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TVG takes to the skies above the Pacific and attempts to rewrite history...
Swooping from above the clouds in a furious dive bombing run with a Japanese aircraft carrier lined in your sights, flick left on the d-pad, and the next thing you're lurking in the depths of the Pacific Ocean about to launch a surprise torpedo attack on an unsuspecting Japanese fleet. This is where the Battlestations series excels, and once again, the sequel provides a wartime experience that is unlike anything else.
Mixing the tactical depth of a strategy title with intense hands on action, Battlestations: Pacific (like its predecessor) is a rewarding and satisfying experience, but one that takes a good deal of patience and perseverance to enjoy - much like its predecessor. Packed full of content in contrast to the somewhat lacking campaign of the original, Battlestations: Pacific offers two campaigns that follow events of the Pacific War from the perspective of the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy. Perhaps not entirely authentic from a historian's point of view, the ability to alter the course of history and see what could have happened had Japan emerged successful is nevertheless an intriguing prospect.
Despite efforts to streamline the tutorial and provide a more structured experience with heavier initial restrictions, Eidos Hungary still hasn't managed to make the preliminary experience any less intimidating. There's no better alternative than just playing the game. Admittedly it takes a few hours for everything to sink in, but it's far easier just to jump straight in at the deep end rather than confuse yourself with the haphazard attempts at a tutorial or pore over one of the most baffling manuals we've seen in a long time. Nevertheless, at least we don't have to suffer the drawling tones of the Naval Instructor this time around, and for that we're very grateful.
Still, even with such criticisms we've got to congratulate Eidos Hungary for once again delivering an experience that delivers on both counts. Taking control of the 100+ air, sea, and submarine units featured in the game is an exciting experience, particularly as the game develops and the battles grow larger in grandeur. The depth of strategy isn't sacrificed either with plenty of tactical options available via the Battle Map, whether it's assigning units to specific formations, defending a certain unit, or co-ordinating a multi-pronged assault.
The pacing of the game starts out a little slow to begin with, especially if you're a fan of the original. As we've said previously, Eidos Hungary has decided to impose restrictions during the early stages, so you're only taking control of a limited number of units to begin with and not really getting the true Battlestations experience. But this quite quickly picks up and after a handful of missions, you'll find the game opening up and putting you in complete command. Mission objectives tend to weigh heavily on destroying the opponents somewhat understandably, although Eidos Hungary have done a good job of varying this up a little particularly with secondary objectives that come into play. Taking control of a considerable number of units can be slightly daunting, but the game's AI does an admirable job of handling those not under your control and providing you the tools to issue various orders via the Battle Map.
With a notable increase in the amount of units featured and a satisfying sense of variety instilled in each, Eidos Hungary has also been busy introducing features that fans craved for after the original. One of the most beneficial is the Support Manager, which streamlines the ability to launch new units from airfields and aircraft carriers. Certainly this was one of the most odorous tasks in the original, and so the improvements are appreciated. It's not entirely perfect as it's still difficult to distinguish exactly which units need to head home when they've delivered their payloads, but it's a marked improvement when you consider how laborious the process was in the original. The introduction of Naval Supplies - perks for completing secondary objectives - is a welcome addition, lending a distinct 'gaming' sensation to the realistic nature of the game, with bonuses such as air support, active supplies and various technologies coming into play to change the tide of the battle. The ability to launch island invasions with amphibious units is another addition for fans of the original, although it doesn't really move beyond holding an area close to an island for a set amount of time. But it's a game that's focussed on the Navy rather than the Army, so we're not going to complain.
Visuals have also come under an overhaul, particularly in terms of the little details. Units under attack now suffer from visible damage as ships crack in two and wings break apart from planes. Thankfully the ocean doesn't appear to be so bottomless this time around, with an actual seabed making an appearance. Atmospheric weather conditions are the icing on the cake, which although it's never going to win any awards, helps to ensure that it looks considerably better than its predecessor's last-gen appearance. Despite the visual improvements, it seems there's plenty of work left in the sound department however, with voice acting that borders on being offensive, particularly Japanese commanders that come across as being French.
Another weak element of the original has been substantially improved, with a number of new multiplayer modes bolstering the slightly underwhelming experience of the original. The mix of strategy and action suits multiplayer gaming perfectly, and with the new features Battlefield: Pacific strikes an addictive chord particularly with the Island Capture mode. Challenging players to attack and defend to gain control of a certain number of islands captures the various gameplay elements perfectly and adds a sense of urgency sometimes lacking in the single-player campaign. Other modes such as Escort and Siege provide a change of pace, although Competitive and Siege modes don't convey the game's strengths as well.
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