Review: Battleship for Xbox 360
In Battleship an alien invasion isn't a big deal. It's as unpleasant as any large-scale military confrontation obviously, but it's also no more nasty or more unexpected than any other.
Gruff higher-ups react like a coiled spring, dolling out commands like they've done this before. They have, of course, when responding to fictional Nazi, Russian and Korean threats in countless shooters past. And there's very little to distinguish the looming threat in Battleship from any of those.
The game of the movie of the game is more than half a shooter, and the rest - as one might expect - is naval combat. Unfortunately the latter isn't quite enough to make up for the unoriginality of the former.
At least one happy by-product of being so derivative is that the end product is always going to be solid. Battleship has a variety of human and alien firearms that all feel unique, and a few different species of extraterrestrial foe. Spacelings react well to gunfire; their blue metal armour plates are sheared off and they recoil in clear pain. The aiming, with or without iron-sights, is fairly fluid.
So everything functions well. There's a real sense, however, that the developer is tracing over any other FPS, and only picking up the main superficial ridges of what defines the genre. Even the aliens look like humans in futuristic armour, and it's only upon approaching their bodies is it revealed that they do, in fact, have three toes.
To counter its all-consuming mediocrity - and also form of tenuous link with its source material - developer Double Helix Games has included a substantial adaptation of Hasbro's Battleships. Our lone marine commands a handful of large destroyers and submarines - presumably with crews of unnamed hundreds - to aid him and his squad of six in accomplishing various objectives. The first-person action takes place on a series of tiny, but vitally important, Hawaiian islands, all surrounded by endless, featureless Pacific Ocean.
The ships themselves can be commanded by hitting the right bumper and can be shunted around a grid into strategic spots. The idea is to balance the naval warfare with the smaller land-based skirmishes. The flotilla has its own set of hyper-engineered light-year-traversing foes to deal with. Curiously, the enemy's ships are individually weaker than their American adversaries, but they do outnumber the player slightly.
Ship upgrades are collected from the alien grunts dispatched on land, including repair tools, better missiles, and torpedoes. One upgrade allows direct control of a ship for a few seconds, magically enhancing its destructive capabilities. Aim with the right control stick and mash the triggers to launch the full explosive complement. It soon becomes a chore because it requires no skill.
It's alchemical that one relatively minor technical problem, if it's in the right place, can cripple an entire game. Battleship, regrettably, is one such example. The trouble is that opening the high-tech command screen takes a three to four seconds every time. Closing the two-dimensional, near bi-tonal turn-based grid takes a little bit longer. It's absurd.
I have no way of predicting how much more I might have enjoyed the game if they had solved that problem. I suspect it might have stubbornly crawled its way into for-fans-of-the-source-material territory.
Battleship is one part generic and one part simplistic. The link that binds the two parts together is exasperatingly cumbersome, and that's probably the biggest problem with the game. It starts out fun, but quickly gets repetitive: The same old story.
Ups: Digital adaptations of Rihanna and Liam Neeson are blessedly absent.
Downs: Wholly uninspired. A facsimile of a first-person shooter with a plain Battleship minigame.