STAFF REVIEW of Battlestations: Midway (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007.

Battlestations:  Midway Box art All right, who is up for some good old fashion 3rd person Naval combat. Eidos is ready to unleash its tactical driven WWII combat game to the world with their latest installment; Battlestation: Midway. The game is based in the Pacific Ocean during WWII. Players are able to take control of over 60 different vehicles such as planes, ships and submarines. You'll need to do some serious training on the abilities of each unit if you want to gain an advantage over the opposition. The game presents a deep campaign with 11 missions and tones of extra challenges. There are 5 different game modes you can pick from on the main menu. The first one is called US campaign which is really the heart of Battlestation. But first Eidos states in the game manual that they recommend doing the second mode on the main menu before attempting any of the other m modes which is rightfully called Naval Academy. While attending the Naval Academy you will go through 11 comprehensive tutorials (and I must agree with Eidos, it is a very good idea to do the tutorials before jumping into battle). Now the next three modes from the main menu are simply the Ship, Plane, and Submarine challenges which add great value to the game.

Now lets talk about the gameplay Battlestations: Midway delivers. To be honest with you the range of options and the multi-tasking pressure of the mission goals initially felt a bit bewildering, but getting to grips with the game was actually reasonably intuitive. In any case, the structure of the single-player campaign provides a gentler introduction then the challenges. Players start out as new recruit Henry Walker on his first assignment as a gunner at Pearl Harbor before gradually building up to take responsibility for increasing numbers and types of units. Indeed it'll apparently be possible to take charge of up to 60 units by the end of the 11 campaign story missions.
By the time you're controlling that number of units you'll probably be spending a lot of your time on the strategic map, reached via the Back button, where it's possible to assign targets and waypoints, and keep an eye on the overall layout of allied and enemy units. But one of the key features of Battlestations is the opportunity to take direct control of your units - both in the air and in the sea. You can switch between them using the d-pad and then use the left and right Sticks to move and shoot, or you can simply tap the X button to bring up a quick menu to assign them simple tasks (such as attack an assigned target) before switching to the next unit. Meanwhile the right bumper brings up a context-sensitive menu to allow you to, for example, launch planes from an airfield or aircraft carrier, or build and launch ships from a shipyard. And the left bumper assigns repair crews on ships to repair different parts of the ship.
The friendly A.I. in Battlestations : Midway do exactly what you tell them to. Send a torpedo plane towards an enemy ship and command it to attack and it will get into position, flying just above the surface of the water, and launch a torpedo at just the right moment before heading for the relative safety of the skies. The enemy A.I. is also extremely sharp and change their tactics depending on how you play the game. For example, I sent out three B17 carpet bombers, a couple of Dauntless dive bombers and a couple of Destroyers (ships) onto the battlefield. I'd totally forgotten to defend my own base and I was soon sending our vehicles dashing back to rescue them. This is where the dynamic map system comes in extremely handy. It takes a second to switch back to the map at any time and you'll be able to see where the enemy are heading and thus be able to prevent such catastrophe.

It might all seem complicated when written down, but in practice it does a good job of hiding the game's considerable complexities - many of which are borne of a dutiful commitment to realism. It's obvious that shortcuts have been taken to make the game more playable and to fit it onto a console, such as the decision to feature unlimited ammo (although torpedoes are limited, so you'll need to factor in the time it takes to return to base and ngly, the focus shifts slightly when it comes to multiplayer games, which Eidos did on purpose to have a larger positive response to the game's overall appeal. It's capable of supporting up to eight players across two-teams controlling over 60 units. And it's possible for individual players to take control of just air units, or just sea units, or a mix of both. It certainly works very well, with players instinctively resorting to traditional RTS tactics such as turtling or tank rushing for some entertaining effect.

In a nutshell, the graphics may not be anything extraordinary but they defiantly get the job done. From the fine details of the crew to the extremely life-like Pacific ocean. Explosions are extremely satisfying as planes dive bomb into the ocean and ships sink spectacularly; the modeling of each vehicle has also been painstakingly crafted to represent their real-life counterparts. The in-game environments are as lush and lovely as you'd expect, with all sorts of weather effects and lots of detail, and visual flourishes include a camera that follows bombs and torpedoes after you've fired them, and crew members wandering about on ship decks.

Battlestations : Midway is a great deal of fun and can be played exactly how you wish. If you're a strategy fan you can play the whole game using the map system, but personally we much prefer jumping in the cockpit of the versatile dive bomber or launching torpedoes and depth charges from a Destroyer ship. My hat is off to Eidos mainly for expanding the variety of games on the 360. That is always a good thing.

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.2 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.4 / 10


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