In Eidos Interactive’s Battlestations: Pacific, the follow up to Battlestations: Midway, players are given the chance to engage in some of the most famous naval battles of World War 2. Pacific’s graphics are top notch, and manifest themselves in all sorts of small ways. At the start of each campaign (American and Japanese) the player is treated to a brief CG movie that sets the scene for the missions to come. These movies are made well with impressive lighting effects, character, and environment renderings. The rest of the game’s graphics match the CG’s quality. The game’s units, ships, planes, etc, are all detailed and lifelike. While steering a battleship, for example, you can see the crewmen striding the decks, and in clear water you can even see propellers as your ship sails along. One particularly impressive mission portrays a naval battle during a lighting storm; spectacular is the only word for it.
Unfortunately, the controls aren’t as uniformly excellent as the visuals. New players have a bewildering amount of commands to recall: pressing the D-pad this way switches between armaments, another way between units, pressing the right bumper does this, and the left button does that. You get used to it, but it’s hard to have it come down on you all it once. Even after several hours of play I still had trouble remembering which button did what. There is the manual and a training mode, but other strategy games operate with less difficulty. A more gradual learning curve would have been more desirable.
As a consolation prize, you get your own fleet of ships to play around with. Cruisers, destroyers, battleships, and aircraft all are arrayed for your control to use against the enemy. You can lead the Allied or Japanese forces through a variety of missions that simulate the battles you slept through hearing about in school. A majority of the game revolves around island-based battles, but when not island clearing, you’ll be tasked with destroying various important ships such as aircraft carriers, battleships, or supply ships.
The length of these missions depends on the objective: taking down a single ship can be done in as quickly as ten minutes. Attacking a fleet or capturing an island chain can last for an hour or more. The reason for this variable length is you’ll often be uncertain what to do next. For instance, the game told me to "capture the airbase." I had no idea where that was. I could see an American flag colored circle in the distance, but I didn’t know if that was the objective or just an objective, as I could see other islands to my left and right. I had to look at the map to find out that the circle marked the spot, but a directional pointer of some kind would have been helpful. Despite this (or perhaps in spite of this), Pacific is a long game. Training missions, the Japanese and American campaigns, Skirmish battles, and multiplayer add tons of game play.
Pacific is rough around the edges, but when it comes to the small things, the game shines. If you’re flying a fighter, for instance, you have arrows indicating where your opponents are, a mini radar screen, your speed and direction indicator, and your health. This helps you glean everything about the game quickly. The game’s attention to detail is also impressive. An airplane’s throttle moves up and down as the craft varies in speed. When in a warship, a damage indicator shows if you’re suffering from fire, flood, or structural damage which you can then repair with one of the aforementioned hard-to-remember controls.
Pacific is good over all, with some handy features and clunky game play that balance each other out. If you’re looking for a WW2 or strategy game, get Battlestations: Pacific.