Gaming consoles traditionally favour certain genres; take a look at your local gaming shop and you’ll see any number of FPS, sports, fighting and racing games. You’ll also notice a dearth of strategy or simulation games, which are conventionally found in the realm of PC gaming. Eidos attempts to address this void with their latest foray into the Xbox 360: Battlestations: Midway.
The single player experience at the heart of Battlestations: Midway is rich in history and detail. Much like EA’s Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, Battlestations Midway places you in the firing line of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbour. You assume the role of Lieutenant Henry Walker as he attempts to survive the first initial battle and then launch counter-attacks across the Pacific. As you progress through the single-player campaign, the missions and your fleets become ever more intricate. From captaining a single PT boat to commanding aircraft carriers and their flight squadrons; culminating at the epic Battle of Midway, recreating the dramatic do-or-die mission for control of the ocean. Players can also choose to play through individual ship, sub or plane challenges. These challenges provide more casual gamers the chance to jump into a mission without ploughing through the storyline. Once a challenge is successfully completed the next will open up.
Battlestations: Midway strives to run the line between true strategy and the action usually associated with console gaming. It does a pretty decent job of maintaining the interest of the player while advancing the missions. Learning how to efficiently and effectively control the varied elements of your fleet is crucial.
Luckily, Eidos provides gamers with the perfect opportunity to enhance their skills and training with the Naval Academy option. Captaining a submarine giving you the blues? Dip into Silent Hunting. Flying like a turtle? Give Pilot Training a go. Every key element is included within the Academy and will become crucial as the missions ramp up in difficulty. Indeed, instructions are often omitted within the campaign itself and the only way to master the advanced sections of the game is with Academy practice.
The game provides some truly epic maps for players to manoeuvre around. However a lot of time will be spent micro- managing your fleet on the tactical map, setting flight-paths, assigning targets and bringing your planes back to refuel. The in-game graphics do provide some very nice visuals at times, especially when output at maximum resolution, but the game suffers at times from frame rate issues and the scorn of flight simulators since inception: the great, big empty sky. Yet the ships, planes and submarines are detailed and impressive, replicating the feel of grim World War II
Battlestations: Midway is a curious blend of several game styles; both strategy and simulation at the same time. Any captain wanting to succeed will need to both marshal their troops across the broad blue battlefields and take control of specific units to ensure success. While piloting a speedy and manoeuvrable fighter is exciting and stimulating, the slow, laboured battleships do lack a little bit of oomph that would make them more fun to play. While being very realistic, the action suffers slightly because of it.
Online, Battlestations: Midway is a different kettle of sushi. Up to eight players can engage in team-based operations playing as either the Japanese or American navy. Over nine maps, teams frantically attempt to annihilate the enemy while maintaining their own team’s survival. Various squadrons, submarines or ships are placed in your command, and exact communication and planning are required to overcome your often unpredictable opponents. Just like in real battles, weak players may lead to your downfall, so maintaining a close watch on your allies as well as your enemies is vital for success. Online play is rewarded with achievements and medals, encouraging players to work as a team and achieve victories against all comers.
Battlestations: Midway represents a solid entry into the under-crowded Xbox 360 strategy market. A compelling storyline is complimented by good depth and substantial action in single-player mode. Taken online the game opens up a new dimension on Xbox Live and could provide the skilled player with endless hours of torpedo-launching, depth- charging, battleship-sinking fun.
• Stands apart from the vast majority of Xbox 360 titles on the style of gameplay alone.
• Good detailed storyline, with a unique approach to the World War II era.
• Online play is frantic and will keep drawing players back in.
• Presents a short single-player experience, easily completed within a couple of days.
• Graphically a little inconsistent at times.