Battlestations Pacific

Battlestations Pacific is an RTS Action game with a twist. Whats the twist, well the twist is that at different time the RTS and the actions elements can both deliight and frustrate, allow me to elaborate.

When I first loaded up Battlestations Pacific I did the dutiful thing of going into the tutorial mode to undertake the formal ‘getting to know how the hell things work’ part of any new game. I first chose the Japanese air combat trials and, having first cursed as I ploughed into the surf and then inverted the Y-axis controls in the game options, I proceeded to swoop, strafe, dive and soar to my hearts content. I took a bead on the first ‘enemy’ ship and DAGGA-DAGGA-DAGGA BOOM! It was history. The second fell to the same technique and for the third I employed a couple of nice big bombs to do the job then schonk, I was back to the main menu.

So much for congratulations, well done, here are your wings, ‘great shooting tex’. Nothing. This I found a little peeving. I pressed on.

I decided to go for the campaign and got stuck into the War in the Pacific on the side of the good ol’ US of A. Here is really were getting to know the interface and the dynamics for each mission are so important. There are some missions where you simply have to take hands on control and get stuck in, others were it’s perfectly possible to direct operations from the strategic map and let things happen. I’d not played the original Battlestations: Midway game so I found the learning curve to be very steep indeed in some places and in some missions the limit of control placed on me was also a limiting factor to my success. Why give me an aircraft carrier and then proceed to deny me any control of it, leaving is wallowing around like some great wounded whale just waiting to be attacked!

The strategic map is a top-down radar-like projection of the battlefield. Your view is limited by the visibility of the units in your command so, if possible, it’s a good idea to send out recon. planes to make sure you have a handle on what’s going on. The directive interface is a simple point-and-click to select a unit and point-and-click to give it an order, I found some of the units had a mind of their own and needed to be ‘reminded’ every now and again where they should be going but this may have been a case of me fighting against the scenario being played out, after all it’s difficult to spot a flotilla of craft in line with the story if I’ve ordered that unit in a different direction!

Launching aircraft from the carrier or  an airstrip, or launching boats from the dockyards is achieved  using a simple pop-up interface. LB brings this up and the D-pad and A button allows for the selection of facility – airbase or dockyard – and the type of vehicle to be launched. The payload options can also be altered in this interface allowing aircraft, where appropriate, to switch between bombs, rockets, and torpedoes. This management interface also allows you to see if any units have been shot down / sunk and need to be replaced, this is key and I’d urge anyone playing the game to keep an eye on this during combat.

Taking control of a unit allows you to fly the planes, which handle differently dependent upon the model you choose from either a chase-cam or in cockpit view. The boats are always show from an orbit-cam position allowing you to maintain good visibility all around. The controls for all of the types of unit are pretty simple being, on the whole, speed up-down and steer left-right all handled on the left-stick of the controller. A warning here though, big boats and ships do NOT move quickly! Remember the high-school factoid about the amount of time and space it takes to turn a oil-tanker around? Same for an aircraft carriers.

The boats and ships come with a variety of weapon load-outs defined by there type. My favourite is the Destroyer class with it’s long range artillery backed up on the same weapons control with short range guns – awesome! It may be evidence of my preferred style of play but I found I spent a lot of time with the artillery firers and AA-Flak guns taking out the enemies at extreme range – there is a significant sense of satisfaction which comes from blasting a fighter plane out of the sky at 1.5 miles and watching the burning wreckage plummet in a fiery hail to the ocean below.

There’s also a repair menu available for boats and ships allowing you to assign crews to put out fires, fix engines, repair guns or patch the hull. Indicators for these elements appear on your dashboard and allow you to monitor their status. Keep on top of these and you might just get though a skirmish as the winner and not an interesting dive site!

But when it’s all boiled down this is about re-creating the US victory over the Japanese in the Battle for the Pacific. Names like Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and the like pepper the narrative and the intercut footage taken by the brave souls during the real events serves to underline this. But what if things didn’t work out like they did? What if the Japanese secure air superiority, splashed the USS Enterprise early in the day and repelled the American advance? Battlestations Pacific allows you to run through these “What if?” scenarios by taking control of the Japanese forces and allowing you to re-write history. This effectively doubles the game you have if the historical context is taken into account, and certainly provides a second set of playable scenarios even if you don’t!

The game looks nice too. There was no significant tearing or halts in the video, the water, smoke, fire and particle elements have been very well realised and I think the reaction of my partner as she wandered past my chair was “Wow that look so realistic!”. It’s a nice looking game. There SHOULD be more wake from the ships though and, for me, the clouds and smoke seemed a little bit splodgy but these are minor points in the greater scheme.







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