When a Game develops a vocal following, it's a blessing and a curse. On one hand, a lot of people love your game; on the other, they've all got ideas and demands about the sequel, and if it goes tits up they'll say it's because you didn't use the awesome idea they had where the soldiers wear wedding dresses and use them like parachutes.
Battlestations: Midway picked up its community in early 2007, with a decent and original blend of arcade simulation and strategy game. This community let its opinions be heard and with Pacific, Eidos Hungary are trying their damnedest to give them what they want. Except wedding dresses.
The Americans will pick up their battle where they finished the first game, the Battle of Midway, whereas the new Japanese campaign sees them playing catch-up.
The Japanese campaign will start at the Battle of Pearl Harbor, where WWII kicked off for the US. It's a much beefier single-player game, responding to criticisms from reviewers and players that the first game lacked longevity. Eidos Hungary have researched the real Japanese plans for the war effort, and their campaign lets you play out WWII as Nippon's forces intended it to go.
Giving a longer boost to the game's time on your hard drive are the enhancements to the multiplayer. Three of these - Escort, Duel and Island Assault - weren't on display, but were described. Escort and Duel are quick dip-in games, lasting from 15 to 30 minutes each. In Escort you protect an important vessel while the other team attack, while Duel is a type of deathmatch. The third mode - which will have it's own press event in the coming weeks - is Island Capture. This sounds more like the fusion of long-term strategic thinking and the action from the single-player campaign.
The two modes that were available for a playthrough at this preview were Siege and Competitive.
Each of these modes has eight maps, with the main difference between them being the units and payloads available to both sides. The Japanese units shown included the kamikaze Zero-sen planes (which weren't as suicidal as you might think) and new American units, including landing boats that can drop off marines and give them artillery support as they storm beaches.
The Siege mode has a defending team repelling attacks on their base. The US planes (bumped up with Allied craft) included the nippy Hurricane (of Battle of Britain fame) with an optional 2001b bomb, and the ponderous Dauntless Divebomber that carried a 1,0001b bomb that was probably nicknamed "The Big Bastard". The Dauntless' payload makes it incapable of dogfighting, so it's best to drop your load before you decide to engage other aircraft.
Destroying anything reduces the enemy's resources. The bigger the target, the higher the reduction, and, naturally, the greater the risk (for instance, fortresses are well armed, being surrounded by anti-aircraft guns). But destroying buildings is just one tactic: you can also pick off the gunboats, landing ships, and the rest with your machine guns and bombs, or fend off aircraft. It's not the most immediately transparent system, but it seems well-balanced, with some teeth-gritting near-zero finales.
The Competitive mode pits members of the same army against each other, whilst trying to achieve a common goal. It's occasionally hilarious, as you position your hull broadside to a friend, just to shoot the golden bonus plane.
You can see how friendly fire incidents happen, as everyone is just so excited about killing stuff. But it's worth keeping in mind that this kind of competition will damage your overall chances of completing the mission. Another resounding demand from the community was a Skirmish mode (see 'It's a kind of co-op'). Each of the five multiplayer modes can effectively be played co-op, by setting one side to hots, and joining in with a friend. This should make up for the absence of co-op in the single-player campaigns, which are unapologetically solo affairs.
We weren't completely won over by the first game, but this is looking like a great improvement, with plenty going on and a well-developed multiplayer aspect. After playing through the new multiplayer, I've just started looking forward to Battlestcitions: Pacific.
It's a kind of co-op
A friendly fire compromise
Apart from the Japanese and American single player campaigns, and the multiplayer battles, there's a third mode to suit any co-op fans who just want to play nice - Skirmish.
Any of the multiplayer maps - and their unique allocation of units - can be played in Skirmish. Your side's numbers will be made up by bots and the enemy's will be completely AI. It's a good balance for anyone not wanting to subject themselves to the world of hurt and humiliation that is online multiplayer gaming, and a bone that's been thrown to anyone who wanted more co-op goodness from the strictly single-player aspect of the game.
Download Battlestations: Pacific
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode