Once you progress past the initial skirmishes you'll find yourself in charge of large fleets combining destroyers, aircraft carriers, a choice of planes to launch and perhaps a few subs to boot. At this point you'll begin to rely more fully upon the game's strategic map screen, the side of proceedings that most closely resembles an RTS. From here you can plot the actions of your forces, complete with Dad's Army-style movement arrows, while a simple submenu allows you to spend resources on summoning additional craft. The AI seems to do a pretty decent job of carrying out your orders, and you can jump into control of almost anything fighting on the same side as you. Before long you'll find yourself skipping all over the place: shooting down enemy bombers in a fighter plane, switching to a destroyer so you can shell the living daylights out of a rival battleship, then jumping to a sub to scupper more boats from below. It's a bit like spinning plates… only when you cock-up it's not the china that breaks, but the heart of a lonely housewife back in Memphis, Tennessee.
To be honest, the strategic map screen is one of the areas in which Pacific could have done with a little more attention. As it stands it's perfectly functional, but there are a couple of things that could have been implemented to make it a little more user friendly. The same button is used to select units and to move them, and this can sometimes be an issue when you're ordering something to move close to another vehicle. Your view of the map is also sometimes obscured by "helpful" windows that pop up, and in general it's pretty much essential to do a lot of zooming in and out if you want to order your troops with any degree of precision.
A greater problem is that that the game fails to fully explain how you handle non-controllable allies: you'll often be accompanied by vehicles that can be given orders, but not directly controlled. Initially we assumed that these forces were fully handled by the AI, but this wasn't the case. Poor Seb was messing around for about half an hour waiting for his chums to occupy an island, when in fact he had to give a direct order. There's also no visual differentiation between friendly forces you can control and those you can't, and this can occasionally be quite frustrating.
Other than these nags, the only major criticism to be levelled at Pacific is that the voice acting is pretty cringe-worthy. There's no story this time, thankfully, but there's a definite cheddar-like pong to the voice over banter. "Damn, I got another one!" cries a US pilot as he sends another man to his grave, sounding for all the world like he just opened a packet of Panini football stickers. The Japanese voices are also rather unnatural. There's a bit too much of the boo-hiss villain to their imperialistic chatter, and every so often a voice will seem to slip back into its native American.
Visually the game is a vast improvement on its predecessor. While some of the damage animations are a bit disappointing in their lack of spectacle (torpedoes will usually just thud into a boat with a large splash), the sea looks bloody marvellous with the sun shining down on it. The various boats and planes are pretty tidy in appearance, and there are loads of them - including a few oddities like the prototype Shinden fighter, which has the propeller at the back of the aircraft. You also get to control Kamikaze craft, and as a result this is probably the first and only game in which you get an Achievement for committing suicide.
There's no questioning the fact that Battlestations: Pacific occupies a relatively unique place in the games market, and that it probably benefits considerably from the resulting freshness. If there were more games around that were trying to do the same thing, its rough edges and occasional lack of user-friendliness might be more noticeable; as it stands, you're far more likely to notice all the good things about it - the epic battles, the variety of gameplay and the wild thrill of slinking around in a submarine like an undersea sausage of torpedo death. There's oodles of content here - two campaigns, masses of unlockable vehicles that can be used to alter missions, and a comprehensive multiplayer mode that offers the chance to wage epic battles with up to seven friends. In short, Pacific is very much the son of its forebear. If you're prepared to push through its choppier moments, you'll find a rich and highly enjoyable game that should keep you occupied for months.
VideoGamer.com Score8 Score out of 10
- Masses and masses of gameplay
- Highly absorbing
- Submarines are great
- Confusing and fiddly for beginners