Review

Battleship: The Game: The Movie: The Game

Who’da Sunk it?

Battleship: The Game: The Movie: The Game? Is this what we’ve come to?

By Ellie Gibson • May 14, 2012

When the aliens finally invade, there will be so many questions to answer. We will be asked to justify man’s inhumanity to man. To defend the squandering of our planet’s resources. To account for The Black Eyed Peas. Perhaps trickiest of all, we will have to explain how it was possible to take a 70-year-old pen-and-paper game based on chance and guesswork, and make it even duller. 

Yet that is what has been achieved with Battleship, the game of the movie of the game. This first-person shooter follows the adventures of some guy whose name will escape you within the first six minutes. It’s probably Cole or Jack or Nathan. You won’t care. It doesn’t matter. 

Cole-Jack-Nathan is a soldier, and an explosives expert, and some sort of supremo strategic commander who can command an entire fleet of battleships using the same cell phone that appears in Teen Mom. His primary objective is to run around Hawaii shooting aliens in the face. This quickly becomes tedious, partly because the aliens all have the same face, and partly because they are terrible at not getting shot in it. 

The aliens should spend more time practicing their aim and less time developing new technologies, a pursuit with which they appear to be obsessed. They are endlessly constructing huge radars, laser shields, weather-emitting stations, and so on. It would come as no surprise if one of Cole-Jack-Nathan’s forays into the war-torn jungle suddenly revealed a giant alien Nespresso machine. 

Battleship: The Game: The Movie: The Game

In his role as explosives specialist, Cole must annihilate all these bits of tech, using his advanced demolitions expertise and the powerful arsenal of weaponry at his disposal—that is, by pressing the X button for a few seconds, then running away. A lot. 

Things quickly descend into a familiar routine: Shoot a bit, duck a bit, lob a grenade, shoot a bit more, blow something up, repeat. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. On occasion, an unexpected element is introduced, such as a differently colored crate or a nice cloud, but for the most part, the first-person shooter section of Battleship is monotonous and derivative. 

Then there’s Cole’s third role. Boot up his magic cell phone and after a few irritating seconds of delay, a strategic map of the surrounding ocean is displayed. This shows the location of your side’s battleships, along with any baddies so far detected. It’s then possible to issue basic commands to ships, as if their crews couldn’t work out for themselves that they should they should fire on enemies and move out of the way of missiles. 

Battleship capabilities can be enhanced with power-ups called “Wild Cards.” These (for some reason) are collected from the bodies of aliens taken down during Cole’s shooting escapades. They increase your ships’ firepower, reduce damage, improve radar range, and the like. Some cards allow you to take control of a ship for 20 seconds and blast away at the nearest enemy vessel by hammering a few buttons. This is fun the first 14 times. Not so much the 14,000th. 

Battleship: The Game: The Movie: The Game

At least this section of Battleship references the original pen-and-paper game and demonstrates an attempt to introduce a new idea. It just isn’t a very good idea. Having to switch between on-the-ground firefights and big-picture strategy ruins the pace in both venues. Plus it doesn’t make any sense. How come the aliens just stop shooting and wait patiently while you fiddle around with your magic phone? Perhaps they’re enjoying a quick Nespresso.

That’s not to say Battleship is a terrible game. As average first-person shooters go, it’s competent. The plot is no sillier than usual. The look is dated, but it’ll do. 

The problem is that Battleship fits into the ever-expanding category of Video Games That Feel Like Actual Jobs. In fact, because of the multitasking element, this one feels like having two jobs—neither of which is interesting, satisfying, or in any way meaningful. 

It doesn’t help that this iteration overlooks the reason anyone played the pen-and-paper game in the first place. The best thing about that game was watching your opponent’s face fill with rage as they realized you’d just sunk their biggest ship. In Battleship the video game, there’s no multiplayer. At all. It’s hard to feel that same sense of satisfaction when you’re stuck with a dim-witted computer enemy who rarely manages to sink one of your vessels. 

So that, we will tell the invading aliens, is how Battleship ended up even duller than the pen-and-paper game. It misses the whole point, in favor of rehashing a thousand other forgettable shooters and shallow strategy games that have come before. It’s just another average reimagining of Cowboys And Indians, dressed up with laser beams and a pretty map. You’d be better off with a pen, some paper, and a hot-tempered friend. 

Battleship
Developer: Double Helix Games
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: Xbox 360 
Price: $60
Rating: T

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305 Responses to “Who’da Sunk it?”

