Midway between action and strategy
Having a different point of view can alter an experience drastically, and this becomes evident in Eidos’ Battlestations: Midway. Engaging in battle with a fighter plane is obviously different when the same battle is fought from a warship. This has probably never been made more apparent before Battlestations, which is a strange blend of strategy and real-time action that ultimately creates an entertaining and unique gaming experience.
Battlestations: Midway is set during World War II, following the tale of Navy recruit Henry Walker, who is just unfortunate enough to arrive at Pearl Harbor in time for the infamous Japanese attack. Walker begins by leading a PT boat into battle, and quickly advances in rank, ending by commanding small fleets against the Japanese into the final and titular battle at Midway. This growth is gradual enough to be comfortable even though the game is fairly short.
The gameplay in Battlestations: Midway is mostly real time combat. The player will control gunboats, airplanes, submarines, and warships into battle against their Japanese opponents. The controls are fairly simple, with the left trigger used for firing and steering controlled by moving the right analog stick to the corresponding direction. Up and down alter the vehicle’s speed. This configuration sometimes causes unwanted mistakes, as it is easy to press the analog stick up to increase speed and to have the vehicle alter direction. Although this is annoying, is doesn’t cause enough problems to be more than a minor complaint.
Each battle starts out with simple objectives that the player must complete to proceed, as well as a number of secret objectives. The objectives can include destroying enemy units, protecting allies, or reaching a certain point on the map. The game does a good job of keeping the player informed of objectives, as most goals are highlighted with an arrow that points in the correct direction when the objective is off-screen. When switching between multiple units or flying a swift airplane, it becomes easy to lose sight of goals or to lose bearings completely, so this is a well implemented and needed feature.
Almost all of the battles feel epic, with destroyed plane debris raining down into the ocean and large sinking ships surrounding the player. There is almost always a sense of urgency and looming disaster, which makes the experience immersive. This gets especially pronounced as the battles grow in size and scale and the player commands larger fleets, creating the feel of actually being in a classic battle.
The unique thing about Battlestations: Midway is that the game can be played from multiple perspectives. The player can control their fleet from the tactical map, which allows the player to see the entire battlefield and to give each unit individual orders. However, the player can choose to inhabit any unit under their control at any time, allowing them to order a submarine to attach an enemy vessel and then take direct control of the submarine’s efforts. The player can choose to give orders and control certain units, or sit back and give commands and watch the proceedings. Even when controlling units, the player can still give commands to the controlled unit, such as instructing a plane that they’re controlling to land on a ship deck or to command a ship to fire at will while the player controls navigation.
There is also a lot of strategy involved in winning the battles placed before your fleets. The player can sometimes choose which weapons to equip the units with, and some weapons are obviously better suited for certain situations than others. For example, a battleship can only be damaged by torpedoes, and machine gun fire is completely useless against it. Also, submerged submarines can only be damaged by depth charges. This system forces the player to think about their strategy before mindlessly sending droves of fighter planes or ships against the enemy. The player must also manage the ship repair, as fires, leaks, and engine damage can occur and the player can assign men to repair damage. Leave a fire unchecked for too long and the ship will explode. Engine damage impairs ship movement, and weapons damage impairs the effectiveness of the ship’s weaponry. All of the strategic elements are easily executed, though, and won’t hinder the strategically impaired or action oriented player from enjoying the game.
The graphics in Battlestations: Midway are effective, but definitely not awe-inspiring. The fire and explosion effects are last-gen at best. The ships and planes are well-detailed, with crewmen scrambling about, but simplistic, without any really eye-catching visuals. The water effects are decent as well, but should have been much more realistically rendered considering that the entire game takes place at sea.
In addition to the relatively short single-player campaign, the game also has online multiplayer and challenge modes. The multiplayer can be fun, allowing the player to compete and cooperate in battles against one another with up to eight other players in nine different maps, all taken from gameplay. The player can play as either American or Japanese in four-on-four battles. The challenge missions require the player to complete difficult objectives and hone their skills using either a ship, sub, or plane. These challenge missions can be used as practice or for an experience beyond the single-player story mode.
The music in Battlestations: Midway is well done, with epic scores that intensify the feel of being in battle. The voice acting, however, is less than average on a number of occasions and is hokey at times.
Ultimately, Battlestations: Midway is a fairly fun gaming experience, especially for those interested in war simulators. RTS fans might find it a little simple, but might find the emphasis on action a pleasing surprise. Action fans might find the strategy a little dull, but with the simplicity of the commands they’ll find themselves in the thick of the action as often as they like. Although the single-player is short, the multiplayer adds replayability that fans of the genre can enjoy for a long while.
Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
|Rating out of 5
The graphics are functional but could be better.
Responsive controls and a fairly intuitive control scheme.
| Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is epic and well-done.
| Play Value
While the single player is short, the challenges and multiplayer increase replayability.
You sunk my battleship!
by Jwan Jordan
There have been an immeasurable number of World War II games released within the last few years, usually igniting with one unique premise and then followed up by numerous imitators. However, developer and publisher Eidos Interactive have a new concept in the works. The upcoming action/simulator game, Battlestations: Midway is a World War II game focused on the war events from Pearl Harbor all the way to the epic battle of Midway itself.
Battlestations: Midway is an odd hybrid of genres, as it’s not quite an action game or a RTS strategy game. The unique thing about Battlestations is its POV. In most strategy games you typically take a god’s eye view of the battlefield and click strategically where you want your soldiers to go. If the aforementioned isn’t the case, then you usually play as first person shooter which pits you in the heat of battle with no real strategy involved. Yet for a fresh change in the World War II monotony, Battlestations’ combination of real time action and strategy appears to be a real innovation. Instead of using the god’s eye perspective you’re actually in the very heart of the combat itself, but you don’t play as the lone hero. You actually have to carefully plan and coordinate your attacks with your teammates during the heavy combat. You can give orders to the teammates under your control but you can also instantly take control of any ship on your team. This really opens options up for gamers who are prone to be more strategic than trigger happy. For instance, you can order a specific battalion of submarines to attack a certain enemy and as they line up for attack you can instantly switch to a specific ship in that battalion and take immediate control. You can also just order your teammates and leave it entirely up to them to complete their objective, but at this point it’s hard to say how intelligent the A.I. will be in game. Being able to randomly switch between allies creates depth and you can imagine how cinematic it may feel also.
Battlestations: Midway is also a game that focuses entirely on vehicle combat, so there will be no ground infantry levels of play. You’ll be glad to know there are many vehicles to choose from though, all of which you can control on the fly during combat. There will be planes, battleships, submarines, aircraft carriers, and more at your disposal. To make the game more easily accessible to all gamers Battlestations: Midway is not a heavy simulation of flying or driving. Anyone who is new to World War II based games should still be able to pick up and play. Also, the fact that it is not a simulator game makes some entertaining maneuvers possible that you wouldn’t be able to get away with in simulation games. Currently the game is looking at fourteen missions with unlockable specific unit missions as you play the game. Some missions even allow you to play from the Japanese side of the combat; this may allow you an opportunity to change the outcome of the most epic battle in history.
There are multiplayer plans also in which up to eight players can play together in either vs. modes or co-operative play. Co-operative play will create a very in-depth experience due to the fact that every player will control a specific unit and contribute their abilities to the overall team.
The graphics thus far are looking really good and of course the next-gen systems’ power allows for extremely detailed texture mapping as far as being able to see your tiny WW2 heroes running about on ships and in the cockpit of planes. Battle Stations Midway is set for release in fall 2006 and we will keep you posted.