you have to go through UbiSoft's matchmaking service which is just as frustrating and intrusive as it ever was. Proof of that? How about never having seen anyone online. Fortunately, there's Hyperlobby
. Unfortunately, it takes either previous experience with these games to find it, or digging around on Google or the forums. Oh, and to join most games games, you must have installed IL-2: Forgotten Battles, the Aces Expansion Pack, and then Pacific Fighters on top of that. Following that, you must download and install patches 3.01 followed by 3.01 content pack and then patch 3.02 common. That's not all: once you install 3.02 common, you need to install 3.02bm, because you have FB+AEP+PF. You have to make sure to download the proper patches, install them in the right order, or your game won't work. On the bright side, you can screw up and re-start the patch process again without having to re-install the game. Why can't 1C: Maddox Games figure out unified patching? We don't know; we just know not to ever try patching one of their games again. Unless you really
want to become a victim for the guy with $500 of flight sim hardware who denies you any software assistance.
With Ubi.com, we experienced a problem trying to get Pacific Fighters to play in multiplayer when it was installed over Forgotten Battles and the Ace Expansion Pack. This is an optional installation method that makes it possible to use all the aircraft from a single game - but prevented Ubi.com from actually detecting Pacific Fighters. To make things more confusing, there isn't actually a listing in the Ubi application for Pacific Fighters. No, you have to figure out that you're actually playing IL-2 Forgotten Battles.
Few are the days when we wish for GameSpy Arcade, but this is definitely one of them. So pardon me if it sounds like I'm choking the words out, but... I... wish... Ubi... licensed... GameSpy. Better yet, I wish Ubi.com worked like Battle.net or even Steam.