  1. LimeadeYouth says:

    Let’s see: $60 for a crappy fps OR $10 for the travel version of the original OR $2 for a pack of graph paper and a 2 pencils you already have lying around.

    Anyone for a game?

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      • LimeadeYouth says:

        miss

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        • ToddG says:

          Miss.

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          I7

          (It’s 2-3-3-4-5 for the ships, right?)

        • Xtracurlyfries says:

          Stop it! You’ll use up all the Xs and Os on the Internet. We need those for porn!

        • Girard says:

           @Xtracurlyfries:disqus : I like the idea that all of the porn on the internet concludes sweetly with textual kisses and hugs. “XOXOXO”

        • Fixda Fernback says:

          @bakana42:disqus I think it was more a reference to what you exclaim when you find porn: “OOO, XXX!”

        • feisto says:

           Or XO porn, the spicy Chinese variety.

        • Merve says:

          Or OXO porn, which involves gravy. Or “gravy,” if you’re so inclined.

          (Wikipedia tells me that Oxo brand products are only available in the UK, South Africa, and Canada.)

  2. RidleyFGJ says:

    I like that Activision’s first instinct when making a Battleship video game is to make it like Call of Duty first, and THEN add the actual Battleship stuff on afterward.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Yeah, I guess I don’t understand that at all. It feels like this should be an RTS, but RTS games obviously don’t have the broad appeal that the film is so clearly going for.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Agh, I was thinking the exact same thing. The whole premise here made a strategy game such a no-brainer I was a little shocked to see it was actually a knuckle-dragging FPS instead. Then I remembered the last 5 years of the games industry and all became clear.

        Seriously though, I’m not asking for a licensed Disgaea clone or anything, even a stripped down “strategy” game would have made more sense. Come on, Activision!

        • alguien_comenta says:

          Why is this even a full 60 USD release? A small RTS for PSN/XBLA would have made more sense

        • The_Tender_Vigilante says:

          It makes as much sense as, I dunno, fighting off an alien invasion with WWII-era Iowa class battleships that have been decomissioned for better than 20 years.  I have no intention of bothering with either the game or the movie, yet I’m dying to know if and how this issue is addressed.

        • HobbesMkii says:

           @The_Tender_Vigilante:disqus No. As part of the movie-going public, I refuse to believe that battleships have been obsolete in naval warfare for at least 70 years now.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           If this was a $12 XBLA game, I probably wouldn’t feel as though this is a blatant ripoff…
          On the other hand, did anyone really expect a half-decent game from this?

    • dreadguacamole says:

       Dunno. The game of the movie of the game looks remarkably faithful to the movie of the game – at least, judging by the trailers. It also seems to be more faithful to the game than the movie of the game ever tries to be, though obviously not nearly as faithful as the game that inspired the movie of the game and the game of the movie of the game was to itself, because, really, that’s just silly.

  3. PugsMalone says:

    I remember reading a review in Nintendo Power of a Game Boy version of the original game that added a few twists, such as getting fewer shots after your ships got sunk, and new ships like an aircraft carrier. Seems that a cheap downloadable version in that vein would’ve been a better tie-in than this.

    • RidleyFGJ says:

      From what I understand, the DS/3DS version of this game is a bit like that. I imagine it’s not close to being worth the $30/$40 they’re asking for it, but at least they knew that a CoD-clone simply made no sense for portable machines.

  4. Chip Dipson says:

    The title of this review is an excellent play on Tom Scharpling’s signature catch-phrase.

  5. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    “His primary objective is to run around Hawaii shooting aliens in the
    face. This quickly becomes tedious, partly because the aliens all have
    the same face, and partly because they are terrible at not getting shot
    in it.”

    Comedy gold, there!

  6. Effigy_Power says:

    Next:

    Hungry Hungry Hippos, a game in which a grizzled soldier fresh out of -GENERIC MIDDLE EASTERN THEATER OF WAR- must avenge the death of his family against a horde of faceless generic villain-types… probably Middle Eastern.
    In level 4, when the hero… Jack… something with J… blows open the doors of a small hut (the hut in which his family had been kept before being… eaten? Let’s say eaten), you can clearly spot a board-game version of Hungry Hungry Hippos on the small table.
    J cries a single tear and remembers for 20 minutes how his daughter had so much fun playing this game. In several upcoming flashbacks which occur every time J drops below 25% hitpoints, the player has to furiously play Hungry Hungry Hippos against Osama Bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi and Ayatollah Khomeini in hell… if he wins, he not only regenerates to full health, but also gets a quick glimpse of his daughter, who is also in hell for some reason.
    Also there are aliens and some scenes with crime-scene investigation. And music by 50cent. No actual hippos tho.

