Developer: Double Helix Games
Available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
When you see that a new game is coming out that is based on the events from a brand new Hollywood blockbuster, you’re bound to get excited…right? What’s that you say? No? As gamers we’ve learned to be a little bit apprehensive about the video game tie-ins that we get whenever there’s a huge film hitting the cinemas and rightly so. With the odd few exceptions they’ve all felt rushed and average at best. This year’s summer blockbuster season has started off with a few big titles, one of the biggest being Battleship; the movie based on the game. Well now, as you’ve probably guessed, we’ve got the game, based on the movie, based on the game. But has Double Helix delivered us something good enough for us to stop shying away from movie tie-in video games, or is it just another one for the pile of dross that seems to build up every single summer?
STORY: If there’s one thing you should know about the story in Battleship before we even get started, it is that if you’re looking for a game with substance and a decent narrative, then you’re looking underneath the completely wrong rock. This game is all about shooting things until they’re not moving anymore and then moving on and doing the same thing over and over again until the credits roll. It’s a movie tie-in video game, to the movie of the same name, but apart from the concept, you’d never know it. You’re not going to find yourself stumbling across the actors the you saw in the film and you’re not told anything of value at the start of the game. You’re just thrown into things and then everybody just sits back and watches as you either making yourself look like a complete fool, or save the world, there’s no middle ground here.
You take control of Mathis, a bomb disposal expert who for some reason that I either missed or is not conveyed too well, has to save the entire US Navy all on his own. His skills in bomb disposal are never called upon, after the first five minutes either, so it seems completely arbitrary as to why this is the person you’ll be following for the next six hours.
GRAPHICS: The graphics within Battleship aren’t actually too bad, in fact some of the best aspects in the game are in the visuals. They’re not top level but Double Helix have employed some clever tactics of their own in order to get around some of the biggest hurdles they would have had during the development. Instead of having to lip-sync the mouths of the few people that you find yourself coming across through the course of the game, all of the characters that are actually seen – and not just heard over the intercom – have full head masks on. So you couldn’t see their lips even if they were perfectly animated.
Another aspect of the visuals that I enjoyed was being able to tell your ships where to go in the naval command interface and then being able to look out to see to see those ships moving. Sure, it’s not the best looking thing in the world but there’s a distinct feeling of “I did that!” when you glance over and watch one of your ships taking down yet another enemy vessel. Despite these impressive aspects of the game, the visuals, for the most part, are just downright lazy, there are five enemy types that you’ll come across during your time in the game, a similar number of enemy, and friendly, vessels and only a couple of friendly infantry types. Everything about the models just screams of laziness and it brings down the whole game because of it.
SOUND: The sound is exactly what you’d expect from this type of game, serviceable but by no means up there with some of the best audio in video games. The weapons in the game are the best sounding part of the entire title, with all of them sounding like human weapons if you’re using a human weapon or slightly non-human if you’re using the weapon of a fallen alien. The voice acting within the game falls towards the other end of the quality spectrum, with almost all of it being quite grating, even annoying at some parts. The way that Reagan, the woman that gives the player all of the instructions within the game, signs off with a “Reagan out!” every single time, as if she just gave you the cure for cancer, is particularly annoying.
GAMEPLAY: If you’ve ever played a First Person Shooter before, then you’re going to know what to do. Shoot all the aliens in the face until they stop moving. Then do it all over again when some more show up. There are a couple of glimmers of hope throughout the short campaign, but not enough to really say that Battleship is something new and exciting. It’s a genre that’s already been played to death and Double Helix aren’t doing anything to spice things up; at least not when it comes to the gunplay. Those glimmers of hope, while they are few and far between, do manage to give you a glimpse at what Double Helix could have managed if they’d been given more time and maybe an original title to work on. The makings of a good game are in there somewhere, it’s just hard to find because the rest of the game just makes it all feel so bland. The lack of weapon variety, the lack of enemy variety and even the lack of mission variety just make the whole gameplay experience lacking. It really is a shame.
One of those glimmers of hope comes in the form of the Naval Command component of the gameplay. This mode has clearly taken a little bit of inspiration from the original board game, but it’s different enough to keep things a little bit fresh. Just a taster of what Double Helix could have done if they were allowed to let loose with their own ideas for more of the game instead of just this one bit. A quick tap of the left bumper button on the Xbox 360 controller will load up the battle map, a map of the island you’re currently on with the locations of all of the vessels superimposed on top of it. Your task while you’re in this mode, is to direct your vessels to take out the enemy. Theres a certain amount of tactics involved, as you would expect, and be prepared to sacrifice one of your own ships for the good of the mission (don’t worry though, they’re never really gone for long, there’s always a power-up that allows you to bring back the last sunk friendly ship) but once you get into the swing of things, you’ll find yourself commanding your way to victory and having fun while you’re doing it. Unfortunately this is the best part of the game and only slightly saves it from utter mediocrity, still, it’s something that we haven’t seen before, so it’s got to be commended for that.
LONGEVITY: The game isn’t very long at all. With only seven missions to get through in the entire game, even an average FPS player will have the game completed in less than six hours. Players do have the option of going back through each level to collect the hidden pegs in order to collect all of the concept artwork, but there’s really no real incentive to do that unless you really love concept art of course. The lack of any form of multiplayer means that if you weren’t impressed with the gameplay or the story on the first playthrough then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever put the game back into your console again.
VERDICT: Unfortunately Battleship is nothing more than average across almost all fronts. The FPS aspect is similar to just about every other game of the genre that you can lay your hands on, just with a different aesthetic and the lack of using seemingly anything from the feature film leaves it feeling a little bit detached from its big brother. The addition of the naval tactics portion of the game gives it a little bit of something new, but even this aspect of the game starts feeling a little bit too repetitive after the halfway point. Now if that mode was available as a multiplayer aspect of the game, things could have gone a whole different way. Instead, Battleship is sadly rather average.