Battleship Review (PS3)

Okay, bear with me for a second here. Do you remember a game (electronic or otherwise) known as Battleship? Did you ever think that two-player strategy/board/pen-and-paper game would translate well into a movie? Well, someone thought it was a good idea. That film released last week (or last month if you are in the UK), as did its accompanying video game, which we’re about to review. I’ll let that sink in a bit. Yes, what you are reading is a review of a video game, based on a movie, based on a board game (boardception?). Let’s see if the idea has any merit.

In case you haven’t been watching television or have just been avoiding trailers altogether recently, the basic synopsis of the Battleship film is as follows: NASA finds an extra-solar planet that appears to have a similar environment to Earth. These scientists then get the bright idea to send an extremely powerful radio signal in that planet’s direction. Turns out that was a bad idea – it gave our location away to aliens living on that planet which have space-faring technology, and these aliens are quite hostile. What any of this has to do with the original board game, I have no clue. The movie has released to average reviews, which usually doesn’t bode well for a video game based off of it.

That could not hold any truer for Battleship the video game. From the start, you know things are going to be rough – there’s a cutscene that features a low framerate and no voice acting. It appears to be footage from the movie at first, but it becomes quite obvious that this is not the case. You play as the faceless and mute demolitions specialist Cole Mathis who probably looks exactly like all the other human characters in the game. We know nothing about him, other than the fact that he is given control of an entire naval fleet via a tablet-like device that can also somehow freeze time when in use. Okay, so they don’t present it like that, but I do feel like I’m cheating when I’m surrounded by enemies only to whip this thing out and issue commands to remote ships without consequence.

The tablet I mentioned is one of Battleship‘s few redeeming qualities. As you play this first-person shooter, there is a naval war going on which you play a key role in. This portion of the game takes place on a grid of the island you are currently fighting on, as well as the surrounding ocean, where the ships are stationed. Your fleet is represented by the white ships, and enemies are red. Each ship has two statistics from the start, which determines how effective they are against other enemy ships or submarines. While you are fighting on land, enemies will randomly drop wild cards, which are powerups that can be added to buff up your ships’ stats. Most of these cards are stackable, so you can increase your ship/submarine’s attack and defense up to three times. But there are some issues with this system; wild card drops are so frequent, that eventually you end up with extremely overpowered ships and the aliens do not pose much of a threat at all. Maintaining your ships becomes more of a chore than a strategy. One wild card offers 20 seconds of remote control over a selected ship, during which time that ship’s weapons become 200% more powerful. Suffice to say, you hardly need 20 seconds to destroy any enemy ship. This includes the game’s “boss” at the end. If you know of any other game where the final boss takes under 20 seconds to kill, please let me know. This strategy portion to Battleship is an interesting concept, but the execution is sorely lacking.

You do feel like a badass when you call in support from your ships, though. Once said ships are in specially-marked support squares on the map, you can call in artillery, sonic shockwaves and more to devastate your enemies. It’s pretty cool, but is definitely not enough to carry this game to the next level. Speaking of levels, if you took footage from any level, you’d be hard-pressed to know which one it is or at what point in the game it is from. Part of this has to do with the environment – it’s all just Hawaiian islands. This makes for a colorful pallet, which is always a welcome change from the three shades of brown and gray we get with first-person shooters these days. However, there are only three enemy types to kill, and one hazard to avoid. You have a Thug/Soldier alien, a Brute alien, and a Sniper alien. The soldiers behave and pretty much look like humans from most distances, and you can easily forget you’re fighting aliens when only they are around. The Brutes sound pretty fierce, until you realize that a couple of shotgun blasts will take them out easily. Finally, the snipers use a railgun that they charge all the way, every time, giving you ample time to kill them. The only hazard in the game are mines which can get up out of the ground and roll straight towards you. Of course, shooting these gets rid of the problem without much issue.

The whole game is such a blatant attempt to milk the Battleship franchise, it’s not even funny. Before each mission, you are briefed by yet another faceless character, who identifies herself as what sounds like “Reagan.” It’s hard to make out her voice thanks to a poor radio filter applied to it. Her voice acting is passable, but what makes these cutscenes particularly boring is that all you are shown is a 3D map of the level that you are about to play, as the camera pans around and various key points are highlighted. The cutscenes also chug along at a ridiculously low framerate, which is odd given that when you actually play the game the framerate stays pretty solid.

That solid framerate is likely due to the fact that this game looks decidedly last-gen, and as such is hardly taxing the PlayStation 3’s CPU. Everything disappoints graphically. Explosions from grenades are decent, but the explosions shown of defeated enemy ships bogs the entire game down when you are remote-controlling a ship. There are invisible walls everywhere, and the game is so reliant on checkpoints that if you run too fast, it doesn’t register that you are in the correct spot until you back up a few paces.

When all is said and done, I cannot recommend Battleship to anyone. The story has very little relation to the movie upon which it is based. The graphics and presentation are bland. There are only three enemy types to dispose of. There is no multiplayer. Other than collecting in-game pegs inspired from the board game, replayability scarcely exists. If the alien-invaded world taken from the Battleship movie really entertains you, I would still only recommend that you rent this game. You can finish it in a single sitting on a weekend, and be done with it. Just please do not pay $60 for this obvious cash milking.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Naval warfare is presented in a unique way…

– …but it is poorly executed and quickly becomes a chore.

– Boring story, graphics, enemies, ending…

3 out of 10