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Friday, 10 July 2009

EA's Battlefield 1943 Review

Before I begin my review I would like to thank Yasir Alani for inviting me to the launch event for EA's Battlefield 1943 videogame. It was an honour to be invited to the launch and it was great meeting other people in the games industry.

Battlefield 1943 is technically the child of Battlefield 1942 as it takes all the good bits of the father and improves them ten times over. Visuals, gameplay and sound effects are all improved and make the playing experience much more enjoyable. However, just because it has been improved does not mean that it is without a few flaws and I will be addressing these later on. The version I tested was on the Xbox 360 which made the overall experience different since I have become more of a PC gamer over the years, