David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-08-11 13:25:45
Battlefield 1943 (XBLA) - Rank A
Developer: Digital Illusions CE (DICE)
Publisher: EA Games
Also available for PlayStation 3 and PC (why?)
Battlefield 1943 isn't so much a a sequel to Battlefield 1942 as it is a properly console-ized version of it. The game is essentially seven years old, but the classic gameplay is timeless and it's good to see a massive new audience eating it up. The only reason old PC Battlefield hands might want to purchase it is to play with console buddies, but any fan of multiplayer shooters who hasn't experienced it should buy it immediately.
The premise is simple. As a member of the U.S. Marine Corps or the Imperial Japanese Navy, you fight for control over Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Wake Island. Victory is gained by holding more control points for a longer period of time than the enemy. The actual play, however, is a complex ballet of bullets, vehicles, and awesomeness.
To start, the number of available classes has been condensed from 1942 down to just three. But don't fret; there's no substantive loss in this streamlining. Roles have just been neatly combined. The Infantry class packs a submachine gun, an anti-tank recoilless rifle, and a wrench to repair vehicles. The Rifleman relies on a semi-automatic rifle and a grenade launcher. The Scout is a sniper who double majored in demolitions. The Rifleman's accurate rifle makes him the best all-around class, but the other two excel in specific situational scenarios. The Infantryman provides up close in-your-face firepower. And long range death aside, the Scout's explosives provide endless comedy.
Next, add in the vehicles. The jeep is fast with a mounted machinegun and can carry three. It quickly delivers personnel to the control points. Or, as the Scout, stuff some C4 in it and drive it full speed into the enemy only to bail out and detonate it at the last second. Hilarity always ensues when you gun it and try to run someone over with the jeep. Hey Paul, remember when I tried to smear Dave and Joel, but instead drove us over a cliff? Shame you didn't bail out like I did!
Tanks are nonstop excitement. On the one hand, you're bristling with firepower. You've got a metal hide, a cannon, a coaxial machinegun, and ideally a teammate on the hatch machinegun as well. On the other, you're a BIG EFFIN TARGET for bazookas, bombs from airplanes, other tanks, and C4 from sneaky ninja Scouts. Hey Paul, remember when you were my gunner and I tumbled off the hillside into a nest of recoilless rifle fire? Shame you didn't bail out like I did!
Planes provide a true test of skill. Pilots need to simultaneously dogfight with other planes, strafe and bomb ground targets, and avoid anti-aircraft fire. I'm not that good. I prefer to kamikaze (bonus style points when Japanese) into transport boats full of enemy troops. Hey Paul, remember when you tried to save me from that bogie on my six, only to get shot down yourself? Shame you didn't bail out like I did!
The point I'm trying to get across is this: imagine all of that going on at the same time multiplied by twenty-four players. Battlefield 1943 is just the same handful of maps over and over again, but the sheer ridiculousness of the things that can occur make each round distinct and repeatedly enjoyable. You might blow up a tank with your recoilless rifle, only to have your celebration cut short by a katana in your back. Then that guy takes out half a dozen of your teammates with epic sniper fire, only to explode as you dive bomb him in a plane. Which gets shot down, but not before you parachute out while dropping grenades, as teammates scurry onto jeeps to escape the carpet bombing from an air raid of heavy bombers...and before you know it, it's WAY past your bedtime.
Order can be impressed upon this chaos with solid teamwork. Squads consist of four players, and you can respawn next to squadmates. This potentially allows for strong coordination. For example, a tank with an additional gunner is formidable. But add infantry cover in the form of a Rifleman to wipe out anti-tank soldiers, and an Infantryman to keep the tank repaired, and it's virtually invincible to anything save air power.
Battlefield 1943's drawbacks lie here. For whatever technical reason, joining as a squad can be problematic. Players get dropped. Or swapped into another squad, or even the other team. This isn't so frequent as to be crippling, but happens enough to be annoying. The squad chat also cuts out without warning. Xbox 360 players can resort to Xbox Live's party chat function, but PlayStation 3 users have no such recourse.
Longtime Battlefield players might be interested to know how DICE balanced the smaller player counts in 1943. The islands have been redesigned to be intimately smaller, but they are still familiar. Respawn timers are lightning fast now, ensuring minimal downtime between deaths and density of action on the field. 1943 also runs on DICE's newer Frostbite engine, which allows you to reduce just about any structure to mere rubble. New potential players just need to know that Battlefield is an absolute classic multiplayer experience, and 1943 is a compactly convenient way to enjoy it. It's only a $15 download, but could easily have been the multiplayer segment of a top tier full price retail game.