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Jeremy Jastrzab
28 Mar, 2007

Battlestations Midway Review

360 Review | Action and strategy, together at last.
A somewhat common sentiment among a few gamers is that action games don’t have enough strategy and that strategy games don’t have enough action. Whether or not you agree with this perspective, you'd have to admit that a game combining these two genres could be pretty nifty, if done correctly. Enter Battlestations Midway, a game that tries to seamlessly combine strategic manoeuvres and intense action into the one package.

This is a title with a fair few gameplay options, but of course there's the requisite Campaign mode. The campaign tells the story of Henry Walker, a recent Navy graduate, and starts on the day that Pearl Harbour was bombed. From there, you cover Henry’s story and progress over eleven historically similar events throughout the Pacific, up until the Battle at Midway Island. Story aside, you also have a training campaign, which is wholly necessary but a tad dragged out, and three Challenge modes, each with three individual missions that cover a few points over the war. The developers weren’t kidding when they called this a Challenge mode.

So, how does a game manage to fit two very distinct styles of play together? Actually, it’s more like four. Each mission, challenge or campaign will place you on a map. On that map, it is possible for you to take direct control of three different kinds of units, a few buildings and of course, the whole map. The three units are planes, ships and submarines. Each of these can be taken under direct control. However, you also have the option of splitting each up into squads, and sending the individual squads to attack, defend and/or go about the required objectives while you do some strategic planning.

A successful strike, likely in Rookie mode.

A successful strike, likely in Rookie mode.
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The map will tell you everything that you need to know. In the campaign, it isn’t until the third mission that you’ll begin to use it but once you do, the action becomes much more intense, and requires a fair bit more from the player. At first, the map can be rather difficult to use, and things aren't helped by having to use the crummy Xbox 360 D-pad to cycle through squads and buildings. Once you’ve selected your unit/squad, you’re able to direct where they go. If you select a building such as a hangar, you can select a point to where all launched aircraft will go. The map is the centre of strategy, and once you have the hang of the controls, you’ll be fighting battles as if it were second nature.

When you exit the map, you'll be in direct control over the squad or unit that was last selected. Firstly, in terms of the planes, it’s very simple and easy to learn how to both fly and land them. Turning left and right becomes cumbersome under the set-up, and it can be difficult to get your aim 100% accurate, but pressing the Y button will give a first-person perspective, and proves to be a little more accurate. Flying is definitely functional, and wholly satisfying after you defeat a squadron, or successfully torpedo a Cruiser, though we felt that the controls weren’t as solid, nor the in-flight options as deep as in specialised flying games.

Most of the time, you’re likely to be captaining a ship. Apart from moving, you will need to take care of the various kinds of damage that can affect your ship. These are accessed through a menu and are done by assigning more or less crew to a certain part. Depending on the ship, you’ll need to make use of the fire power to down other ships, planes and subs. Aiming could be more accurate, but again, pressing Y will open up the binoculars, which in turn can zoom in for extra precision. Carrier ships can launch and land planes as well. The main issues with the ships is that they’re rather slow and in turn, slightly affect the pace of the game. That, and when things get hectic in the repairs, it’s too easy to miss something, like a torpedo heading straight for you.

Hmm... We might need a little back-up.

Hmm... We might need a little back-up.
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Submarines can provide some of the most dastardly moments, but they pretty much handle just like ships, bar their obvious underwater capabilities. Furthermore, they’re mainly confined to using torpedoes, and they don’t make many appearances throughout the game. You can take your subs to four different depth levels, with each having a different effect on how you go about your stealthy attacks. Still, it seemed like we were being cornered a little too easily, and like the ships, the subs were quite slow at times. As a strategy game, Battlestations Midway is paced faster than usual, but unless you’re in the air, the general action is a fair bit slower. It's something that takes a bit of getting used to.

The game does feature Xbox Live support, but this is rather limited when compared to the rest of the game. There are both ranked and player matches, and up to eight players can jump into something of a full scale battle, where the only objectives are to eliminate your opponents and make sure your commanding ship/base survives. In ranked matches, you’ll earn points for each battle that you win, and in turn, start moving up the ranking ladders.

Overall, the effort to combine action and strategy is relatively successful, and there's a fair bit of depth and genuine strategy to it. However, the control layout on the Xbox 360 pad makes for a rather steep learning curve. Deep into the single player, you’ll still be fiddling with the controls, and executing actions that you didn’t intend to. Thanks to this, a lot of the more in-depth options are lost in the complexity. It's a shame, but in reality, there's not that much that could have been done without support from a keyboard and mouse set-up.

Peek-a-boo!

Peek-a-boo!
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The campaign is rather short, maxing out at eight hours for one difficulty level, but you do have the challenges. Aside from this, Battlestations Midway can get extremely difficult on the higher levels of difficulty, and the challenges live up to their name. This isn’t helped by AI that is skewed in favour of the enemies. Squads that aren’t under your direct control lack the ability to think for themselves, as ships won’t repair themselves and planes won’t go attack the next unit unless you mandate it. On top of this, the enemies on trickier levels have uncanny levels of precision and ruthlessness. This is particularly noticeable on higher difficulty modes, as any unit that isn't under your direct control seems to be almost utterly useless. For example, we had a squadron of four planes that defeated two squadrons of only one plane each.

Graphically, the game looks like it's been ported over from the PC. It's nice to see the details on all of the different ships, planes and subs, and the presentation is clean, giving you the option of making the presentation look “old-style”. Also, the game deserves credit for the potential amount of action that can be happening on screen at once. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of occasions where the screen is almost completely lit up. The style of the characters in the game is particularly dull. In terms of sound, there are a few well-orchestrated tunes, but while the variety is good and the voicing serviceable, it lacks emotion at the right times. Finally, the sound effects do a good job, especially when the action gets extremely hectic.

Overall, Battlestations Midway successfully merges two genres - action and strategy - to the point where you have a fun and enjoyable game. While the learning curve for the controls on the Xbox 360 drop it below its PC counterpart, it's serviceable for what it's worth. Other than the controls and something of a short campaign, Battlestations Midway is recommended for anyone looking for a fresh change of scenery on the usual WWII efforts, and can put up with a slightly slower pace of game.
The Score
A few issues aside, Battlestations Midway successfully melds a game that provides a strategic action game that isn't your run-of-the-mill WWII game. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Battlestations Midway Content

Xbox Live Deal of the Week
24 Mar, 2009 Naval battles ahoy.
Battlestations: Midway sequel on the way
29 Mar, 2007 More action and strategy together.
Battlestations: Midway content released on Marketplace
28 Mar, 2007 New maps and challenges.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Eidos Interactive
Developer:
  Eidos Interactive
Players:
  1-8

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