It's time to set off to those sun-drenched islands in the Pacific Ocean. Just think of it - the warm climate, the sea, the white beaches and the hordes of commie infiltrators for you to blast into oblivion. This is my kind of life.
Pacific Island (PI from now on) is the sequel to Empire's earlier tank game, Team Yankee. However, there are a few changes to the game which make it even more playable. The scenario is that a large force of disaffected Soviet communists, aided by the North Koreans, have invaded the Pacific atoll of Yama Yama. Now this is quite unfortunate due to the fact that Yama Yama is a communications link for the early warning monitoring system in the Pacific Ocean, so the United Nations is understandably concerned about secret - and bloomin' expensive - communications equipment falling into enemy hands.
This is where you come in. You must assemble a team of tank units, four in all, which will be the spearhead of the first offensive, and you must recapture all five islands of the atoll to succeed.
You start on the island Aloha which you must traverse, destroying enemy installations and communications, as well as other commie tanks.
However, unlike Team Yankee, you actually have to purchase your tanks and their ammunition. You are initially given a budget of $55 million to spend (that's not much - Biff spends twice that on T-shirts - Ed) but you are ale to gain more money during the game by destroying enemy installations and vehicles.
The enemy shoot back too though, so after each battle you can purchase replacement tanks for those that have been destroyed, repair damaged tanks and, even increase the morale of your crew by having a booze-up.
All of this costs money unfortunately, so at some point you will find yourself running short. This is where you have the dubious option of selecting secondhand vehicles instead of brand new machines. I can just picture it - a big sign outside a heavily fortified building with the words "Stormin' Norman's Used Warmongering Ware. Lowest Prices Around" written on it.
Each of the five islands you will be fighting on are split up into square zones. Blue coloured ones are free from enemies, allowing unrestricted passage to other parts of the island, while red zones indicate an enemy presence.
Upon entering a red zone, you will be taken to the purchase screen to buy your equipment or repair vehicles damaged in a previous battle prior to engaging the enemy. You are then given the mission description which lists the objectives to overcome in order to liberate that zone. When you have accomplished your mission, the red zone will turn yellow and you are free to move to the next square.
One of the reasons why I enjoyed Team Yankee so much was because it was game orientated rather than being a pure simulation. So the ability to choose your path through an island makes for a more strategic game.
For instance, it is important that you make your way to enemy-
This strategy element makes PI slightly more interesting than Team Yankee's rather linear approach to the play, while at the same time not being too much of a brain drain to destroy the shoot-'em-up feel.
The artillery support feature, where you can arrange for HE (high explosive), DPICM (Duel Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions) and SMOKE shells to be fired at certain times on specific areas, has a new addition with the ability to lay mines at critical areas on the map.
You have to remember where you put them though, otherwise you might find yourself running inadvertently over them only to find you are suddenly a vehicle short.
The control system in PI is almost identical to its predecessor with a few minor additions. This is a good thing because the control system in Team Yankee was excellent and easy to use so any major changes weren't required. If you have played Team Yankee, you will quickly be able to get into the game without having to wade through the manual beforehand.
For those of you who have not played Team Yankee, the 3D graphics are quite excellent. Not only do you have vector graphics but all vehicles are bitmapped. This gives greater detail than that achievable through vectors and improves the appearance of each vehicle infinitely. The actual 3D routines have been speeded up quite a bit and you are also able to destroy any object in the 3D view.
Because of the increased 3D speed, you will now occasionally come across a whole village, rather than solitary buildings. Such an object would have slowed down Team Yankee considerably. You will also find that the enemies' intelligence has been improved too, making them harder to overcome (oh bugger). There are no changes in the sound effects department, which is no bad thing at all, with the usual explosions as you let loose that lethal Sabot at some unsuspecting commie tank, or give him a good strafing with your machine gun.
The overall gameplay has improved quite a bit and I enjoyed playing PI. The improved speed in graphics and the ability to blast everything in sight makes the game great fun. The packaging includes six full colour maps of the islands, which mark key features such as road, communications and rivers, helping you to plan your strategy. The manual is well written, making it easy for those new to the game to quickly get into the action. There is also a 'training' island for you to practice on.
Is it my imagination, or are software companies beginning to realise that people with hard drives exist and play games too? Empire have thoughtfully provides a installation program on the game disks for those of you with such hardware. Nice one, Empire.
So, if you have already sampled the delights of Team Yankee, you will not be overly disappointed at what PI has to offer.