Battlefield 1943 is a remake of Battlefield 1942 featuring some of the maps from that game, this time built with the Frostbyte engine for consoles and the PC. We’ve played it to see if it DICE has managed to make this game just as fun as the original.
Battlefield 1943 – not a sequel
While the Swedish developer DICE have created a lot of cool games they are probably most know for their Battlefield-series. It all started back in 2002 with Battlefield 1942 and since then they have released several new versions of the game including Battlefield Vietnam, Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142 as well as the spin-off Battlefield: Bad Company.
2009 is a special year for Battlefield fans as there are at least 2 Battlefield games coming out. First we have the free game Battlefield:Heroes for the PC and then of course Battlefield 1943 for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC (in September). It is the latter game that we are taking a look at today.
Before we start the review let’s talk about Battlefield 1942 a bit. While by no means the first online game for the PC, this game was the game that started my fascination with conquest-type of games. As the name implies it is set in WWII and features lots of maps, lots of vehicles and several soldier classes. I’m sure I’m not alone in spending countless of hours battling over Wake Island or in tanks in the Kharkov map.
It is easy to call Battlefield 1943 a sequel but it is not entirely true. The game instead is a recreation of some of the maps from Battlefield 1942 using the Frostbyte Engine that was used for Battlefield: Bad Company. The main feature of that engine was of course environmental damage and the engine has been improved to feature even more damage over the first version of the engine.
The game is also not a full priced game. On the consoles the game is released on PSN (PS3) and Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360) and is priced at 1200 points/15$ and the reason that DICE did this was to “ .. offer the best bang for your buck. We didn’t intend to replace the traditional, packaged game, but set out to create an action packed, multiplayer experience from beginning to end”.
The game is fought in the Pacific Theather between the US and the Japanese.
Is it possible to recreate the now classic Battlefield 1942-game on the consoles or is this just a cheap cash-in while we have to wait for Battlefield 3? Read on to find out why we love the game so much.
Making things easier
DICE has chosen to remove some of the features and complexity from BF1942. This might annoy some of the purist but luckily it looks like they kept the fun.
First of all the game only supports 24 instead of the 64 players. We’re not sure why they choose 24 players as both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 have had games with support for more players.
There are only 3 classes instead of 5:
Rifleman: This class has a rifle as his main weapon and a rifle grenade launcher as his secondary weapon. This class is great against other infantry as the rifle is quite accurate and fast firing. The rifle grenade launcher is perfect for clearing out bunkers. As a melee weapon the rifleman either has a bayonet (US) or a sword (Japanese). Last but not least the rifleman has grenades.
Soldier: The soldier is the anti-tank class. The main weapon is a machinegun that only is good at close range. The secondary weapon is a rocket launcher that is mainly for taking out tanks (but works pretty well on infantry too). The melee weapon is a wrench that not only can smash the head but also repair vehicles. Just as the rifleman the soldier has grenades.
Sniper: Last but not least we got the sniper. The main weapon is of course the sniper rifle. The secondary weapon is a pistol. As a melee weapon the sniper either has a bayonet (US) or a sword (Japanese). Last but not least the sniper has detonation charges which can be placed either on a vehicle, a structure or on the ground and the remotely detonated.
But what about a medic? Well, that class is no longer needed as every soldier regenerate health. This might sound pretty crappy but it has been done very well. To regenerate health you need to duck and stay out of enemy fire for a while before it slowly regenerates.
There also is no need to restock ammo anymore as the ammo is unlimited. Again this has been done very well and you still have pauses where your solider is reloading the gun. Other weapons like the rocket launcher also have a small delay when the rockets are out before it restocks your supply.
The balance between the classes is pretty good. Each class has its advantages and disadvantages. The sniper is pretty powerful but needs a headshot to kill in one shot. Otherwise it takes at least 2 shots and since you have to reload between each shot anyone who gets shot at should have ducked/moved away as you take the second shot. The rifleman is perfect against infantry but not that good against tanks so when a tank appears it is a good idea to duck away. The soldier on the other hand excels against the tanks with his rocketlauncher but the machinegun is pretty crappy against infantry unless you are very close. As you also tend to squeeze of a long burst instead of short bursts and all guns recoil it is also very easy to spray the bullets away from the enemy which means certain death for you.
There are not that many vehicles in the game. We get planes (2 for each side + 1 extra on one of the bases on each map), tanks and cars, landing crafts and AA-guns. Even though the vehicles look different on each side they handle exactly the same.
Tanks: The tanks can be driven in either third person view or first person view. While the third person view is best of when driving as it is easier to see where you are going, the first person view is preferred for when firing as you get a much better aim in that mode. The tanks are quite powerful but just as in real life; if you let the infantry come in to close you are toast even in a tank.
