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World War II represents many things to different people. For game developers it represents a bottomless pit of game scenarios -- some are good and some aren't so good. Fortunately, Battlestations: Midway has combined two proven formulas of action and strategy to make a different kind of WWII game.
Battlestations: Midway is set throughout World War II. The game kicks off by dropping you in the shoes of US Navy Lieutenant Henry Walker -- who shows up in Pearl Harbour just in time to witness the Japanese attack. The game places you in command of a fleet of boats, planes and submarines. The player is given the option to either control the vessels directly or via the tactical map. When controlling the vessel or plane directly you can alter its speed and direction as well as fire its various weapons. Alternatively when you switch to the tactical map the game tends to feel more like a traditional real time strategy game.
Luckily, before you jump into the campaign there are seven training missions that teach you how to control your boat. They cover basic ship movement, attacking and defending, using aircraft carriers, deploying submarines and advanced fleet manoeuvres. All up it takes about 45 minutes to complete the training missions before you are combat ready.
Whilst Battlestations: Midway's main focus is on naval ship combat -- you are often given the chance to take to the air and lead a squadron of fighter planes. There are three different types of planes; Hellcat fighters, fighter planes equipped with bombs and bombers. The Hellcat equipped with a bomb is the most fun of the three planes to fly. There is something quite satisfying about dropping a 220kg bomb onto the deck of an enemy ship. Alternatively, the player is given the option to take control of a submarine and take the stealthy approach to eliminating your enemy. This is fun in its own unique way as when stalking an enemy ship you must be careful not to give away your position. You can't spend all your time underwater, though, as the submarine will eventually run out of air. Fortunately, all you need to do to refill your oxygen supplies is to resurface for around 30 seconds. Doing this in the middle of a battle is not advised though, as submarines are extremely vulnerable to air and ship attacks.
Instead of directly controlling your vessels you can opt to control them via the tactical map. Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a big part when controlling your fleet from the tactical map. To do this effectively you need to turn on ship AI to allow the ships to shoot and react on their own. With this turned on your fleet is more than capable of dealing with any unexpected surprises. In saying that the enemy AI is just as smart as your ship's AI -- so don't expect it to be able allow the computer to do it all and sit back and relax.
One thing that sets Battlestations: Midway apart from the others is its use of damage control. Whenever your ship is hit by an enemy torpedo or artillery piece, it takes damage. This can either cause your ship to spring a leak or catch alight -- which isn't good! By using the simple yet intuitive damage interface, fixing your ship is a breeze. This feature can be a bit annoying at times, as it is needed to remove the arcade feel to the game. At the same time though, it can be a real nuisance having to repair your ship in the middle of a big battle.
Graphically, Battlestations Midway is sharp and realistic. The ship models are highly detailed and faithfully recreated after the real vessels they resemble. The same can also be said about the planes and submarines. All the ships have people walking about on the deck -- which gives the impression that the boats under your command are alive. It's really nice to see when rounds hit the water that the water surrounding it ripples realistically. The various islands that you fight in are all highly detailed, with small villages and ports scattered throughout them. Some of the larger ships come camouflaged -- like their real life counterparts. While this doesn't completely hide the ship when it's out at sea, it does help to break up the ship's outline -- making it harder to shoot at from a distance.
The multiplayer game plays just like the single-player game, but with all of the units being commanded by real, live players, the battles can vary wildly. There are nine multiplayer maps, many of which are taken directly from the single-player game. You can play with up to seven other players, each player commanding a specific ship, fleet, or squadron. The battles are all team-based, and you can choose to play as Japan or US forces. Each side has unique units, but they are still balanced. The maps aren't quite as balanced, though, with one side often starting at a significant disadvantage. Even then, sound tactics and good communication between team mates can easily give an underdog the upper hand in a battle. As with any multiplayer game, your enjoyment depends on the people you're playing with, but that goes double here because of the higher level of cooperation and strategy required in these battles.
The sound effects in Battlestations: Midway are loud and powerful. The sounds of the big artillery pieces on the deck of your ships are often intimidating. As you would expect when you are at sea -- there is always the constant sound of the sea in the background which is a nice touch adding to the atmosphere of the game. Every time you give an order the crew gives you an "aye aye captain" -- which is a cool novelty at first but quickly becomes annoying and old. Dialogue in Battlestations: Midway is fairly generic -- but does the job .The orchestral score in the game is great as you would expect from a game that recreates historic naval battles.
Overall Battlestations: Midway is a great combination of action, strategy and nice new locations. Whilst the game doesn't do anything that hasn't been done before, the way it's blended just fits so well together. Despite short single player campaign, Battlestations: Midway is an enjoyable action strategy game that shouldn't be missed by any wannabe fleet commanders.