Game Review: ‘Battleship’ for XBox 360

When movie makers started taking toy lines from twenty years ago and made it into movies like Transformers or G.I. Joe, the concepts at least made sense. But when Battleship was announced that it was coming to the big screen, the only thing more frightening than what would appear on screen was the chance that a game adaptation of the film might be made as well. Traditionally movie tie-in games are quick cash ins to coincide with the film’s release, a few exceptions being the much beloved Spider-Man 2 or X-Men Origins: Wolverine games. Now, a strategy game that started on a table top using red and white peg and miniature ships has made its way to the world of movie tie-in first person shooters.

Gameplay

Battleship consists of two main gameplay aspects. Where players will spend most of their time is in a traditional military FPS. While traversing the tropical beaches of Hawaii, players’ choices are limited to three human weapons, a pistol, a shotgun and a carbine, two alien weapons, one resembling a turret gun and another similar to a sniper rifle, and grenades. The lack of variety of weapons or just the sheer lack of different weapons is disappointing as it doesn’t feel like the game really gives a player the opportunity to progress and earn better items. In terms of control, the game moves and shoots in a fairly standard manner, not doing much to try and set itself apart from other shooter combat scenarios but still at least getting the basics right.

Enemy AI is fairly weak in Battleship. Enemies seemingly go to predetermined destinations after being encountered and quickly form a pattern of movements which they quickly repeat. They do not attempt to flank or outsmart players which leads to easy kill encounters. There are only four varieties of enemies for players to encounter throughout the span of the game, and one isn’t even really a full enemy as it is a mine that just barrels towards the player. As with the lack of weapons, the lack of enemies and their poor AI hurts the flow and progression of the game.

In the FPS mode, players will find “Wild Cards” from downed enemies which allow them to upgrade, repair and take control of their ships in the game’s tactical mode. In this mode, players see a grid format of the waters surrounding the island they are currently on and must command their ships to take on an alien fleet, trying to capture specific squares which allow for support of ground troops. The computer is easily to take on in this mode as well as all a player really needs to do is target all their ships at a single target at a time.

Even with no wild card upgrades, the numbers game quickly adds up and takes out the enemy. Players can use one wild card to take control of the ship in a 20 second battle where they actually fire upon the enemy ship to help speed up the process. Once in command of one of the support squares, players can call in a air missile strike to help aid them against ground troops.

Up until the end of the game, gameplay is fairly easy and linear. Only at the end does the difficulty ramp up when players must take on an unending wave of enemies on land while their four ships must take on the alien’s main cruiser. What the game doesn’t explain fully is the method the player must take to complete the task and there were multiple times where a bug would pop up saying the player’s only ship that could take down the alien ship was destroyed and the mission a failure… even though the naval ship still had more than half of its health.

The game as a whole is not very long but luckily they didn’t try to force in some half handed multiplayer deathmatch which would have just become filler for space on the disk.

Story and Presentation

Obviously inspired by the events of the movie (and sadly not the board game), Battleship follows players in the role of Cole Mathis as he takes the lead on the ground with seemingly no support from any more than a dozen other troops during the entire span of the game. Missions revolve around the same basic scenarios of destroying a turret or signal jammer or using them against the enemy. There is never any insight into the character or the conflict going on around the player. Even though quick radio coms give the impression that things might be on an upswing, the gameplay never changes to indicate this.

Graphics and Sound

The look of Battleship feels like it matches up to many games from the middle of this console generation. While certainly not as rough as early shooters like Perfect Dark Zero, the character designs feel very generic. The enemies only have one model for each enemy type and soliders fighting alongside the player are carbon copies of each other. Even in the game’s brief encounters where a player interacts with other troops on the ground, their faces are obscured so no mouth animations can be seen.

The sound of Battleship is adequate. The female VO heard over comm during the mission briefings and in mission seems eerily familiar, like she has been used in many games before but not in a starring role (and not being able to figure it out is driving me crazy). Players get a silent protagonist and minimal communication with other ground troops and mostly silent aliens, aside from a few grunts from the alien Thug which charges in for close combat.

Overall

Battleship is a lot of what someone would expect from the game once they hear the premise. As a shooter, it is very basic. As a strategy game, it lacks depth. As a pair, the game has entertaining moments that end up being repeated as the campaign drags on. Had the game been a $40 budget title, it may have been a better deal, considering the fairly short campaign and limited reason for replayability. This game will mostly appeal to fans of the movie but would be better left in lieu of other FPS shooters on the market for the common player.

XBox 360 (Also available on PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS and Wii)

Developer: Double Helix Games

Publisher: Activision

Price: $59.00

Score: 4.5

 

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