Calling it “the Pacific theater” always seems somewhat disrespectful. Yet for Battlestations: Midway, the name is all too appropriate. Here, the Second World War really is the greatest show on earth.
At its best, the game offers a string of unique sensations, and manages to convey the sheer scale of war. Seeing a good couple of dozen planes flying in formation towards a naval base - literally filling the sky - and then scattering as you swoop in to engage them in your fighter, is the sort of dramatic moment we play games for.
You don’t even see this sort of raw spectacle much in pure action games, and Midway is as much about strategy as it is about action. It’s a game in the mold of that ancient classic Carrier Command, where you’re able to give orders to any unit, but you’re also able to take direct control of everything in your fleet, from tiny patrol boats to monstrous destroyers. And, most importantly, carriers, which are able to launch their own aircraft sub-units, each of which can also be manually controlled. And the subs! And the water-planes! And... well, if it’s hardware, it’s in here. Wisely, the designers have taken inspiration from Battlefield 1942, and used a mostly standardized control system, making switching vehicles as natural as possible.
“As possible” is a relative term. There’s still a serious learning curve, and a mass of tutorials. Some of the more detailed sections - such as those covering your ability to perform damage control on your ship if it springs a leak - require active perusal. Theory is one thing, but practice another. Understandably, the game ramps up slowly, introducing hardware piecemeal in the first half of the campaign, the plot of which runs from the initial Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor to the eponymous battle of Midway.