First Impressions: The sleeping giant is finally starting to wake up.
What a difference a year makes. Battlestations: Midway was originally scheduled for a summer 2005 release but as seems to be the norm these days, missed the date. As the weeks stretched into months, the game also started missing a few other things ? mainly, its publisher (THQ) and developer (the apparently defunct Mithis Games). Yikes.
Fortunately, Eidos and their Hungarian studio have taken over the helm of this impressive looking WWII action strategy game and are giving it new life. This means, however, that the original plan to release it on current generation consoles has been toasted; instead, the game will now only be available for the Xbox 360 and PC. But considering the huge scale and scope of the game, utilizing the most powerful hardware available was probably a good idea.
If you ever wanted to engage in massive naval warfare in the Pacific, then this could be the game for you. Taking place in the six month period between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway, you will command the US Pacific Fleet and engage the Japanese Imperial Navy in a cinematic style worthy of a Hollywood WWII epic.
Eidos describes the game as ?Battlefield 1942 in the Navy?, thanks to the ability to instantly swap and take control over any combat unit, ranging from PT boats, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, aircraft carriers and submarines to fighter planes, dive bombers and torpedo bombers ? over 60 historically accurate weapons of war in all. Unlike Battlefield, however, all of your combat will take place in vehicles; after all, you'll be fighting in the Pacific so there's no need for running around on foot.
Combining real-time strategy with third-person action, you will start each of the 11 single player missions (which are based on real historical battles like the attack on Pearl Harbor, Operation Bluebird and the Battle of the Coral Sea) and 12 side missions by issuing orders to your ships and planes via an overhead nautical map. You can send out patrols, position escorts, issue attack orders on specific targets (either on land or sea) and launch aircraft. Once your strategy is laid out, you can take control of any vehicle and switch on the fly; so for example, you could hop into a fighter to take out an enemy air patrol, switch to a submarine to sink a destroyer pestering your carrier, and then control a battleship to pound an enemy cruiser. If you don't like your deployments and need to pull in reinforcements, you will also be able to go back into your overhead map and issue new orders at any time.
Since the emphasis will be on action, you will spend most of your time fighting rather than issuing commands. Like Battlefield, your NPC teammates will fight by your side; for example, when you're dogfighting, your wingmen will follow you and you'll get AA support from your ships. When you switch to another unit, the AI will instantly take over your previously occupied vehicle. Things will be a little different on the big ships, where you will have the ability to allocate crewmen to man guns or conduct repairs.
Even though the game will be more action than RTS, the developers didn't want to create a mindless arcade shooter and so added some realistic simulation elements into the gameplay. For example, the huge gun turrets on ships will rotate in real time and can overheat if you use them too much. Ships will list to one side if they suffer enough damage, a good thing to keep in mind when you want to disable flight operations from enemy aircraft carriers. Each ship will have different compartments, so by aiming at the rear you might be able to take out the engines and leave a ship dead in the water. Of course, too much realistic simulation can be frustrating and distract from the action, so you will have unlimited ammo ? but again, be aware that your guns can overheat.
You will have full freedom to approach each battle as you see fit. If you want to engage ship to ship, go ahead but watch out for kamikaze attacks. If you want to be sneaky and take your sub for a spin, feel free ? just be careful of the depth charges. Oh, and using dive bombers and torpedo bombers will be a great way to disable enemy ships ? assuming you can survive the AA flak and enemy fighters, that is.
The maps will be a mind-bogglingly huge, up to 50x50 miles square ? and what makes things even more amazing are the highly detailed graphics of each individual vehicle. From the rivets on the planes to the faces of sailors running around on ship decks, the graphical beauty ? especially on such a massive scale ? is something to behold. Flames and smoke will billow from crippled ships, big splashes will spray up from underwater explosions, and the water effects are simply incredible. Oh, yes, folks, this is going to be one pretty game.
Once you complete the single player campaign by winning the pivotal Battle of Midway, you will unlock the Japanese missions, which will let you take on the Pacific Fleet from the other side. As you progress through the game, you will also be able to unlock a dozen aircraft, ship and submarine challenges that won't affect the story, but should add a nice variety to the gameplay.
The game will also support 4v4 player battles on 10 multiplayer maps over the Internet, with each player responsible for specific combat units.