Release Date: Jul 8th 2009
Genre: 1st Person Shooter
I decided to sit on the review for a while, because, as many of you will be aware, there have been a few teething problems with Battlefield 1943.
Dice, EA or both were a little shy in their estimate of just how popular a new Battlefield game would be on release. From the Wednesday it was released, right through until Saturday, XBox360 owners were met with some difficulty in both getting into a game, getting into a game without massive lag, or partying up with friends.
It was a busy time for their official forums, and Dice even kept regular, often hourly updates on their twitter page, to keep customers who were hungry for some WW2 action up to speed on when they could expect more servers to go live.
By Saturday, I found most problems were fixed, and I was able to properly sample the game. By Tuesday, despite all the problems, XBox360 users found that the much awaited 4th map, unlocked after 43 million community kills, had already been unlocked, over a week less than was expected (done within a week on XBox Live, and within two weeks on PSN!).
Little does he know that I've lined the only ladder to this guard tower with TNT and am waiting in the bushes with the detonator!
So what is it all about? Well, I never got into the other Battlefield games, as I had somewhat gone off trying to keep up with PC gaming in the early 00s. I did pick up Bad Company, released last year, and found it not without it's share of errors, but also there was a lot of fun to be had with it's funky terrain/building destruction/class based multiplayer.
So the developers Dice wondered what it would be like to remake some maps from the original Battlefield game, 1942, using the new Bad Company Frostbite engine. The game and three maps would be released as downloadable only, XBox Live and Playstation Network content, with the fouth map/mode being unlocked with the 43 million community kills.
DAKKA DAKKA DAKKA DAKKKA!
The game is a sort of slimmed down Battlefield, with only 3 classes to choose from, and with no character / weapon customization that previous games have featured. The infantryman is your standard machine gun, close range guy, with a tank busting rocket, and handy grenades for backup. He also whip out a wrench for bludgeoning enemy soldiers or healing friendly tanks. I suppose that makes the infantryman a cross between the infantry / engineer classes.
The rifleman has a semi automatic M1 Garand, with some sweet reloading sounds! He get's a slightly-weaker-than-rocket-launcher grenade launcher, but it'll take a few of those to take a tank down. Again, he get's grenades, and his melee weapon is simply the bayonet on his rifle. The semi auto fire gives the rifle good medium range accuracy.
Lastly we have the scout, or sniper. There's the obvious long range advantage, but for closer foes, he gets a pistol, and his melee weapon is a big knife, or if you're playing as the Japanese, a badass katana. For explosives, he gets thrown sticky dynamite, which can be detonated remotely with a plunger.
Mayhem is frequent in this game.
There's a nice assortment of vehicles on offer, cars, jeeps, tanks, boats and fighter planes help mix up the combat a good deal, and there are various gun emplacements scattered about each level. These are, in typical Battlefield fashion, not all that easy to control, and you'll want to get a good setup for each vehicle type, which can be done in the options. There's also a tutorial mode, which lets you mess about in an empty map to get used to the vehicles. This is no Halo, so to get good with the likes of planes and tanks, you'll need a good bit of practice.
Tanks have a capcom-boss style weakspot on the rear!
Speaking of controls, there are a good few instances where I found them a little fiddly, perhaps because I'm too used to Halo/Call of Duty style configurations. But having become accustomed to Battlefield 1943, I can tell you that you do get used to them.
Landing a killer plane bomb takes a lot of practice to get the timing right, better to just Kamikaze someone!
The initial 3 maps are played in the typical Battlefield flag style. 5 bases are located about the map and if you stand near an uncontested flag, you capture that base, and your team may then spawn from it. If an enemy has a base, you must wait and deplete their 'control' before taking back the flag. Each team has a limited number of respawns (or 'tickets'), and when they run out it's all over. Therefore, the more bases you own, the more chance you have of pinning down the enemy and depleting their tickets.
So it's a fairly simple setup, there really isn't much more to the game than that. The beauty of it comes from a number of things. Firstly, the size of each level is important. You'll find, sea, mountains, hills, valleys, bases, bunkers, plains and beaches. I'd say there's a good few square miles of play area, even without the sea, but then, there needs to be a good bit of height and space for plane-on-plane dogfights. One minute you'll be holed up in a bunker with some team mates, trying to stop a tank advancing up the hill to your flag, and the next you could be riding shotgun in a jeep flying over a ramp into a building. The situations that occur due to the variety of terrain and vehicles can be crazy sometimes. For example, I decided to load up the front of a jeep with 3 dynamite packs, and drive it towards an enemy tank that was giving us bother, I jumped out, and watched as the momentum carried it right up to the tank, whereupon I hit the plunger and blew it into next week. Also, after nailing another plane in the air with my plane's machine guns, I realized I was under fire and bailed out, then hit the parachute. As I floated down to earth I seen a sniper trying the capture a flag. He didn't see my aerial descent, so I maneuvered the fall towards him and drew my Katana (I was Japanese sniper class), and sliced him up as I landed. I have a ton more of these moments that reek of awesome, and you'll find this yourself when you get used to the game.
I say 'when you get used to the game' because that is something you need to do. This isn't Halo or Call of Duty. Yes, it's a first person shooter, but auto aim is gone, so initially you'll feel robbed of kills by what appears to be a somewhat clunky control system. But when you get accustomed to leading your shots over distance, and having the right tool out for the job, you'll find this much better. It's not going to be for everyone, the large maps can leave you running about with no one in sight for ages sometimes, and no kill cam means snipers can be hard to locate and dislodge. However, as someone who snipes a lot, it's a bonus that there's no kill cam to give away your sweet hiding spot!
Calling in a wing of three bombers can devastate a large-ish area with carpet bombs - when you hear the 'wheeee' noise you better run!
Newer players are easily identified by their 0 score in a match, and their waiting around the plane spawns, and their suicide dive bombs, which can get annoying. I mean, you'll be trying to kill bad guys and capture flags, and you see three or four guys just hanging around the plane spawn area, and the rushing the one plane that spawns. But I suppose as time goes on this will be less prevalent, as the noobs become experienced, and the people who don't get this game move back to Halo and Cod.
Parking a boat in the middle of the sea can be a sneaky sniping spot, if a little exposed.
The graphics and atmosphere work well here too. The big levels are well populated with sea, mountains, vegetation, etc. and the water looks lovely. The sound too is impressive, with satisfying gun noises, and when you're hotfooting it up a hill and hear the roar of a low flying plane overhead, you can't help but look up when that shadow is cast overhead. Textures are pretty good, especially on vehicles.
When the big guns come out, buildings go down.
There are of course still some kinks here, I've noticed one or two graphical errors, and instances of false radar images. It's still possible to join a game seconds from the end, although if you stick around you are taken to the start of the next game which is good. Some of the scenery, especially around hills and mountains, is able to be climbed, and some isn't so you may find the rock climbing a bit frustrating sometimes. The destructible scenery is more subtle than the likes of Red Faction Guerilla, but it does the job, although you wonder why you can blast through some walls but not others.
Yup, this kind of scene happens every game!
All in all, if you liked Battlefield: Bad Company, I'd say you'd definitely like this as it improves on gameplay in all the areas you'd hope it would.
If you like first person multiplayer shooters, then you need to forget your expectations, and shake off the desire for auto aim, this feels different from a lot of other shooters out there. I was going to say it's slower paced than the others, given the size of the play area, but that's not strictly true. It switches pace a lot, depending on your class and style of play. If you pick rifleman or infantry class, you'll want to spawn on your squad, or on a flag that the enemy is trying to take, and you'll be in the thick of the action. Or you may like to snipe a bit, and find a nice hilltop bush to hide in, carefully taking your time picking off targets at range. Or you might prefer to do some aerial combat and divebombing in the fighter planes, which can be quite exciting. Some people even take themselves very far from the action, camping out near the radar towers, waiting for the next bomber wing call-in, or manning the anit air guns. No matter what way you choose to play, I think even the most devout Halo or Cod (how many times I mentioned these now?!) fan could appreciate all that this game is, especially given that it's a downloadable only, XBox Live arcade game.
List of 10 cool things I've done/witnessed in the couple of weeks since this has been out:
1. After sniping from the top of the lighthouse, I see oncoming attackers coming up the ramp, so I base jump off and parachute behind them to slice em up with a katana!
2. Flying straight at another plane and bailing out just in time for my plane to take him out.
3. Getting a snipe headshot on a ground target whilst parachuting.
4. Sneaking into enemy base and covering their planes in TNT, waiting till they take off and are in the air, and detonating the TNT.
5. Loading up the front of a jeep with TNT, driving it at a tank/group of enemies, jumping out and detonating when it hits 'em.
6. Flying into an enemy who had bailed out of his plane and was parachuting down to earth, mangling him with my propeller.
7. Getting our team to form a convoy of 3 Sherman Tanks - and sweep across the map in an unstoppable wave of death.
8. Carpet bombing about 5 guys, two tanks and a jeep in one bombing run.
9. Causing another plane to crash by getting above him and nudging his wing.
10. Fail - sneaking up on a tank to try and plant TNT on it - tank reverses and kills me.