Hasbro Interactive's Battleship: Surface Thunder is a radical departure from its previous attempt at bringing the classic board game Battleship to the PC. Whereas Hasbro's previous game tried to improve upon the board game, Surface Thunder has a very different approach: It's a simplistic 3D arcade shooter. Surface Thunder does have some redeeming qualities: The classic game of Battleship is included, and the simple gameplay is easy to get into. But otherwise, Surface Thunder isn't very interesting or enjoyable.
Battleship: Surface Thunder starts out with a rather impressive intro cinematic that illustrates the excitement of naval battles, but the thrill lasts only until you see the actual in-game graphics - they're horrible. Not only do they look washed out and pixelated, but they've also got some technical problems. Many of the ships, including your own battleship, have some distracting aliasing problems, and texture warping happens frequently, especially when you're traveling underneath a land bridge. While your own battleship is fairly well detailed - you'll notice the rotating radar - most of the ships you fight against look very plain, and you can actually count the number of polygons used to build the surrounding land masses.
It's true that there are a few nice visual details in Surface Thunder. Whenever a ship is destroyed, it sinks to the bottom of the river (technically, you're never quite out in the ocean) instead of simply disappearing. The smoke effects on damaged ships are also fairly good. Still, you can tell that the game wasn't designed to take advantage of the latest PC graphics hardware.
One of Battleship: Surface Thunder's initialy appealing features is its very simple gameplay. You start each mission with a brief overview of what your objectives are and what you need to do in order to exit the level. Most of the time, objectives consist of blowing up ship ports, an oil derrick, or a few aircraft carriers - nothing too complex. The only problem with these objectives is that so many structures look the same or perform the same function that you'll think you've completed most of your mission objectives, only to find that you've destroyed a different kind of ship port and you're only halfway through the level. It's just as annoying when you've seemingly destroyed everything in a level and then find that the gates to the next section haven't opened. You'll have to go back through the level to try to find what you missed.
Destroying objects is easy, because your battleship has an infinite amount of its primary ammunition. You'll be able to fire from the forward and aft guns on the ship as well as from the guns on the port and starboard side. The only catch is that you can only fire a single stream from the forward and aft guns, while the port and starboard guns fire in a spread formation. This actually does add a strategic element to Surface Thunder. If you're faced with a large enemy fleet, it's wise to use your port and starboard guns since they can take out more enemies in a single shot. Meanwhile, the forward and aft guns are better for more precise attacks against flamethrowers and other enemies that force you to maintain a safe distance.
In addition to your primary weapon, you're given an assortment of special weapons with which you can take out different kinds of enemies. Missiles are used to eliminate enemy fighters and zeppelins that usually surround aircraft carriers. These aerial craft are a nuisance because the explosive area of your missiles is so inaccurate that it can be difficult to shoot them down. You'll also be given depth charges to take out enemy submarines, and flamethrowers to set other ships on fire. Interestingly enough, your ship also has the ability to magically change into a submarine. While this is useful in certain situations, such as when you're surrounded by enemies, playing as the submarine is almost completely pointless otherwise.
Battleship: Surface Thunder is disappointing overall. The developers did nearly nothing to enhance the game's visuals for the PC, and the gameplay itself is so straightforward that it quickly becomes a chore to go through each of the 20 available missions. The best part of the game is that the classic version of Battleship is included, and it offers different variations to the traditional turn-based game. For example, salvo mode lets you fire four shots in a row before your opponent gets a chance to fire. Unfortunately, in the end, not even the inclusion of the classic version of Battleship is enough to save this pointless game.