Planes: Just like in Battlefield 1942 it takes some skill to pilot a plane. Something I noticed many gamers seem to miss is the fact that you can change the controls to fit your style better. In my case I directly inverted the vertical controls for the planes. The planes are flown with both sticks. It takes a while to learn but you can run a tutorial as many times you want where you at the end get to play around with all vehicles. It is certainly recommended to fly as much as possible before going into the real situation in the game. Just as with the tanks the planes can be flown in third- or first person view.
AA-guns: The maps are full of AA-guns which help keep the planes in check so they do not dominate the maps.
Cars: The cards have room for 4 people and are great for driving from one location to another very quickly. Just as with the tanks they can be used in third- or first person view.
Landing crafts: As most maps starts with a race from a carrier to the shores each carrier carries a bunch of landing crafts. These can take a lot of people.
There is one other vehicle that can be called on during the game and that is the bombing run. At one location on each map you have a bunker which lets anyone who enters call on the bombers. This person then gets to steer 3 bombers and drop bombs at one target. The bombers can be steered slightly but are very slow so it is important to decide a target as soon as possible. As you come up to the target you then switch to the bomb sight and drop the bombs.
Just as with the classes it feels like no vehicles is to powerful. AA-guns hold the planes in check while the anti-tank infantry keep the tanks in check. The bombers could have been too powerful but can be shot down both by planes and AA-guns.
How to play
The main game-mode (and the only in 3 of the 4 maps) in Battlefield 1943 is the tried and tested conquest mode. There are 5 flags/areas on each map that the players can fight for. Each side also has their “home base” which usually is the carrier. At the start of each game both sides launch from their home base and start racing for the flags.
Each side has a number of “tickets”. As someone dies the number is reduced by one. However, if one side holds more flags than the other the tickets for the other side will count down faster each time a person of the “loosing” team dies. The side which has no more tickets looses.
It’s a simple but very fun way to play. As the maps are quite big there is always one or two flags are poorly defended and thus can be attacked again.
The other game mode is Air Superiority which is used on the unlocked Coral Sea map. It is basically a death match mode where you just need to kill the opponent enough times.
Squad or lone wolf
There are 2 ways you can play the game. Either you play as a lone wolf or you join a squad. If you choose to play as a squad you can either join any open squad or create your own. If you create your own you can make it public or just for friends. A squad can hold 4 people. When in a squad you can select if you want to listen to squad chat or team chat. You can also issue commands to your squad by aiming at a flag and either issue an attack command or a defend command depending on the status of the flag.
There are three ways to spawn into the map. You can choose to spawn into the flag that currently are at the “frontline”, you can choose a flag or, if you are in a squad, you can spawn to a squad member.
It is easy to fall for the temptation to always spawn to the “frontline” flag but I’ve found that it sometimes is better to spawn to a nearby flag and so to speak come in from the behind of the attacking enemy.
If the limitations of a squad (4 people) are to low there is a way to get around this by setting up a Xbox Live Party (up to 8 people) and use Party-chat during the game.
The game ships with 4 maps: Wake Island, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Coral Sea. DICE held an event for the Coral Sea map where it wasn’t unlocked until the players reached 43 million kills. The Xbox 360 population managed this in a week but at the time of writing the PS3-population has not yet unlocked the map. When you read this is most probably also will be available for the PS3.
While these are maps that were present in Battlefield 1942 they have been redone to fit the 24 players. It has been a while since I played Battlefield 1942 but while I recognize Wake Island it feels like Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal have been redesigned quite a bit. This is however not a bad thing. In fact, while Wake Island was one of my favorites in Battlefield 1942, both Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal are absolutely brilliant here.
Wake Island: This map has an island that is formed like a horseshoe. There are flags on the “arms” and at the “base” you got an airfield. Each side starts from a carrier.
Iwo Jima: Probably my favorite map. At one end of the map you have a hill/mountain with a base and at the other end you have an airfield with the “bomber-bunker”. In between you got several small bases with flags. The base at the mountain is great for snipers as well for using the MG’s in the bunker to suppress infantry at some of the other bases. At the same time a well placed rifle grenade can clear the bunkers pretty quick.
Guadalcanal: This is an island with several hills. Several of the bases on the hills are in viewing (and sniping) distance of each other and this is a map where it can be smart not to spawn into a contested flag as you might get stuck in cross fire.
Coral Sea: This map is a pure air-map. Each side has 2 carriers with planes and while there are a few islands in the middle they no longer have any AA-guns on them (like they did in Battlefield 1942) meaning that this is a map for pure dogfighting.
It might feel like 4 maps are too few but to be honest in most games players tend to gravitate towards a few maps anyway that gets played over and over again. We are pretty sure that these maps were selected because they were popular in Battlefield 1942 and they are quite simply brilliantly remade.
