There’s nothing that smells more like a quality product than an ‘official’, fully licensed video game tie-in to a film, which in turn is based on a board game. If I had a pound for every critically and commercially successful game of this nature… well, I wouldn’t be here, that’s for sure. Battleship is published by Activision and developed Double Helix, a studio with a penchant for big name movie tie-ins and the phrase ‘rise of’, bringing us such ludological abominations as the Green Lantern and GI: Joe. Even though it resides on the coveted Havok engine, expectations for Battleship lie somewhere between ‘Steve Kean driving responsibly’ and ‘2014 General Election Nick Clegg’.
The film has an utterly bizarre premise, inexplicably featuring a woman famous for lyrics so deep they regularly leave her in tears – lyrics about taking it up the bum – as well as being entirely devoid of any similarity to the board game from which it takes its name.
Battleship manages to take this level of dissimilarity to new levels, again only being tenuously similar to the film. It features aliens, naval units and one of the worst depictions of Hawaii I’ve ever seen, yes, but precisely that’s where the buck stops.
Movie tie-ins, aside from sullying the good name of video games and good taste, at the very least usually feature the voices and likenesses of those who lend them to the film, especially when you’ve shoe-horned in a modern day philosopher like Rihanna. It is rather perplexing, therefore, that Battleship features none of these and even seems to actively disassociate itself with the film. I had to actively seek out whether this was an official tie-in, as aside from the Hasbro and Universal trademarks there is little else to go on. There isn’t even so much as a blurb to sell the game, just a couple of stomach-churning banalities.
You play faceless human husk Cole Mathus – unfortunately not the wizardy Dinosaur Jr. frontman – aided by the inane chatter of one female Reagan, barking at you like a passive-aggressive ex-wife. For some unknown reason, you’re given the task of absolutely everything, creating what I call Mario Balotelli Syndrome. ‘Why always me?’, I ask myself after being told to single-handedly diffuse several lots of unexploded ordnance, whilst the entire U.S. Army stands around looking bland, generic and clueless. It’s exactly this sort of bone-idle complacency that probably brought the aliens to Hawaii in the first place. A game that makes you feel like the prison bitch is a game not worth anybody’s time. When it comes to war one should feel part of a team, not a lone-ranger having to do the job of a hundred lazy men. Maybe Double Helix were trying to make a point about the U.S. Military, I don’t know, but if anything it’s a perfect microcosm of their approach to game development.
If pre-rendered cinematics look worse than your core gameplay you’re doing something disastrously wrong, especially when most of your in-game textures look like the inside of a muddy cataract to begin with. Some poor bastard had been tasked with making said CGI look rather pretty, only for it to be compressed within an inch of its life.
Corners such as this have been cut all over the shop, from the sneaky decision to have every single character’s mouth covered to prevent the need to lip-synch the droll, lifeless dialogue, to the obvious recycling of assets from other games littered around the islands. Even the incessant in-game music seems uncannily similar to the Modern Warfare menu music, only with most of the character stripped out and sold for scrap.
As you may have noted, I’ve not so much as hinted about the appearance of any bona fide battleships in Battleship. That’s because they’re given the same treatment within the game. See, I’d have expected a game called Battleship to not only feature battleships in a major capacity, but probably even be set there, as well as being the focus of the core-gameplay. Instead, they’re given the old mini-game treatment, remotely accessible in what only bears passing resemblance to the boardgames. I’m almost positive there’s no job description within any military force that encompasses foot-soldier, bomb-disposal and remote command of an entire naval fleet.
When enemies are dispatched, admittedly with the single death animation the game has to offer, they occasionally drop ‘wildcards’. Wildcards act either as modifiers for various stats on the battleships, or allow you to take command of a ship’s guns for all of 20 seconds. They serve as the only real evidence of any creative thought throughout the entire game, and would probably work far better if the rest of the game wasn’t such garbage.
Even the weapons lack any creative thought. Worse still is they feel unbelievably unrewarding. They’ve got virtually no recoil, some weapons even gain accuracy from continuous firing. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my weapons and worlds to obey the laws of thermodynamics, you know, ‘suspension of disbelief’ and all that jazz.
Battleship plays, looks, sounds and even dances like one of the lesser Playstation 2 titles, back when the market was awash with a sea of abject mediocrity. This game harks back to the very worst parts of yesterday. At the core of it, it’s an utterly unremarkable first person shooter that exists under the false pretence of a terrible movie, based on an excellent board game. If at any point you’ve even considered buying this game, please don’t. Buy the board game instead and spend the rest on sorting your life out.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
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Animations, dialogue, gameplay, weapons, enemies, premise, sound, music, environments, textures, plot,