Battlefield 1943 stormed onto the PS3 and Xbox360 this week… and then quietly slipped away as EA’s pitiful servers crumbled. Seriously though, I know that game launches are often marred by server problems but why is it that EA’s always seem so much worse? DICE and EA say that player volume was higher than expected and are now adding servers around the clock, call me a cynic but that’s the same thing EA say every-time a new game can’t cope with numbers… and do I really believe they didn’t expect this many players? I can’t help but feel its more likely that EA provided a “baseline” that stutters under the initial launch but then turns out to be a happy norm once things settle. Ok rant over, lets get down to business and find out why this is possibly the best game to hit the PSN and XBL this year!
Battlefield 1943 uses the same architecture (Frostbite engine) that powered Battlefield Bad Company but relocates the action to the pacific islands in World War 2 for an intense arcade shoot ’em up featuring three maps and a “Domination” style game mode. Also once your console of choice has racked up 43 million kills you’ll get access to a dogfight only map. The Frostbite engine deal beautifully renders the Pacific, bloom, blur and contrast all work to convey the sense of humidity, sun and tropical beauty… brutally bombed, shot and savaged by war. On the down side it still all has that “grain” effect, not sure it works for me but I can live with it. You can play the game on a SD TV but like most games these days its made for HD… in which it looks beautiful. SD TV users will get by, though chances are you’ll struggle reading text, icons and maps.
One of the best features of Bad Company was it’s audio, both the soundtrack and effects were thoughtfully created. 1943 is no different: expect to hear whizzing bullets, gorgeous explosions and new to this game some really gruff sounding aircraft.
Despite the server problems I did manage to play on the PS3 version minutes after it’s launch, and boy did I have a blast! I was keen to get straight into an aircraft so after spending some time on the tutorial and adjusting my controls I went straight into to battle, the aircraft don’t handle fantastically but once you pick it up getting kills can be easy, I soon found myself launching from my carrier, taking out enemy aircraft, tanks and troops then flying back home to regain health and taking off again.
Before I knew it I had won the “Milk Run” (Survive twenty minutes in an aircraft) “Fighter Ace” (Fifty kills with in aircraft) and “Fighter Ace” 14 times over (Five straight kills) once you get a feel for the sky and know when to avoid the AA guns you can have a real blast and unlike other FPS games with aircraft you can make a difference: establishing air superiority stops enemy fighters bombing your tanks and strafing your troops, makes it hard for them to launch landing craft and bomber runs – getting a headshot on an enemy soldier with your aircraft guns is just fantastic! As I write this it’s 1pm on saturday two days after launch and my eyes are melting onto my laptop because I’ve played this game so much. That’s how good it is!
As an FPS Battlefield 1943 performs rather well, the control sensitivity is a bit twitchy, though you can turn it down. There are three classes: Infantryman, rifleman and scout. Infantryman are good in close-quaters but difficult to use elsewhere, the scout uses a single shot bolt action rifle that whilst easy to aim feels underpowered and if you don’t get that crucial head shot by the time you have reloaded your prey will have legged it. I found the rifleman to be best for my style of play: great to run and gun over open ground, handles well up close and can take out pesky snipers if need be. The grenade launcher is also good for mopping up groups and combined with help from your team mates can take out tanks. Melee attacks feature bayonets, combat knives and the legendary Samurai Sword… a frightening sight when an Imperial soldier runs toward you slashing as you desperately try to reload your gun.
Tanks and Jeeps handle very well – though don’t expect to throw them up a hill, mounted machine guns (as it always seems on these games) make a lot of noise but require great skill, or the luck of the Irish to use accurately and more often than not shout “Hello, Red Team, we’re here – come shoot us!” Not ideal for sneaking into enemy bases.
Unfortunately Battlefield 1943 sees the return of Bad Company’s Squad system, this teams players up with three other combatants, sounds like a great Idea but it never seemed to work on Bad Company where I was never able to join my friends squad – even if we we’re playing through the same router, more often than not it would throw us on opposing sides and given that you could only voice chat to people in your squad it made for a very lonely experience (especially as voice chat barely worked) However in 1943 they have allowed players to opt out of squads, but voice chat still doesn’t seem to work on the PS3 version and when I wanted to be in a squad it would throw me and my pals into opposite teams – Nice one Dice, you actually patched this in Bad Company and yet your new title still gets it wrong. Why is it you struggle where Call of Duty and Halo get this so very right?
Lag generally hasn’t been a major issue however it does exist, my advice is that if it becomes apparent you’re fighting folk from across the pond and you can’t seem to make your rounds hit then try another game. That said I had a number of great dogfights with a chap from Japan and didn’t notice any noticeable lag.
Currently the servers are still patchy for me, I managed to get in yesterday though I can’t today (Saturdays are always busy). Generally though as soon as America comes online it all goes downhill… however no doubt once EA/DICE have alienated enough customers and Demo owners the numbers of online players will drop to something more sustainable and we’ll be able to get online.
Stuff that works
It’s not all however bad news and it’s great to see some new features, squads can now put markers on objectives (defend or attack) and the game will also highlight where the highest concentration of enemy troops are, a move made to encourage all of those happy campers to actually join in and do something useful. While you can still kill the enemy in their main bases you won’t actually get rewarded for it – so bad luck to all of you vultures out there. enemy bases also come equipped with a number of AA guns so no more never ending bombing runs as you might see in Warhawk once your opponents are on their last legs.
For £10 this game is a bargain – just don’t expect to be able to voice chat, play in the same team as your friends… or play anything other than the tutorial for a week or so. However it is possibly the best network game we’ll see this year… and if DICE/EA have any sense they’ll take note of the success and expandability of Warhawk.