    Get cracking, Activision.

    • Electric Dragon says:

       http://www.b3ta.com/board/10751752

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Wow, Hungry Hungry Hippos is the goto for mocking Battleship. Here’s a quote from the Will Ferrell SNL with Nicholas Cage talking about his H^3 adaptation: “I play a rogue marble that escapes from hell to exact revenge on the hippos that killed his daughter.”

        • Samantha Nelson says:

          I’m torn between whether the Hungry Hungry Hippos movie should be some version of “Anaconda” but with man-eating hippos or a kids movie with CGI hippos that keep eating all your product placement.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I’m thinking Settlers of Catan as just Crysis with a few sheep running around every now and then.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Those sheep should be extremely valuable in the early game, but then be kind of useless towards the end, unless you buy the Seafarers expansion.

  7. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    You sank my meager expectations for a base level of acceptable intellectual properties to spin into a media franchise!

  8. George_Liquor says:

    So I guess you might say this game is a… miss?

    There. I said it, and I’m glad–glad, I tells ya!

  9. >> $60

    laughingoldpeople.jpg

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Seriously. My heart weeps for the poor kid who blows his/her parents’ money on this game. It seriously bums me out.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         To me it seems as though Activision is actively encouraging piracy, to stay with the nautical theme.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Yeah, it has the same “What the fuck, might as well try it.” feel as the seller who sets a Buy it Now price at $40 for a VHS copy of “Ladybugs”.

    • Merve says:

      Yeah, this game just sounds like it should be a bargain-bin item. If it’s ever retailing for five bucks on Steam, I might pick it up. Sometimes I enjoy a bit of mindless fun.

    • Citric says:

      Bets on how long until it’s in bargain bins? I’m going to go with mid-August.

      • dreadguacamole says:

         I may be underestimating the power of a fairly expensive franchise, but I’d give it two months tops. It’ll depend on how popular the movie is, I guess.

        • HobbesMkii says:

           The Game of Thrones RTS got barely a month before it was 75% off on Steam (after it had dropped $20 in price). I hear that IP is pretty popular.

          I’m sure the RPG will do better, though.

  10. Raging Bear says:

    I think I’ve spotted what went wrong here:

    “Developer: Double Helix Games.”

    An afterthought: Double Helix seems to specialize in butchering games based on major licenses, yet inexplicably keeps getting licensed to do more. Are they secretly Uwe Boll?

    • dreadguacamole says:

      I didn’t realize they were also responsible for turning Front Mission into a shooter. Jesus. When RE: Homecoming is the *high* point in your resume, you seriously need to take a step back and reassess…

      • Citric says:

        Some days I still sit and pout that we never got Front Mission 2 or 5, but we did get a crappy shooter.

        Former FM fanboy in mourning…

    • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM says:

      they ruined Silent Hill as well

  11. Sean Buckley says:

    You had me with the black eyed peas riff, but I stayed for the games-as-jobs critique. An entertaining and insightful review of a game that is neither is a true accomplishment.

  12. Merve says:

    LOL at Cole-Jack-Nathan. So, so true.

    I haven’t played any recent first-person shooters (at least not more recent than Half Life 2: Episode Two). I do enjoy the genre, though. So, I have a question: are there any with really good storytelling? (The BioShock games are on my to-play list.)

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Would you consider Fallout New Vegas an FPS? That’s the only game I can think of recently (or ever, really) that really impressed me with the writing and plotlines. Really a great game to get immersed in, and I’m super particular about that kind of stuff.

      • Merve says:

        I actually tend to use the third-person camera for New Vegas, so no. But that’s just me.

        If we’re considering New Vegas to be an FPS, I guess DE:HR is an FPS too, and I really liked that game. Or maybe Human Revolution isn’t an FPS, because the shooty sections are usually played like a third-person cover shooter.

        Man, this is harder than I thought, eh?

        Sometimes I just want to shoot a bunch of mofos without worrying about inventory management or dialogue choices, but also without rolling my eyes at the cutscenes that try to pass themselves off as “the story.” I guess that’s the kind of game I’m looking for.

    • dreadguacamole says:

       Serious Sam 3. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will let you rip a monster’s eyeball clean out of its socket*.

