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Battlestations Pacific features two unique campaigns that provide a nice variety in story line, the second one in particular shines light down a hallway of history many Americans might not want to look down. The second campaign was actually a lot of fun for me, being Canadian born and of Asian descent, but with a Japanese step father who raised me. Taking the kamikaze planes out for a last run was terrifying in thought and inspiring in concept for me and the game play reminded me of Heroes of the Pacific.
The online option for up to four players was a much more fulfilling experience; there weren't as many AI problems since it's much easier to keep all the units on course with four players. The view from a cockpit or battleship, rather than an unappealing tactical map, made the task of carrying out the battles much easier, satisfying, and more compelling to complete. They included five multiplayer modes and eight scalable maps that provide a nice amount of replay value.
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Battlestations Pacific makes it difficult to juggle giving the right orders to your men while at the same time controlling individual units to aid your men in their struggles. The user interface of the tactical map makes it hard to determine which forces on the map are the ones under your command. In a few of the missions this will become an issue because you can't tell the difference between your computer controlled allies and the forces directly under your control.
The men under your control generally follow the orders you give them, but periodic AI bugs can derail your units. You might occasionally find a destroyer stuck on a shallow shore and the occasional aircraft that appears to be lost and is aimlessly flying after completing an objective, rather than continuing the battle.
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The Graphical Story
The graphical presentation of Battlestations Pacific looks a little bland and the textures are poor for a new Xbox 360 production. The scenes of wanton destruction are visually unimpressive most of the time, with explosions that are a little underpowered and effects that do the job, but don't stand out to the eye. The menus included are a little ugly and unappealing to look at and it will be hard at first to find what you need, until you learn where to look.
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Sounds in the Game
The open-water battle sounds in Battlestations Pacific didn't inspire me as much as the sounds of battle on the open-water in Empire: Total War, which is definitely a lost opportunity considering the increased complexity and explosiveness of modern naval encounters. The music did the job of increasing the pace of the action and adding to the energy of the battles with modern orchestrated sounds that fill the room.
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Battlestations Pacific is only average in the playability of the single player experience, the airplanes handle well and are fun to fly, but the ships appear to move to slowly even for being on the open water, and the submarines are difficult to move around. There are times when the chaotic nature of the battles seems to go beyond the level which would exist in real combat. The surface and underwater vessels at times bump into each other like slow slapstick characters in a play.
The online multiplayer mode works well even with eight players (4 on each side) at a time and this mode was a lot more engaging and satisfying to play than the single player campaigns.
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The Final Word
Battlestations Pacific isn't any more fun to play than Midway was and they didn't improve the AI, which is one of the most important aspects in a good strategy game. Having played the bored midshipman once already, I don't really want to play this game again, but the first go-around was good enough to be recommended. RTS veterans aren't going to be impressed, but if you've never played a video game in this genre before and want to give it a try, it will introduce you well enough.