1942: Joint Strike Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

PlayStation 3
Release date:
July 23, 2008
Backbone Entertainment

1942: Joint Strike

Can we have Black Tiger revived next?

Review by James Cunningham (Email)
August 16th 2008

There's a lot of average in the world, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Coke is an average soda, for example, and does the trick when nothing else is available. That's also true of 1942: Joint Strike, a perfectly average shooter that's just fun enough to be worth a look, but not very memorable.

1942 is the newest entry in a World War II-themed series not heard from in over eight years. Starting in the 80s gives it an old-school style, with swarms of enemies that are more interested in shooting at you than pulling off intricate bullet patterns, though some of the bosses can get a bit tricky. Mostly though, the enemies whittle down your health bar by being easy to crash into, while the majority of the return fire comes from the ground-based guns and the occasional larger aircraft. This frees you up to exploit the score multiplier, which quickly becomes more trouble than it's worth.

While the heart of any great shooter is the adrenaline rush of surviving by the skin of your teeth, the scoring system is what gives the game legs. Taking advantage of the bonus multipliers means you're playing in style, but there's a long-running multiplier method that just doesn't work no matter how many times it shows up. Getting close to an enemy before destroying it for up to a 16x bonus neither makes sense nor (more importantly) is very much fun.

Once you give up on scoring, however, 1942: Joint Strike starts becoming more fun.

Guns are a distance weapon, and trying to shoot everything from point-blank range defeats its purpose. This problem is doubled in conjunction with the three weapons pickups available that can spread a load of death around the screen when powered up. Even if it were fun to carefully position the plane as close to every enemy as possible before destroying it, the lack of an effective gun that also allows for precise enemy destruction means that score maximization is haphazard at best. Whether it's the spread gun, laser, or straight shot, none of the guns are designed to work well with the scoring mechanic.

Once you give up on scoring, however, 1942: Joint Strike starts becoming more fun. The levels are filled with things to destroy, whether it's enemy planes flying in waves, tanks, ships, gun emplacements, or the giant multi-part bosses that can be taken apart piece by piece. Additionally, 1942 makes good use of the widescreen format, which is a pretty neat trick in a vertical shooter.

The extra horizontal real estate is especially useful in multiplayer, where each player can cover a side of the screen and the special weapons come into their own. The special in single-player is simply a missile barrage, but in multi there are three attacks to choose from, designed to cause serious damage in the space between the two players. Maximizing their effects requires an pleasantly unexpected level of communication and coordination, and makes playing single feel lacking.

That's par for the course for 1942 though. All its best features have a qualifier. It's got a nifty presentation, with certain cut scenes done in the style of old film complete with scratches and fades to sepia and white, but the overall color palette feels muted and out of place compared to previous games in the series. The shooting action is solid, but involves ignoring the core scoring mechanic to be any fun.

Throw in the missing mechanics of the single-player game when compared to multiplayer, and you're left with a vertical shooter that's pretty decent despite itself. 1942: Joint Strike is good enough, but it's biggest problem is that it's hard to recommend "good enough" when there's so much "great" out there.

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