Anchors Midway, my friend

Compared to dozens of video games focused on World War II's European front, the theater of war in the Pacific is relatively uncharted waters.

battlestations disk 88 (photo credit: )
battlestations disk 88
(photo credit: )
Battlestations: Midway, a DVD-ROM in English by Eidos Interactive, distributed with a 40-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP and up and a 1 ghz Pentium 4 PC or better, for ages 12 through adult, NIS 219. Rating: ***1/2 Compared to dozens of video games focused on World War II's European front, the theater of war in the Pacific is relatively uncharted waters. Only a few games, such as EA's excellent Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault released two years ago, have tackled this part of the mega-conflict. This disk, which is satisfactory but not as good, has been through a lot: It was originally developed by Mithis Entertainment for making a Xbox version, but the company folded; Eidos Interactive purchased the rights and asked its Hungarian studios to finish it as PC and Xbox 360 versions. The Midway Islands are a 6.2-square-kilometer atoll located near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago, about a third of the way between Honolulu and Tokyo. But the volcanic islands received their name for being situated midway between North America and Asia and halfway around the globe from Greenwich, England. Today, there are only around 40 residents, so the islands are best known for their past - the location of the Battle of Midway fought on June 4, 1942. Nearby, the US Navy defeated a Japanese attack against Midway, marking a turning point in the war in the Pacific. The combined third-person action/strategy game places you in the role of fictitious naval recruit Henry Walker, who just happens to be assigned to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese launched the surprise raid that brought US forces into the war. Steering a PT boat through the blue waters toward the USS Phoenix, Walker mentions how peaceful and lovely a morning it is. Then the Japanese release their bombs. Funny, but this scene felt very familiar, as the Medal of Honor game starts with Jimmy Conlin, a young American from Oregon just shipped out to the Pacific, arriving at the US Naval Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor that same day. But before you can begin this first of 11 missions through the Battle of Midway, you must spend about half an hour going to the island's naval training academy, learning not only how to maneuver a destroyer but also how to drop depth charges on submarines below, fire torpedoes and antiaircraft weapons and fly propeller-driven planes. Although most of the controls are fine, when you move your mouse forward, the picture goes backward and vice versa, but right and left work properly. You control aircraft carriers, destroyers, bombers, fighter planes and submarines and can switch from one to another in the linear game. The switching is challenging and satisfying, but the total experience is too short, with the single-player game finished in about seven hours. Even if you go on-line or on a LAN (local area network) into the multiplayer mode for two to eight players at a time, its maps are mostly taken from the single-player. You cannot play on the Japanese side. While they do speak only Japanese, your enemy is not portrayed as the devil: A leathery-faced veteran pilot en route to bomb Pearl Harbor is momentarily shown holding a photo of himself with his child for a last glance before his possible death. There are a few bugs: If you want to skip over the very good animated video clips between missions because you've seen them before, pressing the escape button is likely to propel you out of the game entirely. In addition, your progress is saved only at the end of the missions, which is very frustrating, as if you are shot down in the middle, you have to replay a lot of material. The graphic engine is very good and the sound is professional (although the background music is a bit melodramatic), but the voice acting is poor. Fortunately, the historical missions, which include the Battle of the Philippines, the Raid on Balikpapan, the Vengeance at Luzon, Holding the Lembok Straits, the Battle of Tulagi and the Rendezvous in the Java Sea, become more challenging as you proceed. It's just over too soon, and you're unlikely when finished to want to go through it all over again.