Battlefield 1942
Battlefield 1942 Box Art
System: PC
Dev: Digital Illusions CE
Pub: Electronic Arts
Release: September 10, 2002
Players: 1 (2+ Online)
Screen Resolution: N/A Violence
This Is A Battlefield
by Josh Engen

While most developers were content to continuously rip off Counter-Strike in the early 2000's, Electronic Arts was redefining the first-person shooter genre with Battlefield 1942. It's pretty safe to say that without Battlefield 1942, gamers wouldn't have the expansive arena-based gameplay that has become common across many FPS titles. Though, lets not forget that the folks at EA obviously had a little help from the decades of games that came before.

It's not unusual for a developer to take a little flak because their game feels overly familiar, but if you think about it, this can't possibly be a bad thing. Battlefield 1942, for example, felt familiar right out of the box, but that's because the controls were incredibly accurate and organic. EA evidently put a lot of work into making sure that the keyboard and mouse controls in BF1942 didn't draw too much attention to themselves, a subtle art form that should be more readily recognized. Because the interface was instantly familiar for anyone who had played a first-person shooter, players were able to start mastering the things that made Battlefield different right away.

Battlefield 1942 Screenshot

The gameplay in Battlefield 1942 was the first thing that players would need to master. The "control point" focus on many of the popular BF 1942 maps forced formerly individualistic players to cooperate. When a team captured a control point, vehicles and other players could spawn at that point, which meant that players could push forward to the next point or hunker down to defend the one they had just captured. This new style of play represented a dramatic shift from individualistic to cooperative. Other games, like Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, had desperately tried to force players into this new style of play, but none had truly been successful.

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Perhaps one of the most important innovations from Battlefield 1942 was the absence of any real single-player campaign. Battlefield 1942 was one of the first retail titles that assumed people would be purchasing the game to play online. Obviously, mods like Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat paved the way for this new mentality, but EA still stuck their collective necks out.

Battlefield 1942 Screenshot

Actually, when you think about it, EA took another incredibly big risk on Battlefield 1942. Hardcore gamers are notorious for being individualistic, and EA released a multiplayer-only FPS that relied heavily on cooperative play. Obviously this model had worked very well for MMOs like EverQuest, but fans of the FPS genre just weren't buying it. Until Battlefield 1942 came along, that is.

I would be lax in my responsibility as a respectable journalist if I didn't mention the vehicles at this point. Games like Halo and Tribes 2 had tried their hands at vehicles in the past, but none had tried them on such a grand scale as Battlefield. Players were able to take control over tanks, planes, jeeps, submarines, aircraft carriers, and so on. But the addition of vehicles meant that map designers had to completely rework their though processes, and EA's development team did an amazing job. The problem is that the maps need to be arena-like in order to support a flying plane, but if the maps are too large, the game essentially becomes a dogfighting game, not an FPS. But EA's map makers managed to find the delicate balance between close quarters combat and vehicle-based combat. This combination made every single round of BF 1942 unique.

Battlefield 1942 Screenshot

This may seem silly, but one of the things that I always appreciated about Battlefield 1942 was the bullet physics. Pretty much every shooter before this point had an unrealistic lazer-like sense of timing in its bullet physics; if you aim your gun at the target and pull the trigger, the target is instantly destroyed. However, in BF 1942, bullets actually traveled with a more realistic timing. If you wanted to murder someone who was running 100 yards away, you would need to lead your target a little. This technique took a lot of practice, and it definitely separated the professionals from the amateurs.

The number of next-level innovations that EA included with Battlefield 1942 is staggering. Most games would have been fine to attempt a few new developmental differences, but the folks at EA were seemingly determined to rework the fundamentals of the FPS genre. And they did.

I almost feel like we should all send EA a thank you letter for giving us such a fine piece of gaming history, but I just finished reinstalling Battlefield 1942 and I'm going to be far too busy to write any letters for a while.

By Josh Engen
CCC Contributing Writer

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