It seems that DICE still are not sure whether to bring out more maps or not. Considering that they have to remake the maps into the new engine as well as remodel them to fit the 24 players (instead of 64) we expect that any new maps will released as DLC and cost money. DICE/EA is at the moment of writing running a poll at the official Battlefield 1942-blog (http://blogs.battlefield.ea.com/) where they ask about our favorite Battlefield 1942 map so it certainly sounds like they are considering it.
The visual and audio experience
The game runs at 720p and is overall very nice looking. The destruction that the frostbite engine allows is cool and at the end of each match most bases are leveled to the ground. There doesn’t seem to be much anti-aliasing and you notice that the anisotropic filtering isn’t set so high but to be honest the game looks good enough so that during the intense battles you won’t noticed any of the minor issues. The PC version should though as usual be the best looking when it arrives.
For your information: the screenshots we link to in this review is the ones provided by EA/DICE as we unfortunately cannot capture anything ourselves yet. The originals was of a much higher resolution than the game runs at and has lots of AA/AF so do not expect this level of polish in the actual game.
On the audio side the game has really nice sound. The weapons have a good weight to them and at times it is amazing how the air is filled with planes, tanks, fire and explosions. The only issue I’ve had is that the sounds of my plane sometimes have cut out for a few seconds.
Overall DICE has made a great job getting the aging Battlefield 1942-maps to the latest consoles.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
So how does it actually play? Is it worth 15$/1200 points? Let’s summarize by looking at the Good, the bad and the ugly.
The game was plagued by extreme connection issues at launch. DICE clearly did not expect the kind of amount of people who bought the game and thus the first 24-48 hours it was very hard to find a game and if you found a game it was often laggy and you got kicked out after a while. DICE and EA have since then added lots of news servers and from my experience they have fixed this problem for most people. I still mention this so that anyone who just tested the trial and got upset knows that it is now fixed.
It would have been nice if they had supported more than 24 people per game. It is not a deal breaker as the maps have been redone for this number of people but as there are some problems with people queuing up for planes it means that you easily get stuck in a situation where you simply are too few on the ground.
It’s a bit of a downer that private matches require 16 people to start. So if you set up a private game with friends you have to fill 16 slots before you can play. The reason is of course because EA and DICE do not want servers to be “wasted” with just a few people on them but it can be annoying when you want to play with just friends. EA and DICE have said that they will not lower this number.
Squad communications are a bit odd. I was mostly lone-wolfing and realized that there is basically zero communication in the team channel. Squads can talk to each other but even inside squads I noticed most people were silent.
Is 3 (4 with the special air-map) enough in the long run? Will Dice and EA turn this game into micropayment hell just as with Battlefield: Heroes? I definitely could accept to pay a bit for new maps but that might as well split the community as not everyone pays.
I saved the good to last because there really are mostly good things I can say about this game. It is an absolute blast. It doesn’t matter if they made it simpler and removed stuff from Battlefield 1942 as they at least kept what made this game fun. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in matches where the battle has been flowing back and forth until the end when one team gained the upper hand in the last second. One example from a game on Iwo Jima yesterday:
We had 4 of the 5 flags on the island and just lacked the airfield. Most of us spawned at the nearest flag and there were 6-7 of us moving forward engaging the enemy, hiding behind boulders and houses, taking out tanks, slowly pushing closer and closer to the flag. Our airplanes thundered above and dropped bombs while the enemy planes came in low strafing us. Finally after at least 5-10 minutes of intense battle we finally took the flag just to realize that we had lost several of the other flags because we did not defend them properly during our all-out assault. Now we had to push out from the airfield to capture back the other flags. The battles that followed were just as intense as the first assault and in the end we won with just a few kills.
Nothing is also as rewarding as sitting on a hill sniping, noticing a tank moving up the hill towards you and laying out dynamite and blow him up as he moves in for an “easy” kill.
It might not be a realistic shooter but it most certainly is a fun shooter.
We are using an addition to our scoring system to provide additional feedback beyond a flat score. Please note that the final score isn’t an aggregate average of the new rating system.
- Graphics: 8
- Audio: 8
- Value: 9
- Features: 7
- Fun: 10
+ Very nice maps that work well for 24 people
+ A blast to play
+ Easy to pick up
– “Only” 4 maps of which 1 is just for air-geeks
– Squad communication could be better
– Only 24 players supported.
– A lot of features from Battlefield 1942 removed
In the end we cannot do anything else than recommend this game. It is very well priced and you will get hours and hours of fun out of it. Therefore we award this game the following score:
Final Score: 9 out of 10 and the Bjorn3D Golden Bear Award.