Battlestations Midway ReviewCain Dornan
Battlestations Midway certainly isn’t a game that will appeal to the mass audience, with even some strategy fans likely finding it difficult to swallow its sometimes drab, drawn-out gameplay sequences and the occasionally overwhelming sense of responsibility that comes with commanding a fleet of battle-hardened ships and planes. You see, the game doesn’t present itself in a very likeable fashion at times; from the hour-long tutorial through to the very uneventful and disheartening first few missions of the single player campaign. While this certainly changes later on in the game – accompanied with a steep spike in its difficulty that may turn some gamers off – Battlestations Midway remains a game that is difficult to recommend to everyone. Instead, the best advice I can offer is to give this game a rent before smacking down that cash on the retail check-out counter. Unless, of course, you’re absolutely dieing for a naval sim on the Xbox 360. In that case, you really have no other option at this stage.
The game pits you in control of a variety of different ships throughout its arguably short single player US Campaign, coupled with one of the longest tutorial modes found on any game I’ve played to date. While the tutorial does offer some good teaching points, there’s also plenty of unnecessary tidbits of information that is pure common sense and doesn’t need to be included in a tutorial. You play as Henry Walker; a somewhat rookie recruit of the US Navy. You’ll need to build up your skill and rank from commanding a lowly wooden-hulled torpedo boat through to huge battle ships and aircraft carriers that dominated the seas during World War II. You’ll partake in a number of history’s greatest naval battles – both in the water and in the air – including Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbour and the famous Battle of Midway.
If you’re the bold type and choose to jump directly into the game’s US Campaign without bothering to at least check out the game’s tutorial briefly, you’ll likely find yourself in a bit of strife and confusion shortly into the game. If you’re looking for a full-on action game, you’d better look elsewhere, as you’ll spend much of your gameplay time managing and directing your units. Trying to take full control of every little unit will usually result in failure, as the occasionally complicated battle gameplay can cause you to forget other important elements of the battle. You can’t fly planes, send out and in new squadrons of fighters, direct your vessels, manage maintenance duties and target your ships to attack enemy units all at the same time, for example.
Thankfully, the game’s AI isn’t too bad, although they can occasionally become frustrating when they refuse to attack an enemy unit as you wanted. Nevertheless, you can’t mouth-feed each of the units under your command at all times – specifically in the later battles – so you’ll often be left relying on some units’ AI to manage themselves for periods of time as you tend to other duties.
Along with the game’s core single player campaign, you can also challenge yourself with a set of 11 additional challenge missions that turn up the heat, truly testing your fleet management skills and strategic battle tactics. There are sets of challenges directly involving ships, planes or submarines, each obviously focusing on the use of different craft for the missions.
As with most other games on the Xbox 360, Battlestations Midway features full online multiplayer support, allowing you to take on gamers worldwide in an array of ranked and unranked matches. The multiplayer mode requires much of the same tactics used in the single player campaign, with the inclusion of more team-based gameplay in some of the multiplayer offerings. There are two different teams to choose from, Japan or US, with the inclusion of support for up to eight players across nine different maps. You get to choose which units you control, which you must then use to wipe out the opposition. Unfortunately, given the heavy strategic elements that the game involves, multiplayer matches can go on for long periods of time, a point of consideration for those who tire of the same circumstances quickly.
The game’s presentation is fairly solid, offering up some detailed ships, planes and submarines, coupled with some particularly impressive water effects. The game is certainly far from hardware-pushing, and at times can look very last-generation. The game’s sound can prove to be dull at times, incorporating the classic slow-paced, strategic naval music that can get on your nerves after extensive periods of gameplay with little action.
Battlestations Midway should keep most strategic naval fans satisfied for a reasonable period of time. While some may argue that the game’s single player campaign offering is on the short side the addition of numerous challenge missions and a solid online multiplayer offering combines to serve plenty of hours worth of gameplay. Despite this, the game certainly isn’t for everyone, and a rental to see if it’s what your after prior to purchasing it is recommended.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.