Battlestations: Midway Hands-On - World War II Naval and Air Combat

We check out this hybrid action strategy game that gives you command of submarines, battleships, fighter planes, and more.

Battlestations: Midway is an action strategy game that's had an interesting development history. We first saw this World War II naval and air warfare game way back in 2004, when the plan was to release the game sometime in 2005 on the PC, Xbox, and Playstation 2. That obviously didn't happen, and with the advent of the next-generation of consoles, things changed. The Xbox and Playstation 2 versions were dropped, and the game was retooled for the Xbox 360 and the PC. The one thing that hasn't changed, though, is the gameplay, which caught our eye early on. This is a game that captures the look and feel of World War II naval warfare, but it has a learning curve and controls that make it more of an action game than a serious simulation or wargame.

Fight the Pacific War in the air or at sea in Battlestations: Midway.

One way to think of Battlestations: Midway is that it's like an interactive version of the old Victory at Sea television program that depicted the naval warfare aspect of World War II. The game is set in the Pacific, and you'll command different types of platforms in combat, from submarines, destroyers, cruisers, battleships, and aircraft carriers to fighters, bombers, scout planes, and heavy bombers in the air. The game combines arcade action with real-time strategy, so you can take control of any ship or aircraft and blast away at the enemy, you can give orders to your naval and air units on the strategic map, or you'll most likely do a combination of the two. For example, you might find yourself controlling a battleship in a naval duel when enemy bombers appear, so you can then switch command to a nearby destroyer armed with antiaircraft weapons, or you might take command of a nearby aircraft carrier, scramble fighters into the air, and then take control of one of the fighters and shoot down the bombers yourself.

The game features a single-player campaign that follows the course of one character throughout the Pacific war, starting at Pearl Harbor and going on from there, so the game isn't just about the pivotal Battle of Midway. An extensive 11-step tutorial will get you familiar with all the various controls and weapon systems, including small and big vessel combat, bombing, dogfighting, and undersea warfare. Then there are the various challenge modes, which pit you in special scenarios where you have to do as best as you can for points. Battlestations: Midway also features a multiplayer mode that lets you play from the perspective of the Japanese, though we dabbled with just the single-player for the purposes of this preview.

The weapons at your command will depend on the type of ship you're controlling. Small PT boats are armed with machine guns, torpedoes, and depth charges, while the battleship will have the heavy guns and some antiaircraft, but lack the lighter weapons. This obviously shows the combined-arms nature of the game, as you need a balance of both capital ships and escorts to be successful. Indeed, you can create formations of ships and then use a formation editor to assign positions to each ship. So if you know you're going to come under heavy air attack, you can put the escorts on the outer ring with all the valuable ships in the middle. But if you know that the enemy is coming from one direction, you can create a screen to shield the larger ships from torpedo attack.

Fighter combat is a bit tricky with the mouse and keyboard, but doable.

As a task force commander, you'll be able to issue general commands to the various units under you. This can be done by simply switching to the strategic map, selecting the units in question, and telling them to move to a certain point or attack a certain target. The control scheme is straight out of a regular real-time strategy game. There are also other ways of issuing orders. If you group ships into a formation, or you're commanding a squadron of aircraft, you can tell the rest of the units in your formation or squadron to attack a target simply by selecting it and giving an attack command. This lets you quickly issue orders while you stay engaged in fighting the battle.

Thankfully, the controls are fairly simple, as they adhere to the conventional mouse-and-keyboard setup used for most PC action games. This is perfect for controlling ships and submarines, though admittedly it is a bit trickier when flying planes. When flying, the mouse serves as the flight yoke and you want to keep pulling back on the mouse while banking, and this means that you'll do a lot of picking up and plopping down of the mouse. Still, the flight controls weren't too unwieldy, though it will take some practice to get used to flying, and in particular dogfighting. If you're worried that this is a complex flight simulation, then relax, because the gameplay throughout the game is geared heavily toward an action-arcade feel.

