You've got to feel sorry for Double Helix Games, the developer saddled with the challenge of transforming Battleship's big screen debut into an interesting video game. That sympathy comes partially from the realisation that the studio has done an adequate job of combining the tried-and-tested formula of Hasbro’s family-friendly board game with the movie’s baffling sci-fi plot. But while there are redeeming qualities in the game’s underlying design decisions, its limited budget and lack of variety make it a hard game to recommend.
Don’t expect much in the way of narrative from the ocean-based tie-in. While the movie cynically fills its running time with close-ups of star Rihanna, it at least weaves a more dense yarn than the video game. Here you play as foot soldier Mathis, a troop responsible for remotely controlling a naval fleet stationed around the Hawaiian archipelago while simultaneously shooting as many bad guys in the noggin as possible.
Gameplay is presented similarly to Call of Duty, though weapons feel more like spud guns than lethal futuristic assault rifles. You’ll spend a majority of your time shooting your way through waves of alien life-forms, who inexplicably resemble gorillas kitted out in copyright infringing iterations of Master Chief’s armour.
The action feels flat and sloppy, a sensation that isn’t helped by the inconsistent frame-rate and shoddy hit detection. Ammo is a constant concern, as foes soak up as many bullets as possible. It all leads to a soft and unsatisfying shooter experience, that’s thankfully balanced by some more interesting strategy elements.
Like the board game, you’ll spend a portion of your time with Battleship commanding a naval fleet. A tap of the L2 button allows you to pull up a remote display, allowing you to move multiple ships across a grid-like surface. These ships can engage in sea battles against enemy targets and also provide ground support when positioned on specific squares of the map. The dynamic encourages you to protect your fleet, as its support can offer a valuable lifeline in tense ground scenarios.
As you take out enemies on the ground, you’ll also collect wild card tokens which can be attached to your flotilla in order to augment improved statistics and abilities. Other wild cards allow you to take full control of a selected ship for 20 seconds, allowing you to participate in direct battle against the enemy in a button bashing mini-game.
The strategy element is light, but it adds some much needed respite from the first-person shooting and actually provides Battleship with an interesting basis. Unfortunately the game lacks the budget to really experiment with those ideas, making it feel like a missed opportunity rather than an intelligent hybrid. It’s genuinely satisfying watching naval battles that you are in control of occur in real-time on the horizon, but that’s about as far as the game’s ambition goes.
Perhaps with a few more interesting missions, Battleship’s great ideas could have been expanded further, but the game sadly relies on repetition. Locations feel copy and pasted across the game’s four hour campaign, and there are no real set-pieces or cut-scenes to keep you engaged. Instead, you’ll be funnelled through the game’s linear tropical environments, moving from one combat arena to the next.
The presentation is similarly poor, with flat textures and woeful animation underlining its PS2-era budget. Dialogue samples are frequently repeated throughout the campaign, and while it’s not embarrassing like an old-school FIFA title, it’s noticeable enough to grate.
Not that the game lasts long enough to really annoy. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss it experience, over in under four hours – and that’s if you’re taking your time. Of course, there’s the lure of Trophies and hidden collectibles to encourage you to dive back in, but despite the brevity of its campaign, you probably won’t feel compelled to return to Battleship once its credits have rolled.
There are some neat ideas bubbling beneath Battleship’s surface, but the overall poor presentation and frustrating lack of ideas mean this tie-in is best left at the bottom of the ocean.