Genre : Action
Developer: Mithis Games
Release Date: Q2 2005
The appeal, for some people, of a real-time strategy game is its capacity for macromanagement. Most games put you in command of a small unit of force moving around a vast battlefield, where you have limited if any control over the other units that surround you. You can make suggestions or you can make them dead; there aren’t many other options.
The appeal, for yet other people, of an action game is that you’re down in the dirt with the people in the field. You aren’t an all-seeing troop commander sending proxies to die by your command, who usually will die because they know of no strategies that’re more effective than “run up to the guy and start fighting.” You’re free to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Battlestations Midway, above and beyond being World War II Game #21304, provides a bizarre middle ground between the two. You’re in charge of a naval carrier group, controlling more than fifty different units in a fleet as you take part in some of the greatest and most infamous battles of the war.
At any time, you can switch out the gameplay from RTS to third-person action, abandoning the omniscient perspective in favor of taking direct control of any one of the planes or ships in the fleet. The CPU will take over for any units you aren’t using at the time, using a player-configured AI to guide the rest of your fleet’s actions, and you can switch from unit to unit with the touch of a button. You can set up and execute tactical maneuvers, then jump into a plane or destroyer to make sure they’ll work.
The game begins during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and continues on through the Battle of Midway. In the singleplayer mode, you see the war through the eyes of Henry Walker, a sailor who happens to be at most of the battles, and play through his story. You begin by controlling smaller groups, and as the game progresses, will eventually be promoted to the control of the whole fleet.
The version of Battlestations Midway we saw was only about 50% complete, but that was enough to get a good look at the models. The planes and ships are well-constructed, of course, and look surprisingly realistic. Honestly, you’d expect a few graphical corners to be cut, given what Battlestations Midway is asking the hardware to do, but such did not appear to be the case. The particularly impressive bit was that each ship is capable of taking unique location damage as you attack, enabling you to cripple enemy ships with strategic hits to various locations. Each ship will sink differently depending on where it’s been hit and how hard.
Battlestations Midway will release for the Xbox, PS2, and PC, with reportedly no real difference between the Xbox and PS2 versions. If it continues to develop along these lines, it’ll provide one of the few rare real-time strategy games for consoles, while simultaneously bridging the gap between two largely incompatible genres.
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