"When playing 1944: The Loop Master, the fourth game in Capcom’s World War II series of shoot-em-up’s, one thought should be in the head of any American citizen: "
When playing 1944: The Loop Master, the fourth game in Capcom’s World War II series of shoot-em-up’s, one thought should be in the head of any American citizen:
“PRAISE HEAVENS THE JAPANESE DIDN’T HAVE ALL THESE WEAPONS DURING THE ACTUAL WAR!!!!”
Yes indeed, your solo plane does have its work cut out for it over the 15 missions that constitute this overhead-view, vertically-scrolling game. Not only are there a seemingly unlimited number of small planes and tanks putting you under a constant barrage of fire, but the game also features a number of bosses that seem capable of destroying a few battalions without exerting much (if any) effort.
While many of the enemies and bosses were recycled from previous games in this series (one of the main flaws of the game), after you’ve gotten a few levels under your belt, things get much more interesting than those run-of-the-mill gunships and big planes that were a staple of 1943.
While all these bosses subscribe to the same basic style of attack (fill the screen with any sort of projectiles possible), many of the encounters are easily differentiated from others, unlike certain other games, such as 1943, where after a while, it feels like you seemingly are fighting the same battles over and over again.
And that is a good thing, because for much of the game, you’ll be feeling a strong sense of repetition. I’ve always been of the opinion that shooters that go for the “War on Earth” philosophy tend to be more limited than those with the “Science Fiction” philosophy. After all, in the latter sub-genre, the only limit on what will be thrown at you is the imagination of the designer. And that is how veteran players of shoot-em-ups have had the opportunity to shoot down Konami’s Moai Heads, the giant fish-robots of the Darius series and the grotesque beasts spawning in the intestines of Abadox’s living planet.
“War on Earth” games tend to be tempered a tiny bit by realism. Enemies are primarily planes, ships, tanks, fortresses and other man-made weapons of destruction. Backgrounds tend to be cities, forests, plains and other “real-world” locations. The problem with this is that it is not easy to create a playing experience that is innovative and/or unique anymore. While some games look better than others, at times that seems to be the only graphical difference.
Obviously, none of the games in this sub-genre are exactly the same as others. There are differences between 1943 and Tiger-Heli, as well as between Raiden Densetsu and Twin Cobra. However, many of these differences are located more in the categories of presentation and gameplay, rather than appearance. Fortunately for 1944, it is definitely above-average in both of these categories, putting many “War on Earth” games to shame.
Looking at the game’s presentation, one has to be impressed. The amount of variety in the game’s 15 stages is impressive and does a lot to prevent the game from getting stale. You will fly over beaches, forests, the ocean, mountains and multiple other terrains. Add in the audio effects and this game is very pleasant to the senses. Behind the standard shooting and explosion sounds, this game has an impressive little soundtrack. Nope, not patriotic jingles (what you might expect from a World War II shooter), but a nice arrangement of guitar-laden rock beats. Just the thing to get the adrenaline flowing over a long and arduous quest.
Gameplay is also excellent in this game. Control is tight, which it needs to be, as you are bombarded with enemies and bullets for a good portion of the game. While the assault upon you is comparable to games in the Aeroblasters series, the onslaught doesn’t make things as difficult for you here. The simple addition of a life meter for your plane means that you can survive a few hits before finally taking that final bullet to force you to punch another credit into the machine. It’s amazing how much less cheap a durable adversary seemingly firing off hundreds of shots per second becomes when you can survive a number of those bullets.
That life meter won’t be the only thing working in your favor in this game, though. There also are a good deal of power-ups. Many of these simply add to your basic shot, but you also can obtain bombs for mass destruction and miniature ships to flank you, which gives you even more ammo to fire at enemies.
The only problem with any of that is that the bombs tend to be a bit over-powered. Many of the game’s bosses can be killed with one life’s supply of bombs. After playing for a while, I noticed that my boss strategy was to simply save my bombs for the entire level and use them all on the boss to wipe it out quickly. Then, I’d simply die on the next level and start the cycle over again. After you’ve gotten quite far in the game, the bosses get a bit more durable, but still can be greatly weakened with a few bombs (not to mention the additional ones you’ll get upon starting a new life if you die).
Also, with 15 levels, the game can drag on a bit long. While none of the levels are overly long, this game still can be somewhat time-consuming. If you're used to these games being 5-7 levels in length, this could easily detract from the game's overall value.
Overall, despite these and the other problems I mentioned, 1944: The Loop Master is definitely one of the high points of the “War on Earth” sub-genre of shooter. The combination of a life-meter, a good deal of variety among the game’s many levels and good control help to make this game far better than the average shooter. While I wouldn’t call it a classic, it definitely deserves a few dollars of your playing time.
Community review by overdrive (January 28, 2004)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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