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Battlestations: Pacific

2007′s Battlestations: Midway was a rare breed of game, combing both heavy strategy and action on a grand scale as it tackled WWII naval and air combat in one package. It was definitely a complicated game, featuring an opening tutorial that took around an hour to complete; a daunting task for any first-timers to the genre. Its sequel, Battlestations: Pacific has heard the criticisms and gone back to the drawing board to create a much more streamlined and accessible game, stripping away some of the more confusing mechanics and creating an easy environment for anyone to go in and command a vast fleet of battleships and bombers. It’s now a game that welcomes those newcomers, while still appealing to the hardcore audience the first game generated.

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This is due in part to the amount of content on offer. As you would imagine, Battlestations: Pacific takes place during WWII’s Pacific theatre of war, with the US and Japanese forces gunning for each other over this massive ocean battlefield. The game gives you the rare opportunity to play as the enemy forces, featuring both US and Japanese campaigns – the latter allowing you to rewrite history. All in all each campaign provides around twenty hours of gameplay, with some missions lasting upwards of an hour as you take on many different gameplay styles.

“The ease of use is key here as you use the d-pad to quickly switch between different units.”At the start of the game you’ll mostly be controlling small squadrons of ships and planes as the game gets you accustomed to how everything works. The ease of use is key here as you use the d-pad to quickly switch between different units, whether it be a set of planes going on a bombing run or a massive aircraft carrier dispensing more units to the air. There’s definitely a lot more leeway this time around as you quickly switch between units, issuing simple commands on the map and on-the-fly. There are only a limited number of basic commands such as attack, regroup or break formation, so it’s not deeply grounded in strategy; but the AI is good enough that you’ll issue these orders and they know exactly what to do, often taking care of the enemy for you. Eventually as you get deeper into each campaign the playing field will open up as you’ll begin to take command of, what seems like, whole armies with battleships, a variety of different planes and even submarines. It looks hectic but the strategy commands are so easy you shouldn’t have any problems issuing orders and keeping the mission on track.

When it comes to actually controlling all of the different vehicles they generally feel the same. There’s no real difference between each one other than the amount of weapons it can carry, its speed and how much health it has. You’ll find ships with a lot more firepower than others, but really they all feel strikingly similar. This leads to the game getting tedious long before the campaign is over, especially considering how lengthy some of the missions are. There are a few standouts where you’ll have to use submarines to sneak up on your foes or use seaplanes to gather spy information, but the majority of missions are your basic bombing runs or command post captures.

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“It’s extremely slow paced as you eventually make you way to the enemy, only to hold down the fire button till each ship is destroyed.”However, the real issue holding Battlestations: Pacific back is that naval combat just isn’t that exciting for anyone other than WWII purists that revel in the authenticity of these old machines. It’s extremely slow paced as you eventually make you way to the enemy, only to hold down the fire button till each ship is destroyed. Of course, there’s always the air combat to turn to, but this is similarly slow as you repeat the arduous process of flying on your bombing run over and over again. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its exciting moments, but they’re pretty rare amidst the games myriad missions, so it could have really used a jolt of intensity.

That’s not to say the game looks bad, far from it. The water effects are stunning – good job considering you spend most of the game looking at it – and all the other elements you would expect on the open sea work well, as the clouds cast shadows on the water, and the sun glistens of the bow of the ship. There are also plenty of little details such as crew walking around on deck, and water splashing onto the screen as an enemy shot barely grazes the hull of your ship. Battlestations: Pacific hits plenty of the right notes, it just doesn’t have that intense unpredictability of war like something like Call of Duty, where the visual showpiece is part of the magic.

The sound design is also hit and miss. While the sounds of AA guns shooting planes out of the sky sounds phenomenal, the voice acting is pretty poor in all areas. The American campaign consists of plenty of stereotypical, over-the-top commanders including one that sounds like Duffman from The Simpsons, while the Japanese campaign uses some terribly accented voice work that would have been much better with Japanese voices and English subtitles.

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In the end, Battlestations: Pacific strips away plenty of the over-complicated mechanics of its predecessor and opens up the game with a much more streamlined approach. It’s deeply rooted in strategy but not so much that it isn’t accessible for a wider audience. While it may look hectic it’s pretty easy to command a whole fleet of both ships and planes, and the two lengthy campaigns should keep you busy for a few weeks at least. Sadly there’s just not enough variety between each vehicle, and the painstakingly slow combat doesn’t give it the intensity of other WWII titles out there. But if you’re craving for some naval based warfare you can’t go wrong here, it’s just too slow and monotonous to recommend on a larger scale.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @richardwakeling.

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