When our copy of Battlestations: Pacific arrived we were pretty excited.
Having had hours of entertainment from Battlestations: Midway, but found it to be lacking in some important areas, we couldn’t wait to see what Eidos Interactive would do to improve the series. Would enough changes be made to make Battlestations: Pacific a more lasting experience than the original?
Unlike Battlestations: Midway, Battlestations: Pacific has moved along the timeline as the Japanese advance through the Pacific, and it includes the likes of the battle for Okinawa. The game features two campaigns, one for US forces and one for the Japanese, which is exactly what the fans were asking for after the last one.
The US involvement follows the historical account, however the Japanese campaign is more flexible, allowing you to turn the battle in the Pacific in favour of the Imperial force, starting at the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Certainly this dual campaign is one of the strongest features of the new release, giving the player a look into the war for the Pacific from both perspectives.
The Battlestations series is an action strategy title which tries to find a balance between putting you in the hot-seat, but also allowing you to control your forces from a tactical map. Eidos had done a good job in this respect on the first title, and it looks as though they have only improved on their original formula. The commands are fluid and for the most part the mini-map is clear, and relatively easy to use. You can order planes to attack targets, or to defend a certain area or target. Coordinating attacks through the mini-map still seemed somewhat difficult however, but a well structured attack can be absolutely devastating for the enemy.
The game engine itself has been overhauled with a huge increase in the level of detail. The cockpit view in the plane, the tree covered islands, and the gorgeous clouds that you can dart your aircraft through are all wonderfully rendered. Day and night effects, as well as storms have been included this time around. The ocean detail has really been upgraded, with seas becoming choppy and your ships realistically charging through the waves, opposed to the previous title where there was very little movement on the ocean surface.
The ships have crew moving about on board, and are very accurately modelled. Damage modelling also looks distinctly more realistic, and during play I’ve seen ships split in two, fighters torn apart in the skies and ships engine rooms blasted away. Of note is the range of units you can control, from fighters, bombers, some early jets, submarines, battleships, cruisers, torpedo boats, flying boats, aircraft carriers to name just a few. With over a hundred playable units, there will certainly be a lot to do for players wanting to try each of the units out.
A nice addition which eases the gameplay somewhat from the original is an auto target feature. Aiming directly at a ship will result in the guns auto firing at the point on the ship you target. This however won’t be quite as accurate in some cases as a decent leading shot, although it's far less tricky. Ships are now made up of different parts; fuel, engine, and the munitions. An attack on each part will have a different effect on the destruction of the enemy ship. Hitting the engines for example, will result in a loss of motive power to the enemy ship making it far easier to target your attacks. The controls for the units too are well set up, and although the plane controls take a little bit of getting used to, ship controls are as close to intuitive as you can get with a title like this, and its a real pleasure steering an enormous battleship through a dangerously brutal sea.
The multiplayer also looks to have been considerably enhanced with multiple games on hand. The new island capture modes in Battlestations: Pacific will certainly make the online mode even more interesting, with the ability to land troops and take over island strongholds.
The online mode promises to include a similar challenge in which teams play against each other to capture all islands in a level, with each island unlocking certain special features for the controlling team.
It's clear that this is a considerable overhaul from the original, with countless improvements made to what was already an innovative game. Despite the fact that we only had preview code, the game wasn't lacking in polish. Aside from a few bugs which will almost certainly be ironed out by the final release, we had a great time seeing what the game would throw at us, and what we could throw back.
The sheer number of units, as well as the constantly changing gameplay will surely keep us hooked for months, and hopefully the final release will surpass our already excellent initial impression.