Once More unto the Breach
I’m a major proponent of downloadable titles. I have gleaned countless hours of entertainment from titles such as PuzzleQuest: Challenge of the Warlords, UNO Rush, Pac-Man Championship Edition, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, and many, many more. My latest obsession: Battlefield 1943. This first-person online multiplayer shooter condenses the best elements of the Battlefield franchise and all the knowhow and tools from developer EA DICE, bundling it into a $15 dollar arcade package that squarely hits the mark!
If you’ve never played any of the Battlefield games, you’ll need to know that they are tactical first-person shooters that try to recreate battles for players through detailed, realistic level design. Moreover, a hallmark of the franchise has always been the use of vehicles – an aspect that really helps to layer the strategy. In Battlefield 1943, players will join up with a total of 24 players fighting as either part of the USMC or the Japanese Ijn. There is one mode to play in across three distinct islands in the Pacific called Conquest. Right now, players on their specific consoles are racking up the kills to reach a kill threshold in order to unlock a fourth map (Coral Sea) and a second gameplay mode (Air Superiority); this is an engaging concept that serves as a nice community challenge.
The Conquest mode is a staple of the Battlefield series that has the two sides fighting over five tactical points throughout the battlefield. The action is similar to what is found in the Call of Duty franchise’s War Mode, but a major difference is that teams can attack at any point they want, whenever they want. This leads to a fluid front, forcing teams to protect their hard-won footholds while advancing to the next flag. Likewise, multi-pronged offensives and counter-offensives can be launched, which are utterly satisfying.
Each flagged area your team takes on the map not only gets you one step closer to winning the round (holding more zones across the board will chip away at the enemy’s health/influence meter), they’ll also serve as respawn points. This allows you to inject yourself into the battle tactically after getting mowed down. Upon death, players will have the ability to select between three soldier types: Infantry, Rifleman, and Scout. These three roles are effective at short, medium, and long distances, respectively. They also have secondary abilities that allow them to serve as engineers or even anti-tank troops. While three classes may seem limited, it feels well balanced. Furthermore, though there is an experience ranking system, ever-improving skill and map familiarity – not unlocked weaponry and perks – determines player ability. This further keeps the game in equilibrium. In the future, I expect more classes to be available via DLC, however, the three that are initially available will likely remain player favorites.
What’s more, each class is enhanced by the ability to hop into any vehicle and man, any weapon position. Players will be able to use tanks, jeeps, armored boats, and fighter planes strewn throughout the battlefield to strengthen their effectiveness and strategy. While riding around in tanks and jeeps is a breeze, taking to the skies is quite another matter. Using a fighter plane can be invaluable to your team; however, there is a steep learning curve to controlling the vehicle and limited respawns that keep them in check. There are also many weapon emplacements throughout the maps. Players can use sniper towers, machine gun nests, AA guns, and even embark on bombing raids that keep enemies at bay. Using these emplacements is very important for combating air and infantry advance. The varied vehicle options and strategic weaponry sites are great fun to use and keep the experience fresh for all players and diversify the limited class options.
Graphics, controls, and sounds are everything you’d expect from a full retail release. The fluid animations, detailed environments, realistic vegetation, and pretty explosions are impressive. Other than the occasional glitch, the visuals are right where they need to be. Sounds are also spot-on. The weapons, vehicles, and ambient effects all contribute nicely to the immersion. Additionally, the title screen music instills the player with a feeling of glory and triumph.
As is the case with nearly all high-profile, modern FPS, the controls are very tight. Making headshots, hucking grenades, controlling vehicles, and ducking behind cover will be readily familiar to any FPS veteran. A couple outliers include not being able to go fully prone and the difficulty whilst controlling fighter planes. Still, the overall ability to wreak virtual havoc via your console controller is every bit as good as any other top FPS out there.
Because Battlefield 1943 is made by DICE, it implements the Frostbite engine used in Battlefield: Bad Company. That means persistent destructibility of environments is an important tactic. Blowing out building walls to remove cover, laying vegetation low for a better view, and destroying fuel dumps to take out squads of enemies are important aspects to winning the game. Unfortunately, it is painfully apparent and strange that many objects are unable to be destroyed.
Many times, player tactics will be frustrated by structures that simply won’t collapse and weapon types that can’t cut into objects they probably should be able to. That being said, if everything was made to be destructible, eventually the maps would break down to such a point mid-battle that they wouldn’t be fun. As such, I respect the decision by DICE to limit destructibility. Still, the inconsistencies are apparent and often maddening.
A few more problems I encountered are also worth mentioning. For starters, forming squads of friends to head online and connecting to servers is often impossible; getting frequently kicked from games seems to be part of the experience. A ticker at the bottom of the title screen addresses these issues, claiming that new servers are being added and that daily maintenance at 2 AM PST are fixing the problems. Still, since there is no single-player component, not being able to play due to bad coding is a real bone of contention. Also, there seems to be a glitch with the auto-save feature. Every time I exit out of the game, all of my ranks accrued during play are lost. While this has no bearing on gameplay, it does frustrate my ability to collect certain in-game accolades. It should be noted that this issue has not cropped up for other players I know (I’ll try re-downloading the title to see if that solves the issue).
It is also difficult to kill players. I would like to see more one-shot kills implemented. Too often, it takes three to four shots to bring down a player even with a high-powered rifle. This takes out some of the core appeal, but it by no means breaks the game. In fact, novice players will probably enjoy the “Juggernaut”-like ability to withstand damage. Finally, while vehicles are awesome, ghost-riding jeeps into buildings is an exploit that bucks the balanced trend. Players are charging enemy positions with these vehicles only to abandon them at the last second. This allows them to send an explosive, high-speed weapon at entrenched players, while keeping them on their feet unscathed, ready to mop up any survivors. I would like to see some kind of penalty for diving off a speeding vehicle introduced. If players were knocked prone and dazed for employing such a tactic, it might help balance out the exploit.
Despite a lack of depth found in other full-fledged FPS offerings (even from what’s found in the Battlefield franchise itself) and a number of initial coding missteps, Battlefield 1943 is an arcade offering you really shouldn’t miss. The $15 price tag and the overall quality make this a great purchase for anyone interested in shooters.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
Players will really enjoy the visuals, especially when you consider it’s a downloadable offering with a file size under 600 MB. 4.3 Control
Exactly what you would expect from a high quality first-person shooter. I was a bit dismayed by the inability to go prone and just how difficult it is to control fighter planes. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound quality is great, if somewhat limited. Still, the sound effects and menu theme music will keep you engaged while blasting away. 4.0 Play Value
No single-player, only one mode of play (one more coming), three maps (one more coming), and three character classes is a bit shallow. But, once you get online, you’ll be spending joyous hour upon hour blasting away at friends and randoms. 4.3 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.