First impressions, in the case of Battlestations: Pacific, prove a little deceptive. Once you’ve worked your way through some lengthy, glossy presentation, and once you’ve chosen which of the two campaigns you want to tackle – the US or Japan – you’re thrust into the midst of World War II, in a fighter plane.
Ah, you might reasonably assume. We’re in dogfighting territory here, and a few missions later – with a few bombs sent from the sky, too – you see little evidence to contradict that.
That’s unless, of course, you’ve played the game’s predecessor, Battlestations: Midway. For it and its sequel are broader than they first appear, allowing you to take control of a collection of different vehicles dependent on the mission in hand. Whichever you choose, there’s still a war to be won.
Thus, depending on which campaign you opt for, Battlestations: Pacific either picks up directly at the point where Midway left off if you opt for the American side, or if you take the Japanese route you can try to change history at Pearl Harbor.
Either way, the first thing you face if you’re new to the franchise is a bit of a learning curve, and it’s well worth taking the game up on the option of training fields first. It’ll be time well spent, as it’s all a little bewildering at first.
The core controls for most of the vehicles – be they on land, water or in the air – revolve around the W, S, A and D keys in conjunction with the mouse, and the game tries to gently introduce you to the intricacies of controlling things. But while movement is straightforward enough, targeting becomes complicated and the game introduces fresh controls in the early stages that can make things bewildering.
But it’s worth sticking with. Particularly when the action takes to the air, Battlestations: Pacific is a polished, frantic and at times quite brilliant game. When the skies are full, it’s hard not to become engrossed, and that only makes it a little frustrating when the game takes an odd directional turn or two.
For into play comes a real-time strategy element, where you pull in an overhead map start to direct units and suchlike. This, bluntly, is nowhere near as much fun. Better, however, is the chance to take control of the likes of a submarine when the conflict goes underwater, and the fact that whatever mission you tackle, you’ll need to chalk off an assortment of objectives before you’re home safe. There’s enough variety in here to make it consistently interesting.
You get a lot for your money with Battlestations: Pacific, with the single player game both substantive and deserving of your time. It’s hampered by the lack of focus on what makes it worth playing as you delve deeper into it, and you’ll need to cut it some slack and have a little patience, but it’s still an improvement on its predecessor and a fine title in its own right.