       For a more serious (ha!) answer… I don’t know. Fallout: NV is a good suggestion, but it falls cleanly on the RPG side of the divide for me. Same for Portal 1 & 2, which I’d clasify as puzzle games (and they’re also probably well within your radar). They’ve got the best writing out of any game that could reasonably be considered an FPS, though.
       CoD:MW (the first one) was about as stupid as a sack full of stupid, but the storytelling devices it introduced were fairly original and very effective – at least before it proceeded to overuse them to death. It’s all downhill for the series from there; if you take them as unintentional comedy, though, they’re pretty fun.

       Crysys 2 hired Mark Morgan to handle the writing… and proceeded to completely waste him.

       Oh! Oh! the new Deus Ex is mostly and FPS! The writing is… ok, but the narrative is often great. Other than that it’s not been a very good decade for narrative in FPS games.

      *: And why the hell would you want to talk to the monsters when you can do that to them instead?

      • Merve says:

        I love the Portal games. Speaking of first-person puzzle games, you have no idea how psyched I am for Quantum Conundrum.

        I’ve been meaning to try the first Modern Warfare for a while. I’ll pick it up when it goes on sale on Steam or Amazon. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I’ve managed to never play a Call of Duty before. I should find out what all the fuss is about.

        • dreadguacamole says:

           I was a bit doubtful about Quantum Conundrum for some reason, even with its developer’s pedigree. Then I saw some gameplay videos; now I’m a convert.

           You should really play some CoD games, if only to be able to laugh at them. They’re a weird bunch. Gameplay-wise they’re shooting galleries, often insta-killing you if you dare to stray from the marked path, or making you wait until your companions catch up to you if you were faster than them (it seems elite army units have designated door openers and obstacle-lifters). They make up for this with incredibly high production values and the fact that it’s kind of fun to shoot people in the face.
           And god, are they stupid. They are cheese-grater-fucking level stupid. Mind-bogglingly so. I often wonder if they’re not cleverly disguised satire, or extremely anti-military statements. I’ve facepalmed -literally- so many times while playing these games.
           Yeah, it’s very easy to despair and disparage them – they’re pretty much what’s wrong with a sizeable chunk of gaming these days – but then you play Homefront or some other shitty wannabe, and realize maybe they’re not that easy to pull off.

           I don’t know. A Steam sale or a rental sounds about right; I wouldn’t want to encourage anyone to spend more than ten bucks on one of these games unless they were in it for the multiplayer. And if that’s the case, I’d point towards the Battlefield series.
           But they’re worth playing.

        • Merve says:

          @dreadguacamole:disqus: I’m not a huge fan of online multiplayer; it’s the kind of thing I could see myself playing for a few rainy afternoons, but no longer than that.

          I’ve considered the possibility that the Call of Duty games might present a satirical look at war and the military-industrial complex. But now they’ve hired Oliver North to help promote Black Ops II. So either Activision is just trolling everybody, or they’re making war games that are sincere in their message.

        • Citric says:

          Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and the second season of Top Shot have given me an intense hatred of Marines. Make of that what you will.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           Oliver North is promoting Black Ops 2?
          I thought the theme of these games was to keep weapons of mass destruction OUT of the bad guys’ hands.

        • Merve says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus: So far, he’s just appeared in an ad or two. You can read more about it here. You can read about why it’s a terrible idea here.

        • dreadguacamole says:

           @Merve2:disqus: That Kotaku piece is great, thanks for the link. I really should start reading that site.

           It’s written by the guy who made unmanned (http://unmanned.molleindustria.org/), and if you haven’t played that yet I’d highly recommend it. It’s pretty unsettling and legitimately great.

      • Citric says:

        Did the first MW title really over-use its various storytelling devices? I haven’t tried the sequels, and I’m not in any rush either, but I found the first one was largely effective and didn’t really make that many return trips to the well, though I really wasn’t that interested in the whole military dick-waving thing that the game was built around so it still left me a bit cold. I’ve heard it’s MW2 that went “Oh, people liked that scene? Let’s shove it in there ELEVENTY BILLION TIMES!” though I obviously can’t confirm that.

        • dreadguacamole says:

          You might be right – they tend to run together (along with Black Ops) in my head.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          The thing they’ve used over and over too much (in the Modern Warfare games) was killing off (or nearly killing) the player character. Getting nuked was awesome, as was the slow-mo death at the end. The “oops, you’ve been nuked” level seemed really novel to me at the time, even surrounded by so much gung-ho crap.

          Having one Black Hawk Down mission a game was fucking stupid, though.

        • ToddG says:

          @Citric:disqus   I agree completely.  MW1 was lightning in a bottle, using a completely novel storytelling technique that I found to be quite compelling as well as being unique to the medium, which is rare for a game to even attempt, let alone accomplish.  Then in MW2, they showed that they really didn’t understand what they had achieved, and overloaded and completely missed the mark.  MW3 reined it back in a little bit, but it’s still just a big-budget shooter with awesome setpieces.  Also, to be  clear, everyone is correct, the stories for all 3 are quite dumb.  But MW1 is still a must-play experience.

          @HobbesMkii:disqus Don’t forget the intro, where you’re the ‘s president on your way to being executed.  I found that to be a pretty compelling scene as well.

        • HobbesMkii says:

           @BreakingRad:disqus I always forget that one. They really do kill you three times in CoD4.

    • Girard says:

       I shared Ellie’s problems with Bioshock, and didn’t find its writing/story good enough to put up with the FPS mechanics. Your mileage may vary, of course, and if you actually enjoy FPSes anyway, you’ll probably be more charitable toward it.

      I’ve heard good things about the STALKER FPS games, though I haven’t played them myself. Obvious allusions to Tarkovsky and the Strugatsky Bros. (reportedly) give it a literary/conceptual edge, and the gameplay is (reportedly) more complex and nonlinear than a typical shooter.

      • dreadguacamole says:

        The Stalker games are terrific – especially the first one, but the third one is really good too. The problem is that their plot is pretty mediocre, and terribly written.
         They have some of the best atmosphere out there, though, and the feel of playing them – of just being in their world – is unique. I wouldn’t classify it as literary, though.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           Stalker lost me because the world was chopped up into tiny maps, likely for technical reasons, but still… I found that the entire illusion of open world gameplay went out the window that way.

    • Raging Bear says:

      The first Resistance, which I always champion, had a better than average story. Not necessarily because of the writing, which was adequate, but because A) they kept it to a bare minimum, and B) it established the enemy in a fairly intriguingly mysterious way. It also helps that it had damn good gameplay.

      The sequels, being sequels, screwed all of this up. But the first was good.

    • Fixda Fernback says:

      Dead Space and Dead Space 2 are billed as “Survival Horrors” but I put them just as firmly in the “Third Person Shooter” category… different perspective than first person, but otherwise, same kind of action. I thoroughly enjoy the games, it’s a good mix of “shoot-em-up, balls-to-the-wall” action pieces and “what the FUCK was that?!?” suspense set pieces. Finally playing through the second and enjoying it immensely. One of those games that the story is built on a BUNCH through finding stuff in the world, which I really tend to enjoy in my video games, it makes it feel more in-depth, and the story feel more real.

      • Merve says:

        I’ve heard good things about the Dead Space games. Some of my friends told me that they were so scary that they couldn’t be played for more than half an hour at a time.

        They were on sale (on Steam I think) for $5 apiece a while back, but I missed the sale. I’ll definitely check them out eventually.

    • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM says:

      Bioshock is one of the best games of this generation

      play it NOW

  13. dreadguacamole says:

     Oh, come on – you can’t get angry about losing the battleship – it’s the likeliest to get hit first!
     Now, the patrol boats, however…

  14. trilobiter says:

    If ever there was an argument for overthrowing capitalism and joining the great international revolution of the proletariat, this franchise must surely be it.  A fair and just economic system would not allow Hasbro to make money by sticking the name of a plot-less game on what was surely an unrelated script written by some poor, unsuspecting schmuck.  Neither would it allow Hasbro to make more money by commissioning further derivative products on consumers on the sole basis that they share the name of something that shares the name of something else that they didn’t even invent in the first place.

    If you need me, I’ll be passing out Marxist literature at the student union.

  15. TheReclusiveMan says:

    “You sunk my battleship!”- The Riddler 

  16. sirslud says:

    From the geniuses (Hasbro) that brought you a 3DS Transformers game in which you could not transform into a robot. Because robots shooting robots would earn a Teen ESRB rating and not sell as many units at Walmart. (This amusing fact was probably the only redeeming aspect of having worked on its development.)

  17. STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM says:

    I have to ask, who the hell is still buying movie tie in games these days? I know they don’t make as many as they used to, but you’d think the general public would have figured out after all these years that 99% of them are rushed crap

    the only movie tie in games that I played that I thought were decent were the first two Spider Man games (based on the movies) but even those were only “rent for a weekend and forget” quality 

    NOTE: I separate movie tie in games with games based that are based on movies, but not released at the same time as the movie, since those tend to somewhat more frequently be decent (Goldeneye being the best example)