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Posted on Jan 18, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Battlestations Midway – Recon (PC)

By Adam Faubert

Eidos Interactive’s Battlestations Midway takes an approach to World War II that developers have been eager to embrace over the past few years: The Pacific Theatre. The game tells the story of the US campaign against Japan in the years leading up to the conflict at Midway-what is widely regarded as the turning point in the war against the Japanese Empire. Armchair General recently sat down with Battlestations Midway to test out both the single and multiplayer elements of the game. What we found was a game that despite repeated delays is well worth the wait.

The first level we encountered tasked us with the defense of the Philippines. As wave after wave of Japanese aircraft bombarded the island, the chaos of the attack was apparent. What was once a tranquil tropical harbor soon hustled and bustled with the roar of engines as anything and everything with a set of props left the harbor for the safety of the open water. Manning the machine gun turrets on a PT boat gave us ample opportunity to become a high-tech fly swatter. The air was thick with black trails of smoke from engine fires and pieces of confetti that resembled aircraft.

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After gunning down countless aircraft it was time to leave the harbor for some good old fashioned fish-in-a-barrel shooting. Armed with torpedoes and machine guns, taking out the troop transport ships and landing craft was an easy task, with the only setback being we couldn’t kill things fast enough-torpedoes take a significant time to reload. The fast and agile PT boat had no problems maneuvering between the bulky and slow transport ships.

The second of the two single player missions, Battle of the Coral Sea, was an entirely different approach. This fight pitched two fleets against each other and highlighted one of the best mechanics of Midway, the command map. The key element of the game is the ability to not only control any unit on the map, but to be able to have an overview of the battlefield and give orders accordingly. With so much activity happening in the fleet itself-manning antiaircraft guns, making repairs to stricken vessels, moving destroyers into shielding positions and making attack runs with torpedo-armed aircraft-things can get a little confusing.

The command map itself resembles the old overview maps for the Battle Isle games. A large grid is displayed of the entire area and dynamic icons represent each type of unit and squadron. So while scout aircraft can fly ahead to find enemy ships, commanders can also send dive bombers and torpedo planes behind it to quickly strike the enemy once they are located. The beauty of Battlestations is that players can jump into any unit at any time during battle. It’s a seamless transition from fighter plane to aircraft carrier to land-based anti-aircraft emplacement. The possibilities for action are nearly limitless and let the players choose how they want to complete a task. The most important aspect of this is that even on maps consisting of large swaths of ocean, like the Battle of the Coral Sea, there is always something to do despite miles and miles of surrounding empty ocean.

During the battle, aircraft were the order of the day as the fleet never comes into direct contact with the Japanese. They handled nimbly and despite our lack of a joystick we were able to get the hang of it. While many games, like the Battlefield series, make it less than desirable to use a mouse and keyboard, Battlestations felt more fluid-most likely due to the fact that the keyboard facilitated turning and allowed for easier turning and diving for maneuvers.

Multiplayer games function similarly to their single counterparts. In the two missions we had a chance to play, there were entirely different methods of combat. The first featured a head-to-head battle of multiple battleships. The objective was clear: decimate the enemy with as much firepower as possible before they did the same to you. And much like a night in Vegas, the fun was quick and dirty. Conversely, a conflict in the Solomon Islands saw each side with two shipyards and two airfields to deploy from. While annihilation of the enemy was still the order of the day, there was a more strategic element as targets needed to be defended as well as destroyed.

Multiplayer allows up to eight players online, with each able to pick a starting building/unit at the onset of a match. One versus one matches are possible, but with the myriad of units on the screen at one time they lend themselves to a few users, if not a full room. The command map makes an appearance and AI units can still be given orders. Still, Battlestations Midway will be the type of game where people demand a human opponent to blow up. There’s a special feeling to be had diving in with a torpedo bomber to sink a ship just commandeered by a human opponent.

Battlestations Midway is shaping up to be a thrilling strategy-action hybrid. The ease of use lets beginners get involved in the gritty combat and strategy buffs will love the fleet management aspects. So despite the constant release date roll backs, the delays seem to be well worth it when the game is released on the PC and Xbox 360.

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