A movie loosely based on a board game subsequently spawns a videogame loosely based on the movie that is loosely based on a board game – needless to say, the core Battleship experience has been somewhat lost in the translation in its long winded move from board to 360. Instead of a tactical, grid-based game of chance, 360 owners are instead left with an incredibly underwhelming first-person-shooter with a token nod towards the more traditional grid-based naval combat thrown-in in an attempt to justify its existence.
Like the movie upon which it is based, I approached the Battleship videogame with a fair degree of trepidation and very little in the way of anticipation. Luckily, unlike the movie (which is truly horrible by the way), Battleship the videogame, while far from being anything special, does provide a few (and I must stress that it is just a few) hours of competent FPS action with a novel, if somewhat underplayed and underdeveloped twist.
It’s not a great game, heck, it’s not even a good game, but in the world of movie tie-ins, to say that Battleship on 360 is an extremely average experience feels like strangely genuine praise.
Taking on the role of Cole Mathis, a bomb disposal expert from the US Navy, things actually start off in a relatively promising manner. With an opening that at least tries to evoke some kind of characterisation and sense of place (think Half Life 2 lite), Battleship does show initial signs of promise. Sadly, things soon take a rather swift turn towards the mundane. Taking place on the sunny islands of Hawaii, Battleship wastes the potential of this refreshingly picturesque setting by sending players on a dull and extremely linear quest of blasting through a small and rather unimaginative selection of enemies before walking a few feet, pressing X and doing it all again.
The core mechanics are basic enough and as long as you keep with the assault rifle, the combat is, if nothing else, competent. The alien weaponry doesn’t work nearly as well, and certainly can’t compare with the quality or diversity of say, a Halo, but if your needs don’t stray too far from blasting enemies in the face, Battleship’s gunplay might well keep you entertained for the disappointingly few hours that it will take the majority of gamers to make their way through the campaign.
As beige and unimaginative as much of the experience is though, there is something to be said for Battleship’s clever incorporation of the classic Battleship template. Through the use of a PDF, Battleship sees you taking control of the ships that can be seen in the distance as you make your way through each highly scripted stage.
Smartly, each move you make on your PDF is played out in the single player aspect of the game as you see the Battleships/Destroyers that you control making their subsequent moves in real-time as you carry on the battle on foot. Place your ships on ‘support squares’ and you can even use them to support your ground-based efforts as they reign down artillery on your enemies. It’s a cool twist that does add a little bit of tactical nous to the proceedings, but one that, thanks to the rather unchallenging gameplay and somewhat dim-witted enemies, never feels truly necessary.
Being able to temporarily take direct control of the ships is a nice touch and the rudimentary upgrade system does keep things fresh, but the lack of challenge provided by the on-foot sections combined with the overpowered upgrade tokens rob the experience of challenge and the need for genuine tactical decisions to ever be made.
Again, it’s not bad, and it was certainly a clever idea to incorporate real-time-strategy into the largely action-oriented core gameplay, but due to some poorly conceived and rather shoddy design choices, Battleship never quite manages to shake the tag of being just another rushed movie tie-in. It’s far from the worst you’ll find cluttering the shelves over the blockbuster season, but like the movie upon which it’s based, is destined to be forgotten a few weeks down the line.
Battleship is competent, relatively easy on the eyes and has one clever twist that could have potentially helped it stand out from the crowd. Sadly, it’s also far too short, completely devoid of multiplayer options and, like so many movie tie-ins before it, suffers from an obviously rushed development cycle. The Battleship twist is underdeveloped and the campaign never strays far from the go here and destroy that school of game development. It’s not bad, but it’s not particularly good either. It’s just kind of there.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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