While many gamers scoff at the idea of paying for a bite-sized portion of a previously released game, EA and DICE decided to release three of the maps from the PC hit Battlefield 1942 as a multiplayer-only title for home consoles. They revamped the maps visually, used a different engine for gameplay and environment destruction, overhauled the scoring system, and slapped a new name on it, Battlefield 1943. Is this enough to warrant diving back into the middle of the Pacific Theatre? The short answer is “Go buy this now”.
For those who need more than my concise blessing to influence their purchases, Battlefield 1943 is a lot like its predecessor in that it captures the spirit of the original, but it’s also entirely its own experience. Sure, you play on three maps (four, now that Xbox 360 users have unlocked Coral Sea) that appeared in the original, but despite looking the same, they play differently. DICE used Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Wake Island, but made sure they looked the part of a south Pacific island this time. Lush jungles were added, which can be used as cover for scouts or as a shielded road for traveling infantry. All of the buildings, towers and fences that dotted the landscape in the original are there–at least, until you blow them up. Yes, that’s right, the environments are now destructible thanks to the Frostbite engine, used in Battlefield: Bad Company. This makes the last 10 minutes of a match very different from the first 10. Sure, you hid inside of a building to capture a spawn point when you first landed on Iwo Jima, but that building can be taken out by explosives, tank shells or bombs dropped from the sky, which means you can’t hide in it anymore. Bridges can be blown up, making moving across maps difficult for tanks and jeeps, but be warned: if you were to lose the spawn point that you were trying to defend, you won’t be able to drive tanks over the empty expanse to take it back. Once blown up, structures are gone for good, and it adds a layer of strategy to an already strategic shooter.
July 9, 2009
The reason Battlefield 1942, and by design, its sequel 1943, are so strategically based is because of the scoring system. You don’t win a match by having the most kills, you win by depleting your opponent’s progress bar. Think of it like a health bar–every time you kill an opposing soldier, blow up a tank or shoot a plane out of the sky, the bar gets a bit smaller. There’s a faster and more effective way to get that bar to disappear though, and that is by capturing more spawn points than your opponent. Stand near a flag long enough, and the current flag will go down in favor of your own; once it’s raised, your team can use that as a spawn point, and also as a forward base once your tanks, jeeps and planes appear. The team with fewer of these forward points is the one that is continually taking hits on their progress bar; capturing bases back will slow this to a crawl and cause the other team to begin their descent towards a loss. It’s a constant back and forth, especially with just 12 players per side. You may be ahead one moment, with five of the six spawn points under your control, but that also means the enemy can come at you from their one spawn point with most of their team working in concert against you. This makes each battle its own unique experience, even if you were to load up any of the maps multiple times in a row.
DICE cut down on the number of classes, making your options a Rifleman (anti-infantry, long-range) Infantry (anti-tank) and Scout (explosives, sniper). You don’t need a medic anymore, because health regenerates. I’m not talking bald space marine health regeneration here–you’ll still get killed if you run out and do something stupid and someone sees you doing it–but if you lay low behind a big rock or inside a building for a moment, you’ll regain your health. If you don’t feel like running on foot, the tanks, jeeps and planes are all fun and easy to use, even in the transition from keyboard and mouse to controller. Jeeps and tanks are especially entertaining, as one person can drive while another mans the machine gun, making you doubly effective at repelling your enemies.
You earn points for, among other things,‚ kills, kill assists, destroying vehicles, capturing flags, and defending flags. These points, rather than kills, are how you are ranked at the end of a match. You can join a squad when you start the match too, in order to compete for the best squad in the map. There have been matches where my team lost but I was on the best squad, and vice versa, so there’s a lot to play for besides just shooting everyone that moves. You move up in rank based on your actions and score, and also earn medals for certain things, like killing X number of enemies in a tank, or taking out X number of planes, in addition to the Achievements and Trophies. This also extends the replayability, as it gives you different ways to approach each map and game; anything that keeps a multiplayer-only game with just a handful of maps feeling fresh is good by me.
Blast Factor: Battlefield 1943 is a great experiment by EA, as it tries to blend classic features from one of their top series along with some of the newer innovations and advancements it has seen. For just $15, you get a first-person shooter with excellent controls, wonderful environments, and tons of variety and depth despite its bite-sized nature. DICE wanted to create a game you can go back to in between all of your larger game purchases, and with Battlefield 1943, it’s safe to say they succeeded with their goal.
Battlefield 1943 is available on the Xbox 360 for 1200 Microsoft Points and on the Playstation Network for $15