Review by edmcdonald
"Battlefield 1943. It's fun."
I've been waiting for this game ever since I saw the first trailer. As a former Marine they had me at Guadalcanal. A friend of mine, who is one of those hardcore PC gamers, has been raving about the Battlefield series for years. Halo 3 has been getting boring so this game came along at a perfect time for me.
The gameplay is completely different from any first person shooter I have played on a console. Each map has five bases that each army fights over. You gain points for your team by capturing bases, defending the bases and, of course, blowing your enemies back from whence they came. I like how the points are awarded. You get ten points for taking out an enemy soldier and thirty points for taking a base. If you take out an enemy while defending a base then you get ten points plus a defender's bonus. This is not about running and gunning. This is about taking and holding ground. Also, while your team holds a majority of the bases you get more credit for each small victory on the map. Each team has a life bar and you decrease the other team's bar quicker by hold more bases. It's an ingenuous way to reward team play.
Each team begins a round on their home base which can be an aircraft carrier floating just off each island map or, as on Guadalcanal a base on opposite ends of the island. On the maps with carriers (Wake Island and Iwo Jima) the players scramble to see who can grab one of the limited number of airplanes available and those who aren't quick enough to get an airplane jump into landing craft and cruise over the sea toward the island to start claiming bases. Some bases you claim will spawn vehicles (tanks and jeeps) which you can then hop into and and drive to the next base. If the base you claim is an airfield it will spawn an airplane.
Once each side has established their footholds there is usually a base or two not completely controlled by either side. That is when the game really gets fun. Most of the fighting on each map tends to center on one or two key points when the team are evenly matched up and then it's like you are participating in the final scene from the movie Saving Private Ryan.
For example, the other night I was playing on the Wake Island map. It's a horse shoe shaped map and the two sides claimed the two bases on the prong closest to their home base. After that we converged in the middle where a fierce firefight ensued in the village located there. For over ten minutes both sides annihilated each other just so that one could possess this nameless village in the middle of the ocean. I spent a lot of time laying down suppressing fire while my teammates (a few foot soldiers and a tank) pressed forward into the village. While this was going on there were planes overhead dropping bombs and dog fighting while behind me a teammate of mine was in an antiaircraft gun shooting enemy planes out of the sky. When you are in the middle of a firefight and the tail section of a fighter plane falls between you and the person you are exchanging fire with then you know you are in the middle of a FPS that is designed to rock your world. You get the intensity of the COD IV single player game in an online setting. You can't beat that.
You find out quickly that you are vulnerable in this game. You die easily. You can cannot run around and go all Rambo like in Halo or Call of Duty. If you want to win you have to work with your teammates. There are still a few ringers out there that can carry a team but it is not as easy as it is in Halo. Most of those that post big scores on this game are evil snipers who have found choice spots and as the rest of us figure the game out that will hopefully even out.
Almost every structure on these maps can be damaged by the weaponry. It is fascinating how the arenas change as the game progresses. A building that you used a few minutes before as cover will be blown down to its foundation the next time you see it by a bomb dropped by an airplane or by a few shots from the big gun on a tank. You have to constantly adjust your tactics as each round plays out.
On each of the maps there is an air raid shelter. Periodically throughout a campaign the Air Raid, as they call it, will become available. Once this announcement scrolls across the screen those close to the air raid shelter will scramble towards it to be the first in alive so that they can be the one to drop bombs upon the heads of their enemies.
The interface for the air raid is a lot of fun. After you enter the air raid shelter there is a short pause and then you find yourself in a chase camera view of three bombers. You can tweak the direction in which these bombers fly in by moving the joystick to the left or right.
Your teammates, as blue triangles, and your enemies, as red triangles, show up superimposed on the arena below you. Your job is to find a grouping of enemies or a tank (which is a red rectangle tank lookin' thing on the map) and line the bomber group up with your selected target. Then you switch to the bomb site view and then it's bombs away. That is big fun. One of the more satisfying moments in this game is getting a big score with the air raid.
The soldiers you use in the game come in three classes: Infantry, Rifleman and Scout. Each of these classes has a melee weapon for close combat.
Infantry: He comes with a machine gun for close combat and a rocket launcher for those scary tanks.
Rifleman: He comes with a rifle for medium distance engagement with enemy soldiers and a grenade launcher you can use if they're too chicken to come out and engage you. The grenade launcher also damages tanks but not as much as the rocket launcher.
Scout: This guy is essentially a sniper. Snipers are evil.
There are three maps that came with the initial release of the game are called Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Wake Island. These maps are all big. The smallest, Iwo Jima, is probably as big or bigger as the largest maps in the Halo or COD series. There is a new map that was recently unlocked by the community. It's called Coral Sea. I've only played it a couple of times and the game on that map is exclusively aerial combat. I have tried it once so far and it has potential.
This the smallest of the three. They don't really try to recreate that actual battlefield from the famous World War II location but they do a good job of creating an arena that gives you a taste of the chaotic close quarters of that battle. Hopping into a landing craft and heading into the beach at Iwo Jima at high speed has yet to get old. It's a wow' moment the first few times you do it.
This is the largest map available and the one with the most drastic changes in elevation. Each team starts at a base at an opposite side of the island and they will meet in the middle at the bases that straddle the center of the island. It's also a map that is especially annoying at times for those of us that don't like snipers.
This is my favorite map. It's shaped like a horse shoe, it's narrow and it's not too difficult to maintain the integrity of the bases to your rear so you don't end up dead and surprised as often as the other two maps. There is a cove in the center of the map and if are patient you can swim all the way across.
I will give this game an 8 out of 10. I'd probably give it a 9 if I was better at it. It's probably not going to happen but I would really love it if a couple more maps were released for this game. I'm afraid that the limited number of maps is going to shorten the length of time this game lasts online. I'd like to be playing this game six months to a year from now and a couple more maps would assure that.
The problem with the servers being overloaded on Xbox live has been solved. Matches load up quickly and I notice very little lag during gameplay. It's a smooth and enjoyable online experience.
I would recommend this game for anyone that enjoys a good first person shooter. For $15 it looks and plays great and it may open up a whole new interest in developers for downloadable games for the consoles.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/22/09
Game Release: Battlefield 1943 (US, 07/08/09)
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