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Warship Gunner 2
by Valerie Stevens
June 6, 2006

Naval games for the Playstation 2 are hard to come by. Especially naval games with simulation elements, ship design features, and control over weapons. When the press release for KOEI's Warship Gunner 2 came across my desk, I zeroed in on the box cover. As you can see, a massive bombardment by a battleship and a fast attack ripping across the waves--looked promising!

Despite the magnificent box scenes this is not a simulation, it's more of a fast paced naval action/arcade game with really deep ship design and text-based role-playing elements. As you might expect from a console game, its target audience appears to be teenagers, guys who won't think anything is out of place when the crew avatars have Yugio hair. One look at the spiky-haired skipper and you know this game isn't going for the Dangerous Waters crowd.

Any good player knows to start out with the tutorials and with WG2, it's a must. The interface is quite complex and without the text and demo driven guides, you can forget about mastering the game. Each tutorial explains the controls and functions, then shows a demo, and gives you a chance to try it before moving on. You are at liberty to skip the demos at any time but I plodded though all of them, investing about 45 minutes into my Warship Gunner career. Then I opted to skip the R&D and Design tutorials. I was anxious to taste salt water.

 

As soon as I finished the tutorial I started a New Game. You have four difficulty levels to choose from, I selected the second level, "Easy". A nice little cutscene of our little fleet--then all heck breaks loose. We are attacked by elements of our own defense force and a wicked melee ensues. I would have never survived without learning the ropes in the tutorial first. WG2's action is abrupt and unrelenting. You're attacked by swarms of ships and, at first, defense seems a daunting task.

Warship Gunner 2 demands a swift mastery of the interface to be successful in battle. The enemies do not leave you much time to check the manual. The combat screen has an intermediate range radar and HUD overlaid and it can be quite hard to make out the ships marked as icons on the screen. Tucked in the lower left corner is a map-scale radar. Hit the X button to pull up a weapons menu. The controller setup requires you employ ambidextrous use of your thumbs. Left thumb controls the targeting mark, right thumb provides the zoom, and you steer with L1 and R1. Autosteer can be enabled but I found it easy to combine the manual steering with the targeting stick for efficient offense.

 

Enemies consist of destroyers, cruisers, battleships, carriers, subs, and planes. Surface warships demand evasive maneuvers to avoid being hit and at the same time, you must control the gun sights to strike back, maneuver properly to launch torpedoes and depth charges. You can repair damage but doing so disables your engines and defenses, so you need to execute a tactical retreat. There are also automated defenses that are triggered when enemy torpedoes are headed your way. You'll need all the help you can get in the lightning sea battles.

After the fast and furious fighting, I've left 20 ships hull up. and the backstory begins. Our homeland, Wilkia, a nation occupying an area where Korea and Mongolia are now, is experiencing civil war. Wilkia has European roots, so when we learn that our brothers mean to expand the fighting across the seas in global conquest, it's not a total shock.

The missions are intercut with long and often typically tedious text exchanges between the avatar characters. Having story elements is a good thing but quality story elements are much better. If you're not captivated by the dialogue, you can skip the blah-blah and get to the next mission. I will say I thought highly of the overall strategic story but some of the interpersonal bickering was dull.

The ship design element really boosts the game's appeal. Between missions you can turn your combat success into new technologies and armaments.  Something like 1000 different pieces of hardware can be combined to force-build planes, subs, and hybrid warships that would make the Bismarck seem like a paper boat. Successful mission and objective completion is key to upgrading your ships, adding more ships, and bolstering your crew. There's no denying that the game developers put a lot of thought into the numerous systems and upgrades. The missions get harder as you go along so you definitely want to get the best gear to stay in synch. Ok, so when the lighting bolt generators and laser cannons come along, it does get a bit weird. At least it's entertaining, ripping through whole fleets of enemy vessels with unimaginable firepower.

Warship Gunner 2 has a lot of replay value with 100 missions and "60 stages". The missions are usually only ten or fifteen minutes long but on higher levels you'll have to play them a few times to achieve mission success. Between missions you can relax and explore the R&D options. It's a lot of fun, tinkering with the design stuff, then seeing how well it works in battle.

 

Two areas where Warship Gunner 2 comes up short: graphics and physics. Graphics, as in the environment and ship renders are serviceable at best; and physics, as in there ain't none. Warships zip around, turning in pivot-fashion, and bump into each other with no noticeable consequences. The heavy guns fire almost as rapidly as the machine guns. Combat tactics are simplified into weaving, aiming, and shooting--a swirling dance of sea-going pandemonium. Throw in floating power-ups and funds.... you get the idea.

Submarines in the game don't race about to the same degree but with the exterior view the only option and depth changes boosted, they don't really feel like subs. The game does model a periscope which requires bring your sub to periscope depth. But no sonar, TDC, or anything like it. Very basic, arcade style action.

 

It's an odd mixture of Manga-style admirals, deliberately-thought out ship design elements, sci-fi weapons, and rapid-fire, shoot-shoot carnage. It's not in the same league as Silent Hunter III, more like Steel Tide. If you can stomach the arcade style physics, and you find the ship-building entertaining, you may find Warship Gunner 2 a pleasurable way to pass a few afternoons. What the game lacks in realism, it supplies endless shoot 'em up action. If nothing else, this could be an intro into naval games for sub-teens.

Rating:  60

Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/
Music
Game play Repeat Play Stability
/Bugs
Multi- play Mission Editor
5/20 3/10 5/10 7/10 13/20 8/10 9/10 0/5 5/5
BONUS: +5 Deep design elements         

 

Publisher: KOEI
Developer: Micro Cabin
 

 

 


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