All of this gives Battlestations: Midway a very fast-paced feel, as you'll be jumping from platform to platform to accomplish different tasks. At the same time, there is going to be a fair amount of strategizing going on. For instance, if you command a carrier task force, you'll need to decide what type of planes to put in the air, what sorts of ordinance to put on the bombers (such as torpedoes or bombs), and what targets to go after, all while the combat is raging about the map. If you control a submarine, you might need to figure out how to execute a torpedo attack on an enemy convoy, and that involves weighing how deep you dive to escape sonar detection. You only have a limited amount of oxygen on the sub, and the hull can only survive for a short amount of time at deep depths.

The painted skies of the Pacific are a perfect backdrop for all the carnage going on.

Damage control also plays a huge role in the game. Ships have a traditional health bar, so once the bar is depleted, the ship is sunk. However, ships can also sink under a variety of different conditions, as well. If the ship springs a leak, water will quickly fill the hull, and if it reaches a certain level, the ship will sink. The only way to combat this is to assign your limited damage-control resources toward patching the hull and pumping the water out, but even then you'll still have a certain amount of water in the hull, representing watertight compartments that have been compromised and sealed off from the rest of the ship. If a fire erupts on the deck, you must assign damage control to putting it out quickly, because if a fire rages too long, it will reach the fuel tank or an ammunition magazine, resulting in a catastrophic explosion that will destroy the ship. You might also need to assign damage control to repair the engines or knocked-out gun positions, but those are of lesser priority compared to a fire or if the ship is taking on water.

With all the different things that you can do in a battle, Battlestations: Midway feels like a vehicle-only version of the popular online action game Battlefield 1942. The visuals in the game are detailed, and there are plenty of cinematic moments to behold, such as watching your squadron fly in formation over the glistening waters of the Pacific or seeing those mighty battlewagons trading broadsides with one another. If you look closely, you'll also see that the attention to detail goes down to the smallest levels, with tiny sailors scurrying about on deck. It's also quite refreshing to have a World War II game that isn't a first-person shooter and that doesn't feature the Normandy landings or the Battle of the Bulge. Battlestations: Midway is almost complete and will ship for the PC and Xbox 360 around the end of January.

All of this gives Battlestations: Midway a very fast-paced feel, as you'll be jumping from platform to platform to accomplish different tasks. You might take command of a cruiser to bombard enemy ground installations, then jump to a strategic bomber to carpet bomb a freighter, and then take control of a destroyer and engage troop transports. At the same time, there is going to be a fair amount of strategizing going on. For instance, if you command a carrier task force, you'll need to decide what type of planes to put in the air, what sorts of ordinance to put on the bombers (such as torpedoes or bombs), and what targets to go after, all while the combat is raging about the map. If you control a submarine, you might need to figure out how to execute a torpedo attack on an enemy convoy, and that involves weighing how deep you dive to escape sonar detection. You only have a limited amount of oxygen on the sub, and if the hull can only survive for a short amount of time at deep depths.

The painted skies of the Pacific are a perfect backdrop for all the carnage going on.

Damage control also plays a huge role in the game. Ships have a traditional health bar, so once the bar is depleted the ship is sunk. However, ships can also sink under a variety of different conditions, as well. If the ship springs a leak, water will quickly fill the hull, and if reaches a certain level the ship will sink. The only way to combat this is to assign your limited damage control resources toward patching the hull and pumping the water out, but even then you'll still have a certain amount of water in the hull, representing watertight compartments that have been compromised and sealed off from the rest of the ship. If a fire erupts on the deck, you must assign damage control to putting it out quickly, because if a fire rages too long it will reach the fuel tank or an ammunition magazine, resulting in a catastrophic explosion that will destroy the ship. You might also need to assign damage control to repair the engines or knocked-out gun positions, but those are of lesser priority compared to a fire or if the ship is taking on water.

