Game Review : Battlestations, Pacific

Wednesday, August 24th 2011. | Games News

We’ve all seen tons of Hollywood recreations of the events that took place in World War II and the gaming industry has also had its fun exploiting some of the most impressive military actions that shaped the course of the war. This time around, Eidos Hungary did a bang up job recreating some of the most epic moments in the World War II conflict and it also placed you in the middle of the action, so that you can get a front row seat at the larger-than-life clashes.

Battlestations: Pacific is not exactly a historically-accurate war game, but it does use some of the fiercest battles in history as reference points, leaving you to outweigh situations as you come across them. On one hand, you have the American campaign that largely unfolds the events as they truly happened, with small variations every once in a while. On the other hand, you have the Japanese campaign (a rather interesting touch) where you’ll have the chance to create your own history and see what might have happened if they would have won the war. With both military campaigns taking place smack in the middle of the Pacific, the story is focused more on the bigger picture (each side winning or losing the war) and not the individual missions at hand.


With both the Japanese and American campaigns, Battlestations: Pacific gives you the chance to play on both sides of the field, which is a nice change for once. Always having to play with the same American stereotypes can sometimes be a drag and it does feel somewhat rewarding to lead the Japanese assaults. I might even be inclined to say that the Japanese campaign has a more tactical and stealth approach to each mission rather than the American’s head-first and guns blazing strategy. Sure, it’s nice to knock the living daylights out of the enemy ships while being all heroic about it, but using patience and tactical deployment is never a bad idea either.

Although Battlestations: Pacific is a hybrid mix of real time strategy and arcade-like military simulation,  it definitely comes out as a winning combination for those wanting to engage in every aspect of a military battle. Cycling through multiple aircrafts, ships and even submarines right in the heat of the battle is a nice touch and it also gives you the ability to properly coordinate and efficiently handle your troops. Having this freedom you can be overwhelmed at times by the sheer amount of tasks that you have to perform all at once, but it gives you a rewarding feeling that you just can’t get anywhere else.
No worries though, because you can take things down a notch and simply enjoy a strategic overview of the map as you command your entire fleet by simply issuing orders. This is particularly handy when you’re outnumbered, outgunned and you have to make full use of your limited strike force. It’s a great chance to give the A.I. a shot at command (and it handles it quite nicely too).

The thing about jumping in and controlling each unit at a time is that you can switch between its weapons, choosing the most devastating attack and it back and take pleasure in shelling the enemy cruisers. Most battleships are also equipped with torpedoes that are particularly effective against close-range vessels and watching them rip open the hulls is definitely a sight worth seeing. As spectacular as these scenes may be, dogfighting acrobatics that take place above the carriers are not to be taken lightly either. Ranging from fighters, torpedo planes, dive bombers and scout planes, you’ll have a hard time taking your pick. Controlling them is not that difficult either and all you need to remember is not to stall your engine or else you’ll end up diving nose-first, and trust me when I say there’s no Eject button.

Other, more slow-paced units like submarines, have the distinct advantage that they can sneak up on enemies and launch torpedoes undetected. Sure, you can take a stab at controlling one of them, but you’ll have to be equipped with tons of patience, as they move slowly and can be taken out easily by other submarines. Having such a wide range of units and the ability to individually control each of them can prove a tough challenge for newcomers and it’s not something that I’d recommend unless you’re feeling particularly eager to sink your teeth in it, completely.

Luckily, the controls have a way of always staying the same regardless of the craft you command and the only difference lies in some of the orders you can issue to their crew or fellow ships. For instance, you can ask your squadron to take down your target as you watch their back and provide cover fire. I know you’re probably thinking that the battlefield is chaotic and there’s no way you can make sense of who’s shooting who, but the reality is that you have more than enough time to successfully deploy each unit individually and still be able to enjoy a romantic sunset on the horizon.

That being said, I have to point out that the weather system has been given a great deal of attention and maneuvering amidst the splashes of near misses while at night and in the middle of a thunder storm, can leave you drooling with excitement.

Audio and video
While the whistling sound of falling bomb shells and trigger-happy machine guns are beautifully depicting a war-like experience, there are a couple of voice acting issues that fall short of realism and are completely out of place. In mid-air combat you’ll often hear one of your mates yell out “Damn, I got another one!” as he shoots down a fighter, and this kind of macho swagger seems more fitting in second rate movie rather than a serious war game wannabe. Even the Japanese voices sound offbeat. With a wretched accent that sounds more like a cartoon villain rather than Americanized Japanese, not only that it seems out of place, but you’ll also want to skip the dialogues and cinematic scenes altogether.

Thank God the graphics make up for this and they definitely manage to pull off some really nice visual effects. As I’ve previously mentioned, the weather system is pretty impressive and there are also a great deal of details in each unit’s design.  You can even see sailors strolling around the carrier’s deck as they repair stuff or perform their daily duties.

Featuring five online game modes (Escort, Siege, Competitive, Duel and Island Capture) the multiplayer experience is as rich and rewarding as the single player missions. There is, however, the matter of having to wait a while before you can get an entire team to join the battle, and players seem to be quite scarce.
While all game modes are appreciated, Island Capture has an unusual appeal, mostly because it involves a lot more team work and it’s more diverse in terms of gameplay and replay value. The goal is to capture each island before your opponent, so that you can unlock various bonuses. As simple as that sounds, fears battles are being fought and challenging a real opponent rather than the A.I. is a worthwhile experience.

Still, the online community doesn’t seem to pack a lot of numbers and I’ve had to wait a while for someone to actually join me for a game. On the other hand, there was no lagging and the game did a fair job at sustaining the same gameplay variety and freedom as the single player missions.

I can honestly say that Battlestations: Pacific is not a game that everyone can pick up and enjoy instantly. Although its beauty lies in the sheer freedom and complexity of controlling each unit individually, it does take a while to get used to the controls. However, the game does pack some meaty campaigns that you can chew on for a while before you try out the online experience, and the replay value also scores two thumbs up in my book. With oodles of gameplay content neatly wrapped up in some great graphics, Battlestations: Pacific is not something that you’ll grow tired of easily. Everyone, from real time strategy to flight simulator fans, will love and appreciate it.

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