This sounds like a lot to digest at once, but even in big, chaotic battles, the intuitive interface allows you to readily get a handle on the action. It's easy to replace a unit should you lose it, whether you're in the midst of aerial acrobatics or issuing orders from the map. It's equally straightforward to issue a simple attack or regroup command to your squadmates while in flight, which helps you coordinate air attacks without having to drop to the tactical view. There are also occasions in which you'll need to repair damaged ships, which is an intuitive process when you're in command of the vessel in question. Some of these orders are carried out only in certain views, so there is some fiddling involved, but whether you use a mouse and keyboard or a controller, issuing orders is user-friendly and ensures that you always feel firmly in control.
You'll take to the skies in a variety of fighters and bombers.
Combined, the two campaigns offer a healthy amount of gameplay, doubling the length of its predecessor's campaign. Battlestations: Pacific also provides a much more robust multiplayer offering than the original. Five different modes can be customized in a number of different ways, which in turns leads to a huge amount of replay value, especially considering the amount of variety inherent to the gameplay. The standout mode is Island Capture, in which opposing teams of up to four players each attempt to capture island bases while defending their own. This mode is intensely chaotic, demanding that each team member deploy the best units for the job, keep the overall progress of the battle in check, and jump into the fray when the AI is taking a beating. These matches can last for longer than an hour, but they retain a high level of intensity from beginning to end.
If you want the action without the time commitment, the other modes may be more appealing to you, as long as you adjust the options accordingly. Escort and Siege modes let you experience the excitement without all of the tactical considerations. Competitive mode is a fascinating score-based affair in which players compete for points by shooting down enemies or accomplishing other objectives. Most of the available maps are fun, especially those that focus on dogfighting. Others, such as one in which you launch kamikaze rocket planes into your target, are on the bland side. In Duel mode, the team members take control of a single unit, deathmatch-style, until one team is completely eliminated. This mode is the least interesting, particularly if you choose a naval battle, because it strips away the broader concerns that make Battlestations: Pacific so intriguing. Yet though some modes are better than others, this suite of online options is impressive, and the ability to fill in empty player slots with AI in most of the modes means that you can keep the thrill level high even when it's just you against a buddy.
You just sank my battleship!
The visuals have been markedly improved over Battlestations: Midway, and battles look terrific, given the game's ambitious scope. Some graphical weaknesses are apparent: Explosions are unimpressive up close, and though terrain is much improved, the lack of details and the low-resolution textures on land are noticeable. However, for the most part, Battlestations: Pacific is an attractive game. Weather effects look realistic, which makes a naval battle during a nighttime thunderstorm particularly intense. As you'd hope in a game based at sea, the water looks terrific, undulating pleasantly underneath your vessels and reflecting light in a natural manner. There are lots of cool, small touches that enhance the thrills, from the meandering crew members on your ships to the billows of smoke that rise from enemy ships as they take your merciless hammering. Even better, you should be able to maintain silky-smooth performance while cranking up the graphical frills, even on a mid-range PC. The sound effects are on par with the visuals. The loud explosion of a torpedo that squarely hits its target is always a delight, as is the rat-a-tat-tat of your Helldiver's tail gunner. The fanfare-filled orchestral soundtrack has all the typical bombast of most World War II games, but it's appropriate and rarely grating.
There aren't a lot of games that offer as much variety as Battlestations: Pacific does. Yet impressively, no feature seems as if it received the short end of the stick; each gameplay element stands out on its own. Combined, they lead to an exciting and varied experience that should appeal to action junkies and armchair tacticians alike. Although not without its problems, this is a sequel done right: It's just as fun as the original, but it's bigger, broader, and more fully realized.