Game Rant’s Rob Keyes reviews Battleship.
While films based on Hasbro toys exist to push merchandising to a wider audience, they are not immune to the obligatory movie tie-in treatment either. Both G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and the entire Transformers film trilogy received release-date-focused video games that were better off not existing.
Can veteran movie-tie-in developer Double Helix Games overcome this stigma in their attempt at delivering a modern spin on the Battleship series, with a game that doubles as a shooter and a naval strategy game? Read on for our review.
The ideas and potential behind what Battleship attempts to offer gamers drastically outweigh what it actually delivers. As a full-priced retail game at $59.99 for the PS3/Xbox 360 versions, Battleship is an absolute rip-off, but that doesn’t mean it’s a terrible game. It’s just a short, hollow, repetitive and uninspired one with no story or characters.
Without seeing the Battleship film, the game’s “story” is without context or meaning. Players take on the role of elite demolitions specialist Cole Mathis, a faceless, voiceless character we learn nothing about – who must help fight off an alien invasion taking place around the Hawaiian islands. A voice over the radio informs the player of what to do, and with the help of waypoints, players must navigate back and forth across a small linear map, destroying power generators, activating turrets, and doing the same for a bunch of other random tech buildings repeatedly.
Between and around objectives, players encounter alien ground forces, bipedal infantry of which there are only three types (Soldiers, Thugs and Commanders). They are equally as faceless and nameless as the few friendly human soldiers who pop up in missions and suffer from the same weak AI problems, but at least they bring two more usable guns to the U.S. Army’s playable three.
The vast majority of Battleship’s three-hour campaign involves shootouts with the same aliens in the same environments, intermixed with running up to a panel or door and holding down a button to interact with it (interacting in this game is a little loading bar). What keeps the gameplay somewhat interesting is its one important feature: The BattleCom.
At any point during the game the player can activate the BattleCom, which pauses the game and brings up a Battleship board game grid with a tactical map of the islands and surrounding waters. It is here where the player can move naval ships, give attack orders, or place resources in support locations – where they can then offer artillery strikes that can be called in during the regular shooter gameplay.
Controlling vessels in this mode is simple, innovative and works well within the theme of the game, and more importantly, it’s more than just a minigame. When moving ships or battling the alien vessels, the BattleCom feature translates into in-game action during the first-person shooter mode (just look out onto the water). An indicator in the top left of the HUD keep players informed of each ship’s health – but it takes a long time to get in and out of the interface with load times.
That being said, it’s a feature that not even DICE could take advantage of in Battlefield 3 but it’s something we’d like to see expanded upon in other shooters. A lot of the game’s fun comes from the tactical element offered with the naval command part of the game, and it all gets a little more dynamic when the player picks up wild cards – glowing symbols that drop from enemies that can be applied to a ship in the BattleCom. These add ship upgrades including bonuses to weapons, armor, radar range and even allowing the player to repair ships or take control of them.
While taking control of a destroyer, a submarine, or a battleship to engage in naval warfare had the potential to be the defining gameplay mechanic Battleship, the way-too-short, 20-second time limit means that naval skirmishes are realized as simple button mash exercises until one individual target ship is destroyed. The game does not let players spend the entire 20 seconds even if there are multiple enemies, nor does it let them control where the ship is going. Point and shoot for a few seconds and you’re done. It’s too easy and it’s too boring.
While incredibly limited and existing only as a marketing point, it is important to use this feature since entering ship combat gives a massive damage bonus and guarantees the elimination of an enemy vessel off the map. Save those ship command wild cards for the larger alien vessels.
As expected, Battleship is your usual movie tie-in affair, lacking value and polish. There are only seven missions in the three-hour game, and each reuse the same environments, assets, enemies and animations. Ships and AI characters stutter with hit detection, debris disappears before hitting the ground and even the sky is a simple static image, illustrating the lack of development time and funding to make the game a worthwhile experience. But hey, there are collectible pegs found in each mission!
This game based off a movie based off a game exists only as part of the greater cross-marketing strategy and it’s not something that should be bought new – even with its $10 movie ticket voucher. The game is lacking overall as a modern shooter versus what’s already available on the market, and its dated graphics don’t help its cause. As a $10-15 downloadable title, it would have worked well (enough), and it’s a shame there was no attempt at doing more with the Battleship theme or by adding multiplayer/cooperative features.
Battleship represents a wasted opportunity, one where Activision should have taken the idea few steps further to try to craft a viable, worthy shooter franchise. As is stands however, Battleship fits right in with Double Helix’s Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, The Da Vinci Code, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, etc.
If you don’t have access to Google, Battleship also comes with an embarrassingly basic and uninteresting list of naval ship types which features nothing more than a photo and a description of each.
Battleship is now available for the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo DS. Game Rant played the Xbox 360 version for review.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.