Hands-On Preview: Battleship – Using Guns to Pay Homage to a Board Game
Battleship, is a game based on a movie… based on a game. That’s the short of it. The long version — believe it or not — is actually much more interesting than you think. I had a chance to check out the second level of the game which will launch when the film (of the same name) hits theaters in May. Read on for my full preview, you may just be as surprised as I was.
If you don’t know the basic premise of the summer’s upcoming blockbuster film, here are a few quick notes. In “Battleship”, a naval fleet based off the coast of Hawaii is attacked by aliens that have been lured to earth by crazy humans that have been trying to make contact with extra terrestrials. Their calls to space have been answered by some nasty amphibian invaders which leads to an all out war of humans vs. aliens in the South Pacific.
Is it the most original idea for an action flick? No, but then again the film is based on a board game and we happen to live in a world where Michael Bay can take the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and turn them into aliens. With that said, I guess anything is fair game.
For starters, I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the room for the demo and when I saw that it was a first person shooter I was in shock. Usually licensed movie games are 3rd person beat em ups or platformers; basically elementary game mechanics packed into a licensed wrapper. That is not the case here.
Taking into consideration that “Battleship” is for all intents and purposes a popcorn flick, developer Double Helix decided to go the heavy action route and I’m certain it’s among the reasons why they wound up with an FPS title; it certainly works to their advantage.
Falling in line with other “movie games” as of late, Battleship (thankfully) does not try to follow the narrative of the film. Instead, players will assume the role of Cole Mathis — a soldier who’s bringing the battle to the alien forces. Using traditional FPS tactics such as shooting, fragging, and flanking, you’ll be battling your way through the islands of Hawaii whilst fighting off the alien invasion through air, land, and sea.
As you’re taking down wave after wave of enemies and making your way to your next objective point you will also have to be aware of what’s going on with your allies in the water. After all, the game is called Battleship for a reason. This also happens to be where a rather interesting game mechanic comes into play, one that helps to add some welcomed variety to the title.
At any point in time a quick tap to the left bumper will bring up “Battle Command.” This allows you to access an overhead map that displays your naval fleet on a detailed grid (lettered and numbered to give homage to the board game) as well as any current action taking place around the island that you’re fighting on.
Also in this mode you’ll be able to redeem “wildcards” or tactical points that you’ve collected from downing aliens on land. These wild cards will give you strategic advantages on the water such as armor, missiles, and radar boosts. You’ll also be able to utilize one particular wildcard that will allow you to man the guns of one of your ships and make it rain on nearby enemies for about half a minute.
Something that I have to point is that after you’ve made orders to your fleet through battle command and you switch back to first person mode, you’ll be able to look out to the water and actually see your strategic moves play out in real time, making you as a player feel like you’re part of this bigger, more epic conflict.
The enemy A.I. in the game was fairly agressive and at various points throughout my demo I found myself running for cover. It pains me to say that you’ll be going through this first person / strategy hybrid alone. Unfortunately there’s no co-op or multiplayer to be found here, but it seems like Double Helix is going for a solid story and progression filled campaign.
Entering this demo I was full of skepticism, esepcially since movie games always seem to carry a certain stigma. I left with the feeling that all movie games don’t have to suck, some can even take some chances like the battle command system found here. Here’s to hoping that Battleship’s final product is as enjoyable as the time I spent with it.
Battleship is set to release in May 2012 on the Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo DS (all Nintendo versions are not first person shooters, they are strategy titles).