Battlefield 1943 Review
Monday, July 27, 2009 12:41 PM
Sometimes, things just seem a little too good to be true, and yet Battlefield 1943 is very real and very, very good value.
It's already made the headlines with the news that it has set records for the fastest-selling download-only game on both the Xbox Live Marketplace and the PlayStation Network.
Sure, the Battlefield game series - widely considered to be one of the most consistent - sets a huge precedent and one which many people will happily claw at again for a price only a fraction about £6. Still, there's good reason for this. A few, actually. Well, loads.
The core features of the game, which seem to completely contradict this assessment, are actually a masterstroke. You have one mode - Conquest - which puts the Japanese and US forces toe-to-toe in the Pacific theatre of war. It's a tried-and-tested affair, similar to the Control Points of the Team Fortress series, which sees you fighting over five areas of control.
This should appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers alike, as these maps are only as good as the players who fight on them. It's capped at 24, which is a nice round figure that allows the maps to be large enough to have a jog before being shot at, yet small enough to have a chance at firing a couple of shots back.
But it's still only one mode. Why no deathmatch? Why no capture the flag? Well, it doesn't need it. With the one mode available which absolutely everyone knows, you have access to teamwork, recognisable enemies and genuine tactics.
The austerity of the game continues with the character classes. There's the standard short-range infantryman, the medium-range rifleman and the long-range scout. Again, it's the best (or at least most recognised) balance and one which can easily be tipped if you have a boatload of camping snipers or tons of troops galloping along in packs. You'll regularly see a team establish a perfect balance because there's a genuine need for it.
And so the boiled-down approach continues with the choice of maps. There's three (a fourth was added after the community reached 43 million kills). Will you care? Will you hell. They're all recognisable from previous outings in the series and they provide enough in terms of variety to have a different approach to the mission each time. Having two separate teams doubles this, even if it's in the most basic way possible.
While the options are limited, the glossy veneer certainly isn't. It's pure class from DICE. I mean, dear God, they're top-notch.
It's easy to expect at such a price that it's going to be Dreamcast-quality, or a fully-rendered version of Battlefield 2 from the PC. It's not, though. Using DICE's fully destructible Battlefield engine, we don't need to mark this game up for being a budget title. Modern displays of lighting, shading, shadows and other effects are heaped on in spades. It's not a world-beater but it's eye-opening.
It's also a delight to see bullets streaking across the sky from a point of singularity half a mile away, or an M1 Garand-propelled grenade fly over the crest of a hill towards a tank or jeep. Even with a slither of health and a handful of bullets left, you can take down planes, run at tanks head-on and slowly decimate an enemy team.
It's the game that keeps on giving, essentially; just having the chance to fly in Battlefield 1943 is something special. It can feel a little clunky, but if you get good at it you'll be taking things apart; that is until a decent rifleman takes umbrage at your approach, which they will - everyone hates planes until they're in one.
The only gripe is that you still feel a little more could have be done. It doesn't offer anything particularly new or trend-setting, nor does it give us a glimpse into the future of the series.
Not being able to practice offline is also a severely annoying thing, as is the ever-frustrating EA login system. We don't subscribe to Xbox LIVE or the PlayStation Network to log onto yet another server, do we now?
What the developers have done, however, is stuck together the huge coal monoliths of previous games, applied a firm but fair approach and compressed the lot into a tiny diamond. Battlefield 1943 is nothing huge, it's hardly groundbreaking and certainly isn't a rival to the likes of Call of Duty in terms of providing a deep experience, but it doesn't want to be and you wouldn't want it anyway.
As a result, it's extremely difficult not to love this title. It doesn't pretend to be anything it's not, yet it certainly knows it's something a gamer can easily burn hours on, whether they're playing it seriously or just messing about.
Buy Battlefield 1943. Buy it now. Get your own money or steal someone else's. You may feel guilty for doing the latter, but it's nothing compared to the regret you'll feel if you never invest in Battlefield 1943.