|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Eidos Studios Hungary||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 12, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-Multi (Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
The battles of World War II were fought on terra firma, in the deep ocean, and in the skies, testing the mettle of our nations vast army, navy, and air force, respectively. So why do so many WWII-themed games focus on only one limited facet of this expansive and epic historical conflict? Instead of a mere snack-like morsel of American and Japanese military might, Battlestations: Pacific offers an appetizing three course smorgasbord that will fill your belly with a tasty mixture of third-person combat and real-time strategy played out on land, sea, and air.
In 2007, Eidos Battlestations: Midway laid the groundwork for its latest effort with explosive WWII naval and airborne encounters that mingled a healthy dose of strategy and action for a mostly satisfying and authentic experience. Rather than thoroughly revamping things for Pacific, the team focuses on expanding, polishing, and honing the gameplay to kick the intensity up a few notches. Beefing up the visual effects and touches, ramping up the number and types of units to control, doubling the games length with two robust campaigns, and implementing some compelling online multiplayer modes goes a long way towards improving on the original design. At its core, Pacific may look and play very much like its predecessor, but most of the kinks have been worked out of this well-oiled war machine.
Battlestations: Pacific forgoes the more traditional story narrative of the first game, instead following the war efforts of Japanese and American forces as a whole through two lengthy campaigns. Much of the setup is provided by cutscenes, dialogue, and scenario briefings that crop up before, during, and after each mission. While the American campaign progresses closely along historical timelines, playing as the Japanese lets you explore an alternate history where Japans military carves a path of victory through the pacific islands following the devastation at Pearl Harbor. Though a few missions here and there tend to lag slightly, both campaigns feature plenty of moments where chaotic battles unfold intensely and offer a very satisfying variety of approaches to defeating foes.
Across the games numerous missions, youll conduct a sizeable force that includes a staggering array of airborne fighters and bombers alongside submarines, aircraft carriers, destroyers, battleships, and other seafaring vessels. For a more strategic approach, you can command and direct your forces in real-time across a large overhead map screen, but what makes Pacific so much fun is the ability to instantly hop into any of your deployed air or sea units to take over for some hands-on action. Whether you want to switch from pummeling an enemy carrier with your powerful destroyers cannons to a below-surface torpedo attack in a nearby sub or zip from hiding underwater to the approaching friendly bomber overhead for an airborne bombardment, these quick and simple, single-button transitions keep the action pumping. Though theres definitely an advantage to personally taking controls of individual units, the highly competent friendly A.I. lets you seamlessly jump back and forth between units from moment to moment without having to worry much about your recently abandoned vessel.
Each unit type controls differently and provides a unique set of tools and tactics to draw from. Small planes are great for strafing runs and dogfights but are useless against more heavily armored opponents. To make them more versatile, most can be equipped with depth charges or smaller bombs to drop on ships and subs. In comparison, larger bombers are slow and hulking and easily shot down by quicker fighters yet deliver a heftier payload. You can also jump back into the tail turret gunner seat to blast bogies while the A.I. handles the bulk of the flying. Plane controls initially take some getting used to; after some hands-on time they iron out and feel more natural. Down at sea level, vessels of varying size and armament require careful maneuvering to properly utilize all of the guns available. Maintaining course with the engines and steering can be done at any time, while switching between artillery cannons, anti-aircraft guns, depth charges, and torpedoes. Slow-moving subs can travel at different depths and sneak attack ships with torpedo runs. Watching the trails snake through the water towards unsuspecting enemy vessels through the binocular-like view of the periscope is highly enjoyable, yet all units have a feature that allows you to follow the path of ordinance until it meets its intended target.