There’s a certain glory to World War II video games that will never fade, but sometimes you need a slightly different take on the genre. With that in mind, Robosoft Technologies and Feral Interactive present Battlestations Midway for the Mac, a World War II battle simulation title in which players take control of both the ships and planes involved in the battles of the South Pacific theater.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the game focuses on two enlisted officers (one in the Army, the other in the Navy) as they participate in the battles following Pearl Harbor up to the deciding conflict at the Battle of Midway. With each level, the player is granted additional vehicles and an expanded arsenal to work with, the game pushing the player to make the most of the new items as well as experiment with new ideas and strategies within gameplay.
Robosoft did its homework and it shows. With more than 100 items and vehicles available to play with, the game incorporates an impressive level of detail for each unit. Surface textures are somewhat generic but still serviceable, and when flying low over the water it’s impressive to catch the sun’s reflection on the surface.
Where sound is concerned, the company did a fine job and the voice acting keeps the pace of the game going. Hit a target correctly and the pilot will happily confirm this. Receive torpedo hits from an unidentified source and a panicked voice will scream for you to pay attention and help save the ship, to say nothing of the steady stream of yelps from fighter pilots receiving enemy fire.
Battlestations Midway is a strange mix but offers something new in the process. When a new level begins, players are alerted to both the major goals within the level as well as the forces moving against them. In a given level, players might have to take down two major targets (such as an airfield and a shipyard) on nearby islands as well as protect their small fleet of ships against several enemy boats moving against them. Players can then open up their side’s unit management tools, select which planes to launch, what weapons to launch them with (such as bombs, depth charges or torpedoes) and assign the fleet targets to attack or defend against.
Players can also jump from unit to unit and control each vehicle directly. Want to coordinate a destroyer’s artillery attack against an island coastal gun or antiaircraft batteries? Flip over to the ship, move it into position and begin the barrage until the target is destroyed.
Though a fair amount of the game is about unit management, it’s still incredibly fun to take control of a random vehicle such as a fighter plane and lead a small squadron against a given target. Feel like taking revenge on an antiaircraft battery that’s been giving you fits? Simply switch over to a nearby plane, begin strafing the target, then finish it off by assigning the squad to dive bomb the rest of it.
Multiplayer gameplay is something of a home brew, but serviceable. Instead of pulling up a server browser to navigate through, players must host or join games on GameRanger and can play against up to seven opponents simultaneously. Though the game performs well under these conditions, the network cooperating with no errors during test play, an additional number of steps seem necessary to begin a multiplayer gaming session.
In as much as the title is simple, to the point and fun, there are things to take into consideration. Control over the vehicles is simplified down to the keyboard and mouse, meaning players can’t control anything beyond simpler movements with vehicles such as the destroyers (rudder control only) and submarines (the unit moves between four levels of depth and can only fire torpedoes at the top two levels). The game’s artificial intelligence engine does a good job of handling tasks and unit formations, but the user will still have to keep their wits about them in order to stay alive.
Unfortunately, there are some issues to be contended with. The game comes with an instruction manual and you’ll find yourself frequently referring over to the key commands to figure out what each unit does. Tutorials and instruction screens within Battlestations Midway are rare beasts indeed and where the player would find himself or herself wishing for an informative pop-up screen, trial and error will have to serve as the teacher.
Battlestations Midway’s frame rate sometimes leaves something to be desired, especially during more intensive action sequences and players may have to scale down the video quality to get the frame rate they’re looking for. As fun as it may be, things can become a little choppy and a well-honed update could improve the situation greatly.
Finally, players on pre-2006 hardware will be disappointed as the title is Intel-only. While this leads to an easier translation of the PC title’s code and removes the expectation of running it on older hardware, this could have run on a Power Mac G5 with a little tinkering.
The Bottom Line
Battlestations Midway isn’t perfect and a few solid updates could transform the current version it into something terrific, but it’s off to a good start and a fun way to burn an hour or so, especially during longer, more strategic battles. This is World War II/Pacific theater goodness in its purest form and worth a look, especially if you’re a fan of the genre and time period.
That being said, it’s time to finish off the game. One of the final levels beat me at the end, the Japanese having sunk too many of my landing craft before I could sink their cruiser. Still, I’ve had an idea about moving my naval fleet closer to sink the destroyer as well as draw its fire. It’s time to head back, test that idea out and get some payback...