Battlestations: Midway Review

Playing Battlestations: Midway is fairly reminiscent of Battlefield 1942, except from a third-person perspective, without the on-foot elements and with a more strategic and slow-paced style of game. Taking command of everything from an aircraft carrier to submarines to airplanes, you’re given the unique opportunity to control every unit on the battlefield — within the confines of an action game — by simply scrolling between them. It’s a very fun experience that is marred only by its short campaign and lack of replayability.

There’s a lot to swallow with Midway. In the course of a few moments, you can go from a submarine torpedo run to repairing the guns on your battleship. Fortunately, the game’s tutorial takes things slowly and efficiently explains everything in the game — never are you forced to run to the manual to look up one of the game’s intricacies. The HUD displays everything you need, so menus and extra screens aren’t needed to display your depth, speed, or class. It’s all very straightforward and simple.

The only fundamental problem that faces you isn’t necessarily a problem. While individual units are easy enough to deal with, when you begin having to deal with multiple units all over the map things can become overwhelming. Combine this with the lack of a mid-mission save option, and you may find that trial and error is the only course you have when trying to complete a mission. The payoff for this frustration comes in the form of partaking in large scale naval warfare, thanks to not being tied down to a single ship.

Movement between units is controlled by the simple press of a button, which takes you to either the next or previous available unit (including airfields, where plane squadrons can be launched from). You can then take complete control of the selected unit, give it general orders directly (such as automatic free roam, torpedo evading, torpedo firing, etc.) or give assignments through the overview map. This option allows you to take a step back and act as more of a commander, ordering your forces to do your bidding while allowing you to sit back and watch the action unfold. Of course, at any time you can jump into the driver’s seat of that plane performing a dive bomb on an enemy carrier.

Dive bombing is one of the most intense experiences in the game, as you come extremely close to the water and risk crashing into your target. But, since you can switch to the next squadron that is attacking, you’re never left in a boring position of having to wait for something to do after making your run. It’s this continuous, hold-your-breath-and-bite-your-lip action that really gets a firm grip on you and immerses you into the game. There aren’t many experiences like this that can keep you on the edge of your seat for long stretches of time — and there’s no payoff like seeing an enemy carrier or battleship sink towards the bottom of the ocean.

Dogfights between planes are another of the extreme events that unfold in Midway. While the planes used during WWII (the setting in Midway) aren’t what you saw in Top Gun, it’s still extremely fun to suddenly pull out of your path in an attempt to avoid your enemy’s crosshairs. I found myself getting dizzy from pursuing an enemy plane in circles for minutes at a time, but in retrospect that probably wasn’t the way to attack the situation.

Unfortunately, for all the ways the action can immerse you, there are technical snags and shortcomings that just as soon pull you right back out. Midway is quite clearly not a game trying to lure people in with its impressive aesthetics. The most apparent shortcoming comes in the form of the bland, plain graphics. Ships, water, and, indeed, the entire world are made up of very lackluster textures that make everything feel very lifeless and monotonous. Speaking of which, the sailors you see standing on the ship have no reaction to anything, including sudden movements — they’re effectively statues, stuck in place. I didn’t know that the Navy used to equip its vessels with gargoyles.

Load times are fairly fast, but their timing and placement lends them to interrupting the game. The first level takes place during the attack on Pearl Harbor (which is one of the few things that looks incredibly good) where you’ll guide around a PT boat, attempting to take out Japanese aircraft while dodging an enormous amount of gunfire. Just as you get going, you’re hit with a load screen to show a short cinematic to setup the next portion of the level. With the advancements made in technology, you would expect little holdups like this to be circumvented.

The most obtrusive obstacle is the interface for creating and launching squadrons of planes. Whether it is from a carrier or airfield, you’re limited to a total of four squadrons and a maximum of 12 aircraft. But the complications come in the form of accidentally launching a squadron, and then being unable to immediately rectify that mistake — instead, each plane needs to launch (even if they’re still in the hanger) and then return, one by one. It’s very time consuming, and it doesn’t help that there’s no way to jump directly to a squadron from this menu, or exercise much control over them. Why can’t I just land one or two fighters from one squadron so that I can send out two bombers in another? It’s so fundamental, yet you’re frustratingly limited in what you’re capable of.

Fortunately, these issues only manage to slightly derail the fun. The feel of being in complete control of a battleship is simply awesome — even if it did lead to an Austin Powers moment where my ship was stuck between two pieces of land, forcing me to go forward and backwards to move mere inches. Planes are fun to fly as well, whether you’re in a dogfight or on a torpedo run. Submarines, on the other hand, are fairly boring to pilot. In order to be effective, you need to stay far underwater to avoid detection, and as you can imagine, there isn’t a whole lot to keep you occupied down there.

Midway‘s campaign is far too short and linear for its own good, in spite of its attempt to increase replayability with secret objectives. Plane, submarine and ship challenges pit you in missions focused only on that particular type of unit — which is great if you find yourself wanting to avoid one, or really enjoying another. However, with only a few missions in each of these challenges, they won’t last you very long, either.

Online play is great fun, provided you’re able to manage your assigned units. You’re pitted in battles that essentially work like any mission, except that you’re fighting alongside or against actual people. Up to 8 players can join in and play in one game; give each player a battleship and cruiser, and all hell breaks loose. I personally found the dogfights and shoot-outs between battleships online to be the best aspect of the game, and the longevity the game has with you will great rely upon how much you enjoy it.

Ultimately, Midway is an extremely fun and well done cross between the action and strategy genres. But it’s that strategic element that may immediately turn some away who don’t care for this style of game. Those who enjoyed the demo will find the game runs out of gas pretty quickly, even if the multiplayer interests you. The game is definitely worth a rental, but potential buyers be warned — you might beat Midway in a weekend and never have the desire to come back.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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