Battlefield 1943 Xbox 360, PS3 Review
The Battlefield franchise is only seven years old, and yet has already spawned such highly regarded PC classics as Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2142. Although developers DICE have experimented with singleplayer plots in the past (Modern Combat and Bad Company) the trademark of the series has always been its superb multiplayer experience.
Battlefield 1942 is probably still the most fondly remembered game in the series, and surprisingly it’s console gamers that get to experience the sequel first, and perhaps even more eyebrow-raising is the fact that Battlefield 1943 is a download-only title. In order to scale the game down to a reasonable number of megabytes, DICE have taken 1942, put it in a blender, extracted the essence, and created a concentrated FPS solution with which they have formed a streamlined Battlefield experience.
Set in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, Battlefield 1943 has only three proper maps (plus a bonus dogfight-only map), all based on real-life battles between the United States Marine Corps and the Imperial Japanese Navy. Although three sounds like a paltry number, DICE’s logic is that when presented with a large number of maps, a playerbase quickly finds a couple of favourites and ends up ignoring the rest anyway. So why not concentrate on making three maps that are as enjoyable as possible?
This logic proves to be sound, as the locations in Battlefield 1943 are excellent arenas for warfare. Wake Island is a horseshoe shaped atoll, with the narrow strip of land encouraging assaults from the sea. Guadalcanal is a rocky oval setting with many hills and valleys. And Iwo Jima is dominated by the imposing Mount Suribachi at one end and a wide forested plain containing an airfield at the other.
The crisp blue sky and blazing sun of Wake Island, the blood-red sunset of Iwo Jima, and the rocky ridges of Guadalcanal give each map an immediate visual identity. The sole mode in 1943 is the series’ signature Conquest, featuring five control points on each map that can be captured to deplete the other teams ‘tickets’. Tickets represent reinforcements, and basically act as a giant shared health bar for each team.
These control point flags also act as spawn points for the team that holds them, although both teams have an uncapturable base, so snatching victory from the jaws of defeat is always possible.
There are also only three classes and four vehicles (plus a semi-controllable bombing raid), but again these are more like refinements than reductions. The Rifleman is best against other infantry, having a Semi-Automatic rifle along with Rifle Grenades, but is fairly useless when faced with a tank.
The Infantryman’s Sub-Machinegun is superb for close-range fighting, his Rocket Launcher deals with Tanks or Jeeps easily and he can repair vehicles with his wrench, but he can easily be killed from a distance.
The Scout is the stealthy class; his Scoped Rifle has a phenomenal range and can kill in just two shots, but the Bolt-Action nature means it takes practice to be effective with this. The Scout also comes equipped with a pistol in case he’s surprised at close-range, and with some forethought his Remote Demolition Charges can excel at destroying Tanks or defending flags.
Each class is expertly balanced against the others, and although each player may have their favourite, there will be an ideal class for any given situation, and yet they are versatile enough so you never feel like you’ve picked the ‘wrong’ one.
As it uses the excellent Frostbite engine that was first seen in Bad Company, Battlefield 1943 features the tremendous destructibility of that prior game. In practice this means that the buildings around some flags can be completely razed to the ground, with the subsequent lack of cover requiring completely different strategies. Trees can also be felled, turning dense areas of foliage into a dangerously open no-man’s land. And nothing is more heart-warming than seeing a tank fall into the sea because you bombed the bridge ahead of it.
In addition to the tanks and jeeps, two of the maps will start you off on an aircraft carrier floating off the coast of the main island. This means that unless you’re looking forward to a lengthy breaststroke (there’s a joke in that somewhere), you’ll need to jump in a plane or boat. The landing craft are straightforward, but the mere fact that you can choose to ‘storm the beaches’ at any part of the island instantly provides more tactical opportunities than most other games.
The planes could be seen as either the best or worst part of 1943. They are at once both thrilling and frustrating to fly, and much potential teamwork is scuppered by soldiers simply hanging around spawn points for their chance to be a pilot. It takes much practice to even get a single ground kill with a plane, and of course you cannot assist your team in capturing flags. Nevertheless, an expert 1943 pilots are a force to be feared, and the planes can also be put to strategic use by utilising them to parachute behind enemy lines.
Possibly the best feature of 1943 is the squad support. DICE have made it very easy to team up with three other friends, and as well as being able to see their map positions and current class, you can even choose to spawn directly next to your team-mates. Combine this with the short time between deaths, and the action never stops.
Battlefield 1943 sets a high standard for the quality of downloadable games, and at only a tenner is an almost essential purchase for any online FPS fan. The only real criticism that can be levelled at it is for the low number of maps, but considering the price point this may be unfair. Knowing EA, we’re certain to see some downloadable content to remedy this soon, anyway.
So put your helmet on and join in the battle! You don’t even need to get off the sofa..