Battlestations: Pacific Multiplayer Hands-On
We take to the skies and the seas in our first multiplayer experience with Eidos' upcoming WWII strategy game.
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We've seen the single-player mode a few times before, and we finally got a look at Battlestations: Pacific's eight-player supported multiplayer, which puts you in the heat of battle between American and Japanese WWII forces. The action in Pacific takes place directly after the events in the well-received Battlestations: Midway, and we checked it out at Eidos' headquarters in Wimbledon.
There's a range of multiplayer scenarios in Pacific, and our time with the game focused on Island Capture mode, where you have to collect points--much like in the similarly named action game Battlefield--by holding bases scattered among the Pacific islands and atolls. While we had access to command and operate dozens of ships and planes later on during the session, we started off by piloting some planes of the Japanese Navy, including A6M Zeros and Kamikaze planes. The Zeros can be equipped in a fighter or bomber configuration; the Kamikazes, on the other hand, are designed for one end: impact, and death to you and your foe. While you'll have infinite ammunition of either Zero payload, the fighters are faster and more manoeuvrable, while the bombers are slower but more devastating against warships.
We fought a series of two-on-two campaigns against the Allies, with our goal being to inflict as much damage on enemy ships and planes as possible. Battlestation's AI will take control of friendly units when you or your human team members are not directing them, allowing you to focus your attention on any threat you feel is the most urgent. The Allies' AI-controlled capital ships launched a steady stream of landing craft and planes against our island-based airfield, meaning that a combination of fighters and bombers was essential. If you're game, you can attempt to bomb the destroyers directly, although we were told this needs to be done at high speed and high altitude for your aircraft to have a chance to survive, and it seems best reserved for highly skilled, or insane, pilots. The more sensible route is to bomb the weaker and smaller landing craft.
Aircraft, ships, and submarines control pretty similar to one another. The main button changes are due to different weapon configurations--such as shelling for ships and bombing for planes--or controls. Buttons execute different commands when you move to the tactical map, such as letting you assign units to attack enemy forces, to patrol a particular area, to hold a point, or protect another unit. We used this last tactic to good effect when using bombers to fly paratroopers over islands, and the assigned escorts would deviate only when engaging nearby hostiles.
The last, and most ambitious, mission we played was on a large map called Dreadnaught, consisting of one large island in the centre of the map and 12 smaller islands surrounding it in two rough circles. With a combination of dozens of naval and aerial units to control, we found the best technique was to spend more time than before commanding our units from the map screens and sending them to capture specific bases (occupied or not) or to cut off attacking forces. You'll get bonus points when you acquire bases, so it's important to capture bases early on, and only by holding the coveted centre island will you gain access to build the bigger ships, such as destroyers. You can control and build your forces from the map overview or take control of individual units to turn the tide.
Battlestations: Pacific looks like it will be a healthy blend of strategy and all-out action, and the multiplayer seems destined to make a good addition to the single-player campaign when the game ships out later this quarter. For more on Battlestations' solo modes, check out our previous coverage.