With all the different things that you can do in a battle, Battlestations: Midway feels like a vehicle-only version of the popular online action game Battlefield 1942. The visuals in the game are detailed, and there are plenty of cinematic moments to behold, such as watching your squadron fly in formation over the glistening waters of the Pacific to seeing those mighty battlewagons trading broadsides at one another. If you look closely, you'll also see that the attention to detail goes down to the smallest levels, with tiny sailors scurrying about on deck. It's also quite refreshing to have a World War II game that isn't a first-person shooter and that doesn't feature the Normandy landings or the Battle of the Bulge. Battlestations: Midway is almost complete, and will ship for the PC and Xbox 360 around the end of January.

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Discussion

31 comments
halowow
halowow

when i first started to download it it took 147 hours!!!!!! now it takes 7 hours

death5ter
death5ter

is this reminds me of Company of Heroes on the Naval perspective?

bayfire66
bayfire66

MMM WW2 ship warfare this outta keep me busy until silent hunter 4 comes out

georgeie
georgeie

God this looks good, and im an atheist. lol pitty 'bout what they said with the flying bit, but it still looks a bloody awsome game!!

psymon_05
psymon_05

I've waited ages for this, lets hope it's as good as it looks.

SilvRav
SilvRav

Cant wait!! just love world war games! this is gona be a lekker game for months to come. Just sorry there is no joystick support. what about gamepad?

Ahullum
Ahullum

This game look better than the last and will proboubly be so i cant wait to play this game

Dill-Man
Dill-Man

seems to be good, probably gonne get it on 360, hopefully not too hard control everything at once, thats the only thing im really worried about

Chip5541
Chip5541

I would say it is more like Air Support for the Amiga. I have been waiting since 2002 for this game and it looks like the wait was worth it. Played the 360 demo and loved it. I have it preordered.

danpool
danpool

I'm not ruling out the possibility that keyboard/mouse may be cool/fun but Eidos is going to have to convince me.

DrkRaptor
DrkRaptor

i dont think you can use joysticks much because this is not a simulator, its more of an arcade feel. even with the planes you fly one, but you are part of a squad and they follow your moves. while controlling ships is easy, its not just hold the direction you want to go and your off, the directions stick until you say you want to straighten out or turn the other direction.

namdar
namdar

wow RTS with combination of action simulation... I LIKE IT !!!

macual
macual

Played the Demo on the 360.......... LOVE THIS GAME.... Just from the little I have seen. BOMBS AWAY.... FUN FOR AT LEAST A COUPLE OF WEEKS

treksterjsc
treksterjsc

Looks like it will be kewl, but what's up with no joystick? Geeez you would think they would take into account that most of there PC audience would have to have a joystick for this type of game, at least give us the choice. Sounds like they cut corners here.

Urbansquid
Urbansquid

Played the 360 demo and it feels good with a strong strategy element followed by intense action in the vein of Chromehounds. It will hopefully find a mature fanbase...

princegee4
princegee4

hoon,i m loking for taht but lets see how it would be in the long run

chris9815
chris9815

I too am keeping a close eye on this, undecided as yet. Im gonna wait and see how it turns out .

Urbansquid
Urbansquid

Man I hope this game is at least half as good as I want it to be..

AARONRULZ1
AARONRULZ1

Looks like a interesting game....

jf
jf

im foaming at the mouth for when it ships =) this is gonna make navy field sink to the bottom!!!!!

matercode
matercode

looks better than Pacific Storm

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

It can be good or it can be terrible. We will see.

Dimi_M
Dimi_M

I think this game is gonna make disappear what's left of the navyfield community :P

jesusistruth
jesusistruth

What!! "Battlestations: Midway feels like a vehicle-only version of the popular online action game Battlefield 1942" Can you control and strategise and entire batalion of vehicles in battlefield 1942? No, way diferent and better, much more strategy than just spawn and kill as much as you can before you die.....

louiemurphy
louiemurphy

I am interested to see how it turns out.

wytefang
wytefang

Yeah, I've had my eye on this one for some time too. It's shaping up quite nicely I think by all accounts...

The_AI
The_AI

This game looks like a video game version of the History Channel series Dogfights. I need this game. Dogfights is incredible... EDIT: No joystick?!! WHAT ARE THEY SMOKING?!!!!

jakeboudville
jakeboudville

After watching the live interview and everything, i'm gonna get this game when it is released..