The template for online gaming has been forged over time by some of the greats. Halo 2 brought the idea that console shooters could be just as addictive online as their PC counterparts. The Battlefront series proved that console gamers can become just as addicted to the control aspect as any PC gamer, and now with the release of Battlefield 1943 on both 360 and PS3, the time has come to separate the men from the boys. Instead of releasing a full retail version of the game DICE has instead opted to allow players to gain entry for a measly $15. Granted there are only three maps and one mode, but the pure random unpredictability of the series is what keeps you coming back for more and more. Battlefield 1943 is the perfect example of how downloadable games should be done.
The formula for the Battlefield series is simple, but so addictive that it has spawned countless copycats over the years. At the beginning of each match you are broken down into two teams. Each team is given a set number of tickets (which constitute how many reinforcements you have, or respawns) that slowly dwindle away as your team is killed. There are also control points scattered around the map that each side is constantly working to be in command of. Controlling the majority of these gives your team an advantage, as well as slowly depleting the opposing side’s resources much quicker. In addition there are a number of in-game rewards that you can earn that are even more addictive than the Achievements/Trophies. These will have you logging numerous hours trying to earn them all, in addition to the traditional Gamerscore and Trophies that can be earned for each respective system.
As I mentioned earlier there are only three maps, all of them symmetrical, and all of them considered to be some of the best from the previous game. The game now focuses on 12 vs. 12 skirmishes, limiting the team size, but the maps seem to have been streamlined for this. Each map is island-based, meaning both sides of the opposition start on corresponding aircraft carriers at the beginning of the match. Most of the time I found myself on a team that was dominating or being dominated, as you can imagine this varies from game to game. There were times I would sprint to the closest control point only to be gunned down before having a chance to capture it.
Vehicles play a huge role in the game, and unfortunately the community is still in its adolescent phase, meaning teamwork is not always a viable option. There were matches where everyone just went on individual killing sprees, and forgot to focus on the core component of the gameplay. However, there were numerous matches where everything just fell into place, and this is where Battlefield shines. Collaborating with your team, moving from control point to control point with mini-battles in between, all while planes fly overhead dropping bombs in your area is truly epic. I can see myself playing this over and over and never growing tired of the complete impulsive nature of how each battle unfolds.
There are three classes to choose from in the game, and finding the one that suits you best is key to victory. The Scout is more of a stealth character effective at close range melee, plus having the ability to snipe. Infantry is the grunt of the operation and can take more damage as well as carrying the most bullets. This is the class that is best suited for those that love to run directly into the action. The Rifleman is a hybrid of the other two classes and works well against mid-range attacks. His rifle is more accurate, plus the ability to take down vehicles can always come in handy. Controls are smooth and responsive for on-foot actions, but the vehicles will take some adjustment. You use the left trigger as an acceleration device, which gives you the ability to fire weapons in some vehicles. Flying a plane is really a chore, and it will take plenty of practice to become an expert.
The biggest problem with 1943 right now is that DICE obviously did not anticipate the amount of interest the game would garner upon release. As of this writing the servers are in much better shape than they were day one, but you will still suffer lag from time to time. To their credit the developers are adding more and more servers on a daily basis, and each day the game improves, so that is definitely optimistic. Voice chat is also a problem; there are times when your squad can be heard across all channels, while other times you cannot hear them at all. This is easily remedied with Xbox Live Party Chat, but PS3 owners do not have the same luxury. You can also only join the game as a party or a quick match, and you can only invite your friends into the game, which means if you want to continue on with your current squad you will have to befriend them. This was not an issue for me as I only play with people on my list, but I can see some having issues with it. This will likely be addressed at a later date with a patch.
Visually the game looks fantastic for a download-only release. This is thanks in part to DICE’s new Frostbite engine which allows for structures and environments to receive damage. As each game progresses buildings will be demolished, battlefields will change, and there are fires burning everywhere, giving a real sense that a battle has taken place. The only other games that come close to this are Red Faction and Bad Company, and that is an elite group that any game should be proud to be in. Everything runs fine when lag isn’t an issue, but when it hits, it can be frustrating. Sniper shots that you feel are dead-on accurate end up floating wide right, and bomb runs in the plane prove more challenging when enemies are jumping all over the playing field.
Battlefield 1943 is a prime example of why online gaming is so addictive. The concept is simple, the content is limited, but the fun is nearly endless. The idea that you can achieve such an enjoyable experience if you focus on what is important is the problem I find with most games today. More is not always better, and at $15 this game is an absolute steal. Once the server problems are ironed out, this game will go alongside Red Faction as my new favorite online addiction. If you have ever loved the Battlefield series, or just FPS games in general, then you owe it to yourself to check out DICE’s latest, and find out why this series is one of the most respected in the genre.