The original Battlestations Midway was an interesting beast. It combined the idea of an action game with sprinkles of real-time strategy, for a combination that either enthralled gamers, or bored them to death. With the follow-up Eidos Hungary has opted to fix most of the gripes about the first game, while adding an entirely new faction to play as; the Japanese. Also much like the first game everything here is methodically paced and ridiculously balanced, making it worth checking out if you were a fan of the original. It is nice to finally see a World War II game that is not a first-person shooter, and for that matter a strategy game that tailors itself to take full advantage of a console.
The biggest change to Pacific is the ability to play the opposing force; the Japanese. As you can imagine some liberties to history had to be taken, and the campaign follows an alternate reality where the Japanese continued their domination across the ocean after attacking Pearl Harbor. While history buffs may scoff at the idea of altering the truth, it actually works out fairly well, and I have to give credit to the developers for creating a compelling alternative to the traditional US campaign. The narrative is delivered with some truly uninspired voice work and generic menu systems, but it gets the job done. What it lacks in style, it makes up for in substance, and it is amazing that it works at all to be honest.
The variety of gameplay is what separates Pacific apart though, and regardless of which campaign you choose, there is plenty to do. As I mentioned the pace is very methodic in nature, so don’t expect every mission to have you performing bombing runs. The majority of missions have you either taking to the skies via one of the many types of planes, or cruising the seas in one of the various vessels. The variety is astonishing; there are several different types of planes including bombers, scouts, fighters and cargo, with equally as many ships including submarines, PT boats, destroyers and of course battleships. Each mission has you assuming the role of one or more of each type, and the objectives range from stealth submarine endeavors to all out chaos where destroying everything is top priority.
This is where the mix of action and strategy comes into play. During most missions you will not be controlling just one unit, instead by using the d-pad you can cycle through various outposts and transport yourself to where the action is. At first this is empowering, giving you that sense of being the commander of an entire army. Thankfully the game slowly progresses you into the more complicated options, because when you get towards the end of the game, you will need to have your ducks in a row if you intend to survive the chaos that ensues. Remarkably you will never find yourself tackling the same thing over and over, which makes trudging through the campaign more enjoyable than you might imagine. I found myself never getting tired of the variety, and as long as I achieved victory things were smooth sailing.
This is where some of the issues come into play. These missions are not for the casual afternoon session. They are long. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the checkpoints were more forgiving at times. There are timed missions that require pinpoint accuracy to complete them; hence if you fail at the last second, you will need to attempt it all over again from the beginning. This can quickly become frustrating, and create a sense of tedium when you have to repeat the same missions over and over. However, when everything comes together it becomes a sweet ballet of destruction and satisfaction. There were times in the game where I really felt immersed into the experience, and that my efforts really changed the course of battle, and that is what makes Pacific such a rewarding experience for those willing to invest the time.
While there is certainly plenty of single-player action to warrant the price tag, multi-player is certainly nothing to scoff at. It does however, come at a price. The online community is simply miniscule when compared to just about any other game. It takes patience to fill a full eight player game, and even when you get one going, you are likely to be outmatched because of the unbalanced leveling system online. When it does work though, it is glorious. There is a Battlefield style mode where teams attempt to control various islands around the map. This quickly becomes chaos as variables are thrown into the mix, and it usually results in some truly epic dogfights above the ocean. A lack of community and poor balance are this mode’s biggest drawbacks, so here is to hoping Eidos creates a patch soon, and more people join in the party.
Visually the game is leaps and bounds above its predecessor, but still shows the typical signs of such a large-scale game. Textures show off their low-res appearance far too easily, but everything else is painstakingly modeled down to crew members onboard the ships and water droplets splashing onto your hud when you get too close to the action. It is the minor details that make the visuals all the more impressive, if only the audio was given the same treatment. The voice work, as I mentioned earlier is embarrassing most of the time, sounding like half of it was phoned in, or recorded on the last day by the developers and their friends. The sound effects are average, and deliver all of the loud explosions and gunfire you would expect from this type of game, but they truly don’t stand out in any form or fashion. For a game of this scale it really shines visually, but remains par for the course in the sound department.
Battlestations Pacific is a fantastic game that is certain to please fans of the original, and anyone who enjoys strategy games. If you love World War II and the genre, it will be nearly impossible to find a more suitable game to recommend. The mix of variety, action and flawlessly balanced combat are hard to ignore, not to mention the game looks fantastic considering its scale. While the multi-player may have a hard time taking off, the core game is more than worth your hard-earned dollars given you can adjust to the long missions and steep, albeit gradual, learning curve.