Planes, no trains, no automobiles. Its got boats though
The sequel to Battlestations: Midway, Battlestations: Pacific isn’t another FPS or RTS, but instead a hybrid of flight sim, naval strategy and real-time tactics all rolled into one ever so slightly staid package. Set amid 28 different battles from the Second World War, the game is split between two divergent perspectives. The US campaign picks up after the Battle of Midway leading all the way up to the invasion on Okinawa, while the brand new Japanese campaign begins with the notorious attack on Pearl Harbour, before subsequently playing out as a mixture of real and fictional skirmishes that took place thereafter. The inclusion of the Japanese campaign, reaching far beyond the one-off missions available in the previous game lends you some insight into what the war was like on the other side for once, while enabling you to rewrite history by decimating the American war effort one mission at a time.
Battlestations is an entirely different beast to most other war games, dispensing with any hallmarks of bombast in favour of a very slow and deliberate pace, giving you complete control over every unit at your disposal, from single kamikaze planes and zeroes, to huge frigates armed with torpedoes, depth charges, artillery shells and anti-aircraft guns. Pacific’s predecessor, Battlestations: Midway enjoyed a mostly positive reception upon its release, with this very site awarding it a highly respectable 7.0 back in February of 2007. Essentially Pacific is more of the same except for the notable addition of the Japanese campaign missions, five new online modes, an expanded range of units and a much-enhanced level of graphical fidelity. As a console title, Battlestations seems like an uneasy fit next to the instant action of a Gears of War or a Halo, requiring a heroic level of perseverance to get to grips with its complex set of commands.
Online multiplayer is great fun provided you manage to get your head around the controls. Co-op would have been nice, but is sadly absent.
Things get pretty hectic and busy at times. Not in this screen though.
Every effort has been made by Eidos’ Hungarian Studio in making the game as accessible as possible to the console crowd, with the developer doing a fine job in mapping a vast number of functions to the 360 controller. Helpful hint windows pop up whenever new controls are introduced and you can access these tips at any time through the pause menu. This proves invaluable, as due to the numerous buttons you need to remember, you’ll be doing a lot of pausing to remind yourself of which ones you need to press. For the most part though, Battlestations’ basic controls are fairly simple to master over time and should you find the steady strategic pace favourable, you’ll want to make the effort to learn every one of the many commands.
Your enjoyment of the game will hinge on whether you can stomach the tactical depth and management required to successfully attain victory in each mission. There’s certainly a lot to take in at first, and the initial deluge of information might leave some players cold, indifferent or just plain bored. Unfortunately, we found ourselves falling into the latter category, especially when by the third mission commanding a naval fleet; we struggled to maintain a sensible formation, sending vessels spiralling in every direction. While this might have been a comical sight to behold, it wasn’t exactly in keeping with the nature of the game and would have been frankly embarrassing had we repeated the same manoeuvres online.
You can make life easier for yourself by planning out your strategy on the map screen, but this is an even duller way to play the game although it does allow you to plot the paths of your various units and the enemies they attack, which is handy. Personally we found it far more enjoyable to keep things purely hands-on, flying our own planes and steering our own ships. You can switch between any of your active units on the fly at any time by pressing up and down or left and right on the D-pad, although the AI does a fairly stand up job in looking after itself when you’re not controlling it. Nevertheless, you can assume control of any one of your planes or ships and enjoy the freedom to attack targets of your own volition.
A big aircraft carrier. Yesterday.
Normally, this isn’t a positive sight.
Controlling a fighter plane or bomber is the same as any other flight sim albeit one where the throttle is mapped to the right analogue stick and missions extend to sending you on perilous bombing runs, torpedo drops and swooping dogfights. There isn’t really much of a sensation of speed however, but then one could argue that this is a common problem with pretty much every flight sim. Naval vessels, frigates and submarines are considerably more challenging to wrangle, requiring not only to be carefully navigated but also repaired and maintained using the support manager on the left bumper. All of this leaves Battlestations: Pacific somewhere between a console title that’s too heavy on tactical depth and a PC strategy game too light on strategy compared to other examples of the genre.
Top game moment:
BATTLESTATIONS: PACIFIC VERDICT
Still, this is an accomplished strategy title on whichever format you decide to play it on. The attention to detail is to be applauded and the wealth of options on offer is at once bewildering and admirable. We just wish that we had the attention span, wherewithal and patience to fully appreciate what Eidos Hungary has achieved with Battlestations: Pacific. As it stands though, the intricacies and complexities of the game are sadly lost on us.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Waiting for what seems like a lifetime to get a clear shot at an enemy frigate and then shelling the proverbial crap out of it. Failing that, piloting a kamikaze plane into an aircraft carrier comes a close second.