Battlefield: 1943 (XBLA)

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Review: Battlefield 1943

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FPS/Strategy/World War II

America wins WW2 (again)

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Matthew

Battlefield: Bad Company had what was without a doubt my favourite online multiplayer of any game this generation. I was pleasantly surprised at the announcement of Battlefield: 1943 as an online-only downloadable game, hoping it would provide the same thrills offered by Bad Company. It is certainly a great game, but not without it’s faults.

Release day was plagued by server problems, similar to what happened with Bad Company, leading to you being unable to join a game until after many attempts – if at all. If you actually managed to join a game, it was often almost unplayable due to lag resulting in your player running like he has abungie cord strapped to his back. Slowly but surely more and more servers were added and the problems were gradually ironed out. When Battlefield 1943 works, it’s fantastic.

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Typical beach front property.

The gameplay will be very familiar to anyone who has played Bad Company, it plays pretty much exactly the same with teams of up to 12 v 12. There is no gold rush mode this time though, with conquest being the sole mode of play in which you capture flags to gain the five control points on the map. Doing so causes the opponent’s ticker to go down, with enemy kills also adding to this. Once either team’s ticker reaches zero, the other team wins.

To begin with there was a choice of three maps – Wake Island, Iwo-Jima and Guadalcanal. While smaller than the maps seen in Bad Company, their size is definitely impressive for a download-only game. Each map has at least one large main base – complete with airstrip – to be captured, along with smaller bunkers or settlements scattered around.Iwo-Jima is by far my favourite map in the game. Defending the base on the hill from an onslaught of attackers with merely a sniper rifle is simply brilliant, and liberating the base from the enemy is equally as satisfying. It’s also great forairstrikes since the island is basically on long narrow strip. A fourth map, Coral Sea, was unlocked after 43 million kills had been reached.

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Bombs missed the target. What a surprise.

It’s a dogfight-only map and turns out to be quite a disappointment. First of all, aerial combat just isn’t much fun at all due to the awkward controls and as a result, targeting enemy planes is often a chore – the in-cockpit view does make targeting slightly easier thanks to it marking out targets for you. Another big complaint about Coral Sea is that you will find yourself standing on the aircraft carrier queueing for a plane for what seems like half of the round. The problem is that, with a maximum of twelve people per team and two aircraft carriers to spawn on, two planes per ship just isn’t anywhere near enough for the whole team. Get used to spawning on an empty ship, while the other has two empty plains sitting there with no way to get to it. The map as a whole amounts to a frustrating experience, and thankfully it has it’s own separate place on the main menu, rather than being included in the normal map rotation.

The character classes have been narrowed down to a selection of three and each has a secondary weapon. The scout (sniper) has plastic explosives – perfect for playing traps and taking out enemy tanks, as well as a pistol for close combat. Infantry are armed with a machine gun and rocket launcher along with a spanner to repair vehicles, and the rifleman’s gun doubles as a grenade launcher. While the classes are fairly well balanced, the rifleman does seem to be slightly overpowered at times with the range on the rifle seemingly comparable to the sniper rifle at times and the grenade launcher capable of taking out a jeep in one hit. Another problem is that sniper rifles never seem to deal as much damage as they should andheadshots often don’t register despite going clearly on target.

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Mark

Secondary Review

So this should be easy… Take the Frostbite engine from Bad Company and remix it using a few of the maps from Battlefield ’42 (but not the best ones) streamline the class system down to three types and give them all recharging ammo and health, slap it up on XBLA and PSN for a premium price and watch the money come rolling in. Yep and just like Pavlov’s dog we all fell for it even down to the shitty day one server support (Just like Bad Company, and that had a beta!)

If I was counter pointing this just a few days ago I’d be considering giving this a straight nine but having replayed it again and sampled the forth map (Coral Sea) my pleasure has somewhat waned. The controls now feel stiff and non responsive with every button pressed having a half second lag not to mention the overall lag witch still inflicts ‘death from nowhere’ syndrome with every game. Accurate aiming on the fly is near impossible with botched stick acceleration being the main cause and less said about the friend/party support the better.

That’s not to say it’s a terrible game, it’s not. whether it’s having a few friends in your squad helping you storm Mount Suribachi or holding off an enemy tank while recapturing the Wake Island airfield, good company (no pun intended) is the best thing to have in this game as the majority of random players seem to think teamwork and defence mean charging off towards the next cluster of enemy troopers to die.

Secondary Score: 7/10*

* Please note I’ll feel obliged to up it a point or two IF they convert the ’42 maps we all want like Normandy, Kurst or Monte Casino.

As well as jeeps and tanks, fighter planes are also present along with the welcome return of parachutes. The flight controls can seem pretty terrible at first, but once you invert the Y-axis and get a feel for flying using the tutorial mode things become reasonably better. One big complaint with the fighters is that aiming it’s secondary weapon, the bombs, amounts to nothing more than guesswork since it offers no targeting system whatsoever. However, you do have the ability to call in a squadron of three bombers which actually get the job done. You actually control these yourself, an switching to the overhead camera allows for a much more precise targeting than the fighter planes.

One of the main problems with Bad Company was how weak most of the explosives were and unfortunately it’s the same case in 1943. Explosive splash damage from pretty much everything apart from hand grenades and bombers is pretty pathetic. Anything other than a direct hit causes minimal damage. The Frostbite engine is used again, and all explosives are effective at destroying scenery, although after the level of destruction possible in Red Faction: Guerrilla it just seems very tame and underwhelming in this.

Despite all of these complaints, Battlefield:1943 is still a fantastic online shooter. While some may roll their eyes at the 1200 points price, it’s definitely worth it given how polished the game is. Much like Bad Company, the sound design is fantastic, particularly the low,bassy hum of the bomber’s propeller engines as they fly overhead and the sounds of echoing gunfights in the distance.

It doesn’t have the same gritty, grainy visuals that I was a fan of in the the previous game, but it still looks impressive.Co-operatively invading and capturing enemy bases with all hell breaking loose around you is when the game is at it’s best. The gameplay offers something different to Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3, much more slower paced and tactical and that’s what I love about it. Battlefield:1943 is definitely a must-buy for those that were fans of Bad Company, and it’s a successful stop-gap to whet their appetites until it’s release.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

8/10

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