Games based on Naval Warfare aren't new, but they aren't exactly the biggest selling titles on the market either. Titles based on controlling submarines and other water craft in the real world have been around for sometime but Koei have done something different with this game, something weird, something new and something that just may intrigue people enough to pick up a copy.
The storyline is where the quirkiness of this game shines through the most. A naval frigate is out on a routine exercise when it ploughs headfirst into a portal and the crew and captain are stunned and don't have a clue where they are. They soon discover that all is not right with this world and they have infact stumbled upon a parallel universe. Countries don't exist only the empire and the rebellious fighters rising up against it. It is from here the main story of the game begins.
The gameplay of Naval Ops: Warship Gunner on first impressions looks like you're typical naval warfare game and really it is. It is not until you delve deeper and notice an option of World War II only that you start to realise that these ships aren't run of the mill navy frigates and fleets. You join the Freedom Forces in the fight against the rebellion and as you complete missions you will gain money to upgrade your fleet of ships. Destroying enemy ships may also leave behind debris which can be picked up and used. For most of the game you will find yourself following ships and blowing the living daylights out of them with a variety of weapons until they sink. This is what the game consists of however sometimes you will act in groups to take out land structures which help in your fight against the empire. You can also retreat from missions if you feel it is a pointless exercise and will only cost your ship damage.
Between missions a world map is displayed and it is split into various regions. These regions are quite small and it is these which you attack. Obviously to attack a region you must hold one next to the one you wish to attack. You don't have much choice in the matter as to which one attack. You also receive a briefing from a commander and from then the mission begins and its up to you to complete your tasks. There is a tutorial included which helps you understand the game easier and is recommended given the fact the game appears to use actual naval huds to show where ships and incoming missiles are.
Obviously being a naval game you would expect to find numerous ships and the game doesn't disappoint. It features ships from the American, Japanese and German fleets. To give an example one of the German ships is based around the famous Bismark, sunk in World War II. As mentioned before you can gain cash and debris to upgrade your ships. These upgrades include upgrading the engine, weapons, electronics and air technology. You can also create your own ship from scratch if you have enough money to do so. Each of the ships have default weapons such as machine guns but these can be upgraded as well. You can zoom in on enemy ships with the right thumb stick.
Enemy ships travel in fleets and this is where the main challenge of the game comes from. Individual ships on their own aren't to hard to take down and defeat but when you're surrounded by a number of ships firing missiles at you, that's when you will have problems. There is an auto aim button to target the ships which makes it easier to destroy them, and considering the ship handles in a very arcade fashion compared to some other naval games its not hard to avoid missiles.
The environments can become quite bland but this is to be expected given that most of the combat is fought out at sea. Most of the time you will be looking at the ocean when in combat with enemy fleets with some views of the land at times and as mentioned before you may have to take down some land structures. Visually the game is also a disappointment and is more on the level of a Playstation 1 game then a PS2 game which really is a downside to the game. Sound effects are quite good and the game does feature a great soundtrack but there is no voice acting during the actual gameplay, only the cut scenes which are done quite well and feature great animation and graphics.
Overall Naval Ops: Warship Gunner is a niche title that some people may enjoy but the target market being fans of Naval warfare games may see the alternate universe storyline a bit much and the fact the ships handle unrealistically well as well. The best advice on this game is to rent it first and see if you like the lack of realism featured in the game before slamming down the cold hard cash on the store counter.