Battlestations: Midway is one of the first truly tactical games to hit the Xbox 360. It puts you in control of planes or ships and you must out wit or outsmart your opponent to take the victory. It’s a lot different from your average FPS where the rule of ‘spray and pray’ comes to mind, in this you can’t simply spray and pray but instead you use precision assaults, evasive manoeuvres, flanking moves, you name it, to either sink your target or shoot them down. It is a welcome break from games like Prey, Gears of War and Rainbow Six, but the real question being is the game good enough to keep us off our beloved FPS titles?
Now the first you will need to do is go through the games rather in-depth tutorial mode. The main reasons people don’t like this game is because they don’t understand how to play it and I would most certainly recommend everyone goes through the tutorial before going into battle. It will take you through everything from operating your map and ordering your planes, through to attacking with your various vehicles and setting up formations. Sure you can pick up most of the controls while going through the single player but when online you’ll be like lamb to the slaughter if you don’t go through the Training mode.
So firstly the story of the game, you in control of Henry Walker who like most soldiers has to earn his way to the top, through victories. You start out in a little PT boat with a few torpedoes and a pea shooter, but you will slowly but surely rise through the ranks and get to control destroyers, cruisers, battle barges and carriers.
At the beginning you’re only allowed to use a single unit and I must admit it gets a tad annoying after a while as your always wanting to change your ship so you can outflank and outsmart your opponent. Once you do finally get to control more units things get a lot more interesting, ordering each ship and plane to attack, defend, hold and retreat just feels so good you really feel like Admiral of the Navy.
You yourself can of course control your own unit and everyone has their favourites, whether it’s the submarines, battle barges or planes. Saying that, what about the rest of your fleet, well you can order them to move or attack via the map page (which is on the back button). The map is pretty simple to use but again in the tutorial there’s a whole section on it which is definitely worth having a look at.
Sometimes the ships don’t do what you tell them and don’t attack or go where you told them to go, it’s annoying but simply re-ordering them to their objective usually fixes the problem. On the whole the map is your greatest friend, without it you WILL have a massacre on your hands and learning how to use it is of the up most importance if you wish to succeed in the game.
As well as the campaign mode there is also various unit missions for the submarines, ships and planes. Some of the missions are pretty damn difficult and you usually find yourself outgunned, outnumbered and outclassed, but if you do manage to finish all the levels you will truly be an awesome player which will help you out on what is by far this games greatest aspect, online play.
Online is where this game truly excels. It hosts up to 8 player matches, four on four, in which you must use teamwork to win games which can last for hours on end. You must choose either the Japanese with the Soryu and there Kamikaze bred Zero pilots, or there’s the yanks with the Yorktown, Wildcats, Renown’s and dauntless bombers. Not forgetting though that you will only get a certain amount of units, so while you may have a Carrier with the countless planes, your Allies will have the submarines or battle barges, so you must use all the units together to do well online. If it’s a one on one match then you will control everything and that really is good fun, the only problem with the online section of the game is that in a few 4 on 4 matches the lag is just unbearable. Quitters like usual, ruin this game at times, as do Hosts who can’t take losing and so close the entire lobby.
On the whole though the game is amazing fun online, especially if you have a few mates on your team, as communication is key. Lag is present at times but despite that the games multiplayer online makes up for its various flaws.
Graphically the game is ok in parts and not so good in others. The ships and planes do look like they could be improved, but even so they are unbelievably detailed and the little seamen on the decks walking around just look awesome. The water also looks pretty damn good (why is the Xbox 360 so obsessed with its water effects) as do the clouds of all things. Sadly the little islands and also the airfield runways look very dull and boring. The texture has obviously been copied and pasted over and over and again and it makes for a very ugly image. Saying that though, things like strafing with your Zero and watching the bullets hit the water does look amazing, it really makes you think that you’re actually flying a plane, it really does look that good. Also the battleship shells and the torpedos do look good. The game could look a whole lot better in all honesty though and it is a shame they didn’t spend more time on the ships, planes and most of all the islands.
Audio wise the units all sound as good as they should, with things like the firing guns, the sound of the Wildcats spluttering engine, the high pitched beeps of submarines sonar and not forgetting the sound of your cruiser as it hits a wave. It all does sound extremely nice, but the thing is both the music and the commentary do get very old very quickly, which is a shame. The game itself will last some many many months, while others will find themselves unable to handle the rather steep learning curve and instead opt to trade it in and go back to titles like Gears of War.
Overall the games gameplay is great, it really is tactical warfare at its best and online the game just gets better with eight player battles and countless units at your disposal. Graphically though the game can look as sleek as Ferrari F50 at times, but then you change your camera angle and realise just how bad it can look at the same time. It’s not unbearably bad to look at but Eidos could have made it look much better. The campaign and various missions will keep you busy for quite a while, but the online will keep you busy for an age.
So what if the game looks like its textures have been copied and pasted, so what if a torpedo’s explosion looks about as intense as a press conference with Cherie Blair, despite all that the game is still amazing to play. The glory of outsmarting your opponent by flanking him, or drawing him in, or silently go behind him with a submarine just feels insanely good, it really does. All I can say is before you trade this game in go through the tutorial then play it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Originally Written By: Lee Matthews