X06: Battlestations: Midway Hands-On

We go to war with a work-in-progress version of Eidos' upcoming World War II action game.

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BARCELONA, Spain--Earlier today, while working the main games floor at Microsoft's X06 event, we had an opportunity to get our hands on the Xbox 360 version of Battlestations: Midway for the first time. Set in World War II, the game focuses entirely on vehicular action with just a sprinkling of real-time strategy. We spent around 20 minutes playing the game today, and in that time we were able to take the controls of battleships, aircraft carriers, and at least three different types of planes.

At the start of your Battlestations tour of duty, you'll assume the role of a lowly gunner at Pearl Harbor, but as you progress through the game, you'll gain promotions and, in doing so, earn the right to command and commandeer an increasing number of vehicles. In the demo level that we played, which tasked us with assaulting enemy structures on an island while protecting our aircraft carrier at all costs, we were able to instantly jump between two battleships, an aircraft carrier, and squadrons of Wildcats, Avengers, and the like. The finished game will also let you take the controls of submarines, but these weren't present in the X06 demo. You'll purportedly be able to command up to 60 units simultaneously by the time you reach the end of the game, though not all of those units will be available for you to jump into at any time; rather, if you have a squadron of four Wildcats in the air, for example, one of them will be available for you.

Although the artificial intelligence in Battlestations: Midway is quiet capable of defending itself, you'll be the one calling the shots as far as offensive actions are concerned. Using a surprisingly uncomplicated map system, you'll be able to select any unit on the battlefield and then direct it to any location or target on the map. Once you've done that, you can choose to just leave the unit to its own devices; take control of it immediately; or, as we were doing, try to take its controls just as things were about to get interesting. Flying a torpedo plane toward a target that's a long way away isn't that much fun, after all, but jumping into the cockpit just moments before dropping its payload is great, especially since the game features an optional bomb/missile/torpedo camera that lets you get up close and personal with targets as they take damage.

We found the controls in Battlestations: Midway to be very intuitive for the most part, although advanced controls--such as assigning men aboard a ship to take care of fires and the like--will be available for those of you who are willing and able to spend time managing that stuff. You'll also get to decide what types of planes take off from your aircraft carrier and when, but like just about everything in the game, it's difficult to think of any way in which the process could be made simpler.

The ease with which we were able to pick up Battlestations: Midway wasn't all that impressed us about the game--its visuals also promise to be something of a treat, with a level of detail that extends to seeing guys going about their business onboard ships. Another nice touch was the "old film" camera filter that we were shown (which you might have to unlock in the finished game), which added lines, a slightly grainy texture, and sepia-tinted coloring to the whole screen.

When it's released early next year, Battlestations: Midway will boast multiplayer support for up to eight players in addition to its single-player campaign. We look forward to bringing you more information on those features and more as soon as it becomes available.

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