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Chocks away, as TVG takes a look at Eidos' forthcoming sequel in the skies above the Pacific...
Naval warfare is once again looming on the horizon as we take a (late) look at the forthcoming Battlestations: Pacific, due for a UK release on the Xbox 360 and PC next week.
The sequel to the surprisingly decent, albeit somewhat flawed, Battlestations: Midway, presents two different campaigns told from the perspective of the United States and Japan, chronicling the events of the Pacific War as you attempt to either enact the historical events from the US perspective, or perhaps opt for changing history via the Japanese campaign.
Fortunately, there's no longer a longwinded tutorial to crawl yourself through with the sequel, although Battlestations: Pacific is still quite a tricky concept to grasp, largely because it puts so much at your disposal. From the build we've received, we're still not entirely sure that Eidos Budapest has managed to crack it. With the ability to take control of planes, ships, submarines and island defences, Battlestations: Pacific like its prequel is a complex game with many facets to manage. Although we're happy not to have to endure the Deep South drawl of 'Captain Whateverhisnamewas' instructing us through the basics, we still found ourselves somewhat bemused with a tutorial of sorts that drops you into the deep end and does its best to put you off. That said, in an age when video games tend to guide gamers by the hand, it's quite refreshing to sit in front of a game and unashamedly hammer away at the buttons because you're not entirely sure what does what.
The basis of the game is still an engrossing blend of hands-on action and tactical nuance, as you attempt to take control of an entire naval fleet, switching between various vessels and issuing orders via the battle map to complete the primary and secondary objectives laid out before you. Thankfully it does appear that Eidos Budapest have taken some of the criticisms to hand, most notably streamlining the ability to launch new planes without having to take control of a specific aircraft carrier or airstrip via the Support Manager. Further new additions also include various perks that come about from completing secondary objectives, such as hardened armour or evasive manoeuvres, and the ability to launch amphibious attacks to capture strategic control of the various islands and peninsulas.
We've played through the first seven missions of the Japanese campaign. The game starts off at a pretty pedestrian pace, with an attack on Pearl Harbour that seems to take an age for the US navy to actually engage - whether that's serving as the basis for easing you into the game, or portraying the surprise nature of the attack isn't really addressed. Things start to heat up quite quickly and before long you're engaged in epic dogfights above the moonlit ocean while thunder and lightning is cracking all around you. It's these sections, and the sensation of being in complete command, that provide the promise behind Battlestations: Pacific. The campaigns also appear to be a little more structured in terms of limiting you to certain unit types initially and with more specific goals than the original. We're hopeful that later missions will open up a little more and provide the scope for greater strategic options, despite reservations on how Battlestations: Pacific goes about teaching the various elements of the game.
Expanded multiplayer modes should hopefully realise the true potential of the game, something that was certainly found lacking in its predecessor. We've already taken a considerable look at the various multiplayer modes, so suggest you take a look at our previous preview of the title for more information.
Like its prequel, Battlestations: Pacific should manage to provide a thoroughly unique gaming experience with an enthralling blend of action and strategy, provided you've got the perseverance to muster through. The new additions appear to ease some of the needless complexities of the original, but we've still got an uneasy feeling that Eidos Budapest are managing to make the experience more complicated then it actually is.