Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: January 30, 2007
It goes without saying that the events of World War II have always been a popular subject for game developers on PCs and gaming consoles. Although a majority of these games has targeted the European theater, once in a while, the equally interesting gaming possibilities of the Pacific conflict are explored. The long-anticipated Battlestations: Midway attempts to engage players in multiple air, sea and land roles during the epic struggle for supremacy in the Pacific Theater. The campaign action starts with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and continues on through to several of the more historic engagements of the war.
Battlestations: Midway successfully balances strategic planning with third-person arcade action. As commander, you can allocate your air and sea assets as you see fit. An uncluttered graphic command window and an easy-to-use, full-screen tactical map allow orders to be easily assigned using your mouse. When I was not dealing with damage control or aircraft launches, I found myself spending on average, about 60% of my time on the tactical map issuing orders to my various assets. If you get tired of just commanding or would like to get some personal "trigger time," you can quickly step into the action in third-person with a single key press.
The damage model utilized in the game allows for automatic repairing of your assets; however, calling up an easy-to-use repair screen allows you to directly assign limited repair personnel to a number of damage stations which greatly speeds up the process.
Although arcade-level realism is often not desired in this sort of game, especially on the PC, the arcade style actually works well, considering that you have over 60 different war machines to operate at any given time. If this were designed more like a simulation rather than an arcade action title, the required learning curve would most likely severely limit its entertainment value.
The single-player mode features 11 campaign missions intermixed with story vignettes, which do a reasonable job of engaging players further into the storyline by providing a more humanistic angle of the conflict. As naval recruit Henry Walker, you must navigate through your naval career starting from your first assignment as a gunner at Pearl Harbor to commanding an entire Pacific force. In addition to the campaign, 12 bonus challenge missions and a naval training academy are included in offline play. Sadly, the single-player campaign is much too short and only provides approximate four to six hours of solid gameplay. It is unfortunate that Eidos did not include a skirmish or instant action mode, which would have greatly increased the replay value of the offline portions.
Although the challenges of the single-player campaign are limited by its short duration, the multiplayer aspect has the potential of providing many additional hours of intense action and strategy. Of course, this is only if you're one of the lucky few who don't experience connectivity problems with the matching service (Gamespy) or individual game servers. I was one of a large number of players who experienced some difficulty in getting solid server connections from both the demo and retail versions of the game. This connectivity issue especially plagued owners with routers on their network. It took quite a bit of research and port wrangling to determine that I needed to disable UPnP on my router for multiplayer to function properly with this particular title.
Battlestations: Midway uses a fully featured, although somewhat awkward, server interface which displays available servers based on your desired priority, such as latency or free space. This interface feels a bit rushed and disorganized; you're unable to obtain server map or latency information without moving your cursor over a displayed server in a continuously updating list. I personally prefer the standard table/column format used in most online games for information display. As for options, you are provided with the ability to join or host a multiplayer game, or to be quickly assigned to a game which needs additional players.
Multiplayer games consist of two to eight players over LAN or internet (using a Gamespy account). Assets are divided up between team members at the outset of the game, and if a team member's assets are eliminated, he enters a spectator mode for the rest of the round. Gameplay involves moving between your various assigned land, sea and air assets in an attempt to meet primary and secondary game objectives. Usually, one of your objectives is to have at least one of your team's assets survive, although you will find that mission objectives will routinely change from map to map. Some maps will focus on just air or sea engagements, while others will include air, sea and land combined.
While playing Battlestations: Midway online, you will usually face two different situations. If you find a server with players who are patient enough to wait out games when they are eliminated, you can easily find yourself playing for hours on end without even knowing where the time has gone. In the second scenario, you will find yourself hopping from server to server playing partial games with impatient players and server hosts who drop out of the game or shut down their servers when games are not going quite their way. This, of course, is a common scenario and a good case study for the promotion of dedicated servers with auto-balancing. However, with balanced teams, I found most online games to be enjoyable, challenging and often intense due to the capability of having over 100 units active during a single round.
The graphics in Battlestations: Midway are quite pleasing to the eye, and special effects such as explosions and smoke are convincingly reproduced. Atmospheric effects such as fog, rain and wind are absent from gameplay, which periodically reminds you that you're playing an arcade game, not a simulation. Also absent are "time-of-day" settings, including night engagements. You do have optional clouds and some hazing effects in the form of a bloom effect; however, they contribute very little to improving the game's realism. Smoke and fire from damaged assets will occasionally obscure the player's field of view and provide cover, although the best defense seems to be keeping your war machines moving or staying off your enemy's radar.
Music and sound effects in Battlestations: Midway are merely adequate. I was left feeling like I was wearing virtual ear plugs because all of the sound effects in the game seem subdued with very little intensity. It may just be my personal preference, but I expect deck guns on a destroyer to be "thundering" when engaging an enemy.
If you are interested in a detailed and accurate Pacific war simulation rather than an arcade action-strategy game, Battlestations: Midway may not be for you. Although engaging, the single-player campaign is just too short and will provide very little replay value. I do recommend that those who are more interested in playing online or over a LAN consider purchasing Battlestations: Midway because it is a surprisingly entertaining game which you can enjoy playing, especially with the right group of people.
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