I love it when Hollywood takes from one entertainment medium, in this case board games, and tries to introduce it into another. Battleship is a perfect example of this on two different levels, as the videogame’s release falls right near the movie’s. Turning a board game about plastic pegs and guessing into a hit movie and game takes some real imagination along with investors looking for that next money fountain. So, does Battleship sink the competition or end up dry docked with the other movie cash ins? Let’s take a look at my play through of Double Helix Games‘ Battleship, published by Activision for the PlayStation 3.
The story here is null and void. Usually I do not mind this because games that don’t give you a back story right away will flesh things out later on. What we do know is that the protagonist’s name is Cole Mathis, and he specializes in explosive demolition for the military. Unfortunately, that’s all we ever know. I did not find out what these aliens are, why there are here or what caused this disturbance. As a fan of great story telling, like the Gears of War series, I felt cheated and really had no reason to care about Cole, or anyone else for that matter.
The gameplay was what pulled me in, initially promising a solid first person shooter with a strategy game side dish, akin to the Battleship board game. Gameplay on the first person shooter end was pretty bland and run of the mill. Run up to enemy under cover, shoot until all are dead and move on to the next area. This shoot, rinse, repeat formula is tired, and the game play felt that way throughout. You will encounter 3 types of enemies: a standard soldier that looks a lot like the old school Cobra Hydra Foil pilot, a sharpshooter and a brute type character. The latter reminded me of a Halo Brute, but much cheaper and far more annoying. These guys were the most difficult part, and forget proceeding if you lack a shotgun or rail gun, as the other weapons were ineffective and lead to a beat down ending in death.
The strategy end of this title was played through a portable gadget called a Battle Communicator. My character carried this PDA device, which could be pulled up by clicking the left trigger. Each and every time you pulled this unit out and fired it up a couple of seconds was needed to connect, which was annoying and pulled you a little too far out of battle. Once the screen did come up, there was a grid pattern similar to the Battleship board game, and I was tasked with controlling my fleet (never more than 4 ships) in battle against the alien presence.
As I proceeded through the first person aspect of this title, cards appeared near downed enemies showing perks. In order to use any one of these I had to open the PDA, select the ship and place the perk on that vessel. Perks were random and could be a number of things, like additional armor, increased damage or a ship revive/repair. This became a tedious headache, because sometimes I needed these perks to save a ship from defeat. If the battleship was sunk I had to restart that chapter. The combination of these two game types did not mesh well. It seemed like anytime you were getting in the groove on foot, the computer was screaming at you to move your ships. It was pretty cool to see my ships fighting off the coast and moving into position as I told them to, but switching between strategy and FPS took way too long.
Controls were also a vanilla affair. I had the ability to swap some buttons and increase/decrease sensitivity, but still, the controls felt stiff and overcompensated when in battle. The strategy end was simple, point and click on a grid to move ships into position supporting land troops or engage an enemy. Nothing horrible here and nothing innovative or note worthy.
The graphics were about on par with the average movie tie-in title. Some of the island’s water and lighting effects were impressive enough, but there was too much recycling. Being that this game takes place on an entire Hawaiian island, I expected some space. Nope, my character back tracked the same terrain over and over, seeing the same structures and enemies all too often. There was a lot of area I could only see, as the dreaded invisible barriers of yesteryear prohibited access. The characters were all expressionless, and every drone I took down looked identical to the last.
Audio did nothing to elevate this title. All explosions and gunfire sounded the same. When I say the same, I mean almost identical. I played some areas twice and could actually hear the same exact explosion or firing sequence that was used in the last area. Music was your average hum drum attempt at building some type of atmosphere, which never happened. The voice work was decent and sounded believable, but the same lines were repeated so many times I found myself wanting to complete an area just so the voices would stop.
The game is a one shot deal, meaning there’s no multiplayer, online modes,time attacks or anything else to add fun or replayability. A game so basic in this advanced day and age of first person shooters could have really benefited from some online or local multiplayer. With nothing but a boring and short single player campaign, it is really hard to find the fun or replay value in this title.
This game is marred with a lot of bugs. At one point, I was actually trying to figure out if this game even saw a debug stage prior to release. I saw at least 20 enemies get stuck in walls or terrain only to end up freezing and disappearing altogether. There was also a serious issue with collision detection when taking on the enemy. I could clearly be shooting an enemy in the head and see impacts inches away in the wall they were hiding behind. Melee was a disaster I tried to avoid, as it seemed only the computer characters were allowed to land successful hits. Some explosions ended with almost weightless debris floating back down to earth as the game moved along at normal speed. I won’t go into how many times I walked up to an enemy and they just sat there frozen until I opened fire, and then they started the little cover mechanic dance. Oh, did I mention locking up my PS3 three times in a four hour campaign?
I had really high hopes for a game breathing new life into the FPS genre by way of strategy, and it looks like my hopes will go on further, as Battleship is not it. There were some decent graphics and gameplay, but with such a buggy game, and nothing outside of a vanilla single player campaign, I cannot see anyone firing this title up much beyond an initial playing. As gamers, we can deal with some buggy issues if a game has character or shows promise down the road. Battleship will be cast out to sea with the other movie license titles looking to capitalize on on the big screen buzz.
+Some decent water and light effects
+Interesting idea of strategy and FPS
-No back story whats so ever
-The combination of strategy and FPS just did not work
-Not a single character says, “you sunk my battleship!”
-Way too glitchy and buggy
-3-4 hour campaign and no multi player or other modes
-$60 title for a very average and short single player game
1 (RIP) to 4 are varying degrees of a bad game. A 1 (RIP) being a game you would actually pay money to not play, and a 4 is something that just barely fails to be mediocre.
Battleship was developed by Double Helix Games and published by Activision for the PlayStation 3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo 3DS and DS with a release date of May 15th. The MSRP for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions is $59.99. The publisher supplied RipTen with a copy for review.