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Up until just recently, console gamers have gotten the short end of the stick from DICE’s shooters. Last generation’s Battlefield 2 did little to change that, and offered gamers with a watered down version of the franchise. With the release of Battlefield: Bad Company, all of that changed. Realizing the potential in consoles, DICE soon announced work on a sequel to Bad Company and Battlefield 1943: a follow-up to the beloved Battlefield 1942. Set in the Pacific theater, the downloadable title invited gamers to enlist again in World War II, a time in history all too repeated in gaming.
1943 isn’t your typical Battlefield title. Well, it is in a lot of ways, but being downloadable brings with it some baggage that makes it a bit different. At launch, 1943 players had access to three maps, all of which were remakes of some of the more popular Battlefield 1942 selections. Wake Island, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima were all available, each running the game’s signature Conquest mode, involving capturing bases. Using tanks, jeeps, planes, and boats, players attempt to capture and defend bases, just as they did in 1942 (as opposed to Bad Company, which had played trying to attack and defend crates filled with gold). These locations should be instantly familiar to Battlefield 1942 players, who spent a good deal of time with them in the past.
A few days after launch, Coral Sea was unlocked, allowing players to fight for Air Superiority in massive dogfights. It’s chaotic but a good deal of fun, providing a different enough experience from the Conquest mode to deepen the gameplay. It might seem like launching with four maps would be to the game’s detriment, but for a downloadable title it’s really not an issue. Even when dozens are available, players usually choose a handful of favorites to stick with – DICE just picked the best few ahead of time, saving gamers the effort.
Other aspects of Battlefield were also simplified a bit. In order to make it more streamlined, much of the complexity of the typical Battlefield title has been stripped away, creating a more compact Battlefield experience. Players’ ammunition and health replenish over time, negating the need of a medic or support class, leaving just three selections: infantryman, rifleman, and scout. It provides a different experience than the past few entries in the franchise have, but most won’t notice the omissions.
Gamers who picked up Bad Company last year will likely notice similarities. The games feel the same, but 1943 has been cleaned up a bit. Some of the squad joining issues that bothered players last year have been fixed, and the game engine has been modified and enhanced. The bright blue skies and green foliage of the pacific pop, giving the game a hyper-realistic appearance. Destructible environments are even better than they were in Bad Company, and most of the game’s buildings can be leveled entirely. It doesn’t lay a finger on Red Faction: Guerilla, but it adds a lot to the Battlefield gameplay. In many ways, the audio is as important as the visuals in 1943 – it’s vital to know where certain enemies are and where gunshots are coming from. It’s stellar, continuing DICE’s lineage of providing some of the best sound effects and music in the industry.
When it was released, the massive influx of Battlefield players who purchased 1943 crippled the servers. Luckily, most of the problems have been fixed, making the game much easier to get into. Battlefield 1943 is in no way a replacement for a normal Battlefield game. The lack of maps, limited player classes, low multiplayer cap, and lack of bot support keeps it from becoming the console Battlefield some hoped it would be. It’s a miniature version, a smaller, quicker Battlefield, and one that is better suited for a downloadable title. Even with its faults, 1943 is absolutely worthy of a purchase. You’d be hard pressed to find a better downloadable game thus far in 2009.