MSRP: 1200 MS Points ($15) on XBLA, $14.99 on PSN
I had some very fond memories of playing Battlefield 1942 back in 2002. It was one of the first games to allow players to battle by land, air, or sea in large capacity servers of up to 64 players. There have been numerous Battlefield games and expansions since then, but most of them haven’t been able to capture the same magic that 1942 had. Enter Battlefield 1943 almost 7 years after 1942’s release, and it seems that this remake seems to have kept all the charm and fun of the original while adding some new mechanics and an updated game engine.
First off, Battlefield 1943 had a bit of a rocky start on it’s release last Wednesday for XBLA. DICE apparently did not anticipate the demand for this game and their servers were completely overloaded. EA gave them the go ahead to add as many servers as it took to make the game playable and they succeeded within a day or two of launch in having double the original amount of servers up and running. PSN’s launch went way smoother and to my knowledge have not really had problems the XBLA version did.
Once you get into a game, you will immediately be struck by how gorgeous Battlefield 1943 looks for being a $15 downloadable game. The game consists of 3 different island maps based in the pacific theatre of WWII called Wake Island, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima. If you start at the very beginning of the round, each team starts on an aircraft carrier that has enough boats and planes to get a full team of 12 onto the islands and down to the business of capturing points. Each team has a certain amount of tickets that’s represented by what looks like a life bar. Killing an enemy or controlling the majority of points will tick down the enemy team’s life. You’ll notice the beautifully rendered water, the blazing sun, and bright tropical surroundings as you fly, ride a boat, or (if you’re unlucky) swim to your objective. Since the game is being run in Battlefield: Bad Company’s Frostbite engine, most walls and pretty much all terrain are destructible and blow up in an almost Michael Bay movie splendor. Often times I found myself not paying attention to gunfights in front of me just to watch a flaming plane zoom overhead just to explode as it strikes a tree. This is all complete with some very excellent sound that is just as impressive on my T.V.’s built in speakers.
Servers are capped with a player limit of 12 per team for a total of 24 players. This is a pretty large decrease from the typical 32 to 64 player servers you find in other Battlefield titles, but is easily forgiven once you get into a game. Everything from the maps, control points, and spawn time is so well done that you never really feel like the game is limited by the player cap. What also at first seemed limiting but turned out to be brilliantly balanced was the inclusion of only three playable classes instead of 1942’s five. The infantryman, rifleman, and recon classes are balanced in such a way that you never feel like there is a situation you can’t handle. Gone are the days of the vulnerable sniper crouching behind a building as they’re surrounded by tanks. As the recon class, they can sneak behind the tank, lay some explosives, and blow the living hell out of that tank. If they don’t, the tank will just tear that destructible building to shreds with it’s shells.
DICE and EA did not just make this a prettier looking port with condensed classes and 3 maps though. They made the planes much easier to fly and was sure to include a tutorial to give you as much time as you need to get acclimated to the vehicles and classes. Also, a bunker is included in each level that allows you to call for air raids. When you enter the bunker, you are rendered invulnerable while you steer three bombers towards a target on the map. Once you have them lined up, you then switch views to get a targeting reticule that is underneath the planes so you can carpet bomb an area. Usually the team that controls the area where bunker is can call an air raid every few minutes, however, the bombers are visible and can be shot down by anti-air guns and other planes to make the runs less effective. The squad mechanic from Bad Company was also added to this game, allowing you to essentially have a mobile spawn point and voice communication with 3 other members of your squad. You can either make a squad before joining a server so you and your friends are together, or you can join an open squad when you join a game.
There is one last interesting thing that DICE and EA are trying out with this downloadable gem. Once the a community (either Xbox Live or PSN) nets 43 million kills, a 4th map called Coral Sea will be unlocked for that platform. There’s a trailer for it in my post last monday that shows some pretty baller style air combat. After playing with the controls and getting used to flying, I can see this map being a whole lot of fun.
All in all, it’s a very solid game for the asking price. Even if you’re tired of World War II shooters like I am, you’ll probably still get your money’s worth of enjoyment out of Battlefield 1943. One of the biggest issues with team based multiplayer shooters is balance across all areas of the game. We’re talking from weapons to classes, to control point placement. Battlefield 1943 is so perfectly balanced that you never feel like you or your team is in a situation where you can’t win. This is what keeps people sitting on their couches and saying just one more round or kill. It’s what I like to call the “oh shit” moments. It’s when you’re driving your jeep towards a corner and see three enemy tanks come around the bend, shoot a plane down with a bazooka / tank shell, or take out 8 enemy soldiers with a single air raid. And my friend, in this game, you will find these “oh shit” moments in spades.