Battlestations: Midway

David Yun David Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-03-25 15:58:38

Battlestations: Midway - Rank C

Developer: Eidos Interactive
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Date: 1/30/07

Also available for Xbox 360

Minimum Specs:
Windows XP or Vista
Pentium 4 2.0 GHz
512 MB RAM
nVidia Geforce4 series (not including MX cards) or ATi Radeon 9000 (1.1 pixelshader compatible)
DirectX 9 compatible sound card

Recommended Specs:
Pentium 4 2.5 GHz or Athlon XP 2400+
nVidia GeForce 6800 series or ATi Radeon X800 (2.0 pixelshader compatible)

Optimal Specs:
Pentium 4 3.0 GHz or Athlon XP 3000+
2 GB Ram
nVidia GeForce 7800 series or ATi Radeon X1800 (2.0 pixelshader compatible)

Battlestations: Midway is a strategy/action hybrid. It's commendable for handling both of these disparate genres decently, but I'd much rather play a game that does one of them well. If you've played Battalion Wars, Battlestations is similar in concept, only more serious and focused on World War II naval warfare in the Pacific theatre. The narrative follows the exploits of a Navy officer, as he ranks up from captaining a tiny PT boat during the attack on Pearl Harbor, all the way to commanding the aircraft carrier group of the USS Yorktown in the pivotal Battle of Midway.

I spent much of my time staring at the real-time tactical map, moving units into position to defend each other and carry out the mission objectives. In the larger engagements, you'll have dozens of ships, planes, and subs to command. You'll also need to deploy reinforcements and choose their weapon loadouts properly: you don't want to send a sub out to fight aircraft, and you need torpedoes (not depth charges) to take out enemy ships, for example. This is the essential portion of the game, where the battles are lost or won. Long time PC gamers will find the real-time tactical play here to be decent, but not anything particularly deep or special. Xbox 360 gamers will either be bored out of their skulls (focusing purely on the action and wondering why they're losing) or find themselves pleasantly surprised by exposure to a genre lacking on consoles.

You can largely ignore the action half of the game, but what sane gamer doesn't like making things go kaboom? You can seize manual control of sixty different kinds of sea and aircraft and jump directly into the action. Battlestations isn't a sim, so the action is fast paced - you won't be stalking a ship for hours, like you could with a more realistic representation of submarine combat. The vessels don't strictly adhere to real world physics, but you'll feel the difference in the various classes of warships. Patrol boats can turn on a dime, but trying to crank an aircraft carrier around is an exercise in ponderousness. I intensely disliked Battlestations' aircraft controls. The first time I flew a fighter, I was pulling down on what I assumed was the yoke in order to climb, but instead stalled and crashed because I was actually cutting the throttle. Dogfighting in general is a floaty, sluggish mess. Still, torpedo and dive bombing runs are fairly satisfying.

Like everything else about this game, the graphics and audio are merely decent. It's the little details that make a game convincingly visceral - the recoil and report of the guns in first person shooters, the shattering point of crash impact in racers, and so on. Battlestations feels "soft". Firing a battleship's main battery should give you a satisfying explosive quality, but they feel like bottle rockets. There's just no grit to the audio or video. This continues into the voice acting and presentation. Despite the fact that the U.S. Navy is embroiled in a desperate tooth-and-nail struggle for survival in the Pacific, there's no real sense of urgency in the cut scenes or in-game dialogue. The devastating attack on Pearl Harbor feels perfunctory and trivial. Bogging the action down even further are the constant load screens. You're subjected to a progress bar between every primary objective, and even between the main title screen and the menus. Compounding the tedium are the numbingly boring tutorials.

I'm a self-professed history geek, and Battlestations: Midway should have been right up my alley. I do respect the historical research and commend the ambitious scope of this title, but the gameplay itself is merely passable. The competent multiplayer contributes the drama that's lacking in the rest of the game, but it's difficult to find online opponents. Xbox 360 owners might consider checking out this underrepresented genre, but PC gamers have many superior alternatives.

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