To start in a somewhat blunt fashion, this game wonâ€™t appeal to everyone. In fact, Iâ€™ll go so far as to say it wonâ€™t appeal to a lot of people. However, true fans of the strategy and/or WWII and/or naval genres may find this enjoyable.
Taken back to 1942, you step into the shoes of Henry Walker, a young American naval recruit. As the Japanese launch their surprise attack on Pearl Harbour, your new military career is kicked into overdrive and before you know it, you have an entire fleet of ships at your command and orders to defeat the enemy at all costs. No problemo.
Unfortunately, talking the talk is much harder than walking the walk in Battlestations Midway. From the sudden attack on Pearl Harbour to the turning point of the war, the battle of Midway, youâ€™re dropped into 11 very large battles. You have the ability to jump in the driverâ€™s seat of every single unit at your disposal, from colossal carrier ships and sleek black submarines to feisty little planes.
Although you can direct your units using group and formation battle tactics, the ability to take over any individual unit can be daunting and distracting. It becomes far too easy to get caught up in submarine stealth tactics or fancy flying formations, while in the meantime your poor ships are being torn apart by enemy fire. To gamers such as myself who are unaccustomed to strategy games, Battlestations Midway makes for a steep learning curve.
My complete lack of military knowledge also came as quite a handicap. I almost failed the first mission simply because I didnâ€™t see a tiny little periscope sticking out of the water next to my boat. â€śQuick sailor, the F28 D9 class destroyer is targeting you!â€ť. Yep, it sounded bad, and judging by the state of my rapidly sinking ship, it was. Of course, it would have helped if I knew the F28 D9 destroyer Cruiser whatsherface was a submarine in the first place.
With a huge number of different units to choose from in each battle, it can be tempting to find a favourite boat or plane and simply stick with it. Each vehicle has a number of different strengths and weaknesses though, so learning which unit is suited to which situation is a must if you want to have any chance of progressing through the storyline or challenges. Those with short attention spans may find this a problem, so be ready to sit in for the long haul.
The graphics in Battlestations Midway are certainly good but on the whole donâ€™t look any more impressive than games like Far Cry Predator did on the original Xbox. This wouldnâ€™t be too much of a problem given that Predator looked pretty sweet, but this is a new game on a next generation console. Sadly, the cut scenes are of a fairly current gen standard too, dragging the entire graphical feel of the game down. An honourable mention should go to whoever was responsible for the sky and weather effects though. The clouds and sunsets generally look amazing, even to the point of distraction when flying your planes. There are only so many glimpses of epic cloud formations you can take when trying to pull a plane out of a harrowing dive.
The sound featured in the game leaves a bit to be desired. Thereâ€™s the obligatory stirring war anthem which is featured again, and again, and again. The voice acting borders on cheesy, which detracts from the actual storyline, but the sound effects are reasonable and stand up to inspection.
Aside from the main mission, Battlestations Midway also includes 12 extra challenges and the ability to face other players in head-to-head or co-operative style online battles. A decent collection of online and offline achievement awards and three difficulty settings round off the game in a satisfactory way.
For what it is, Battlestations Midway is a well-crafted game. Sadly, the general lack of appeal to anyone but naval enthusiasts will probably keep this game on the shelf far longer than it deserves. The ability to control each battle entirely from plane to boat to sub may scare off the casual gamer looking to delve into a new genre. As Captain Planet was fond of saying, â€śthe power is yoursâ€ť - and in Battlestations Midway, it really is. Put on your strategy hat and prepare for some fiendishly difficult and drawn-out combat.
Battlestations Midway is now available in New Zealand for the Xbox 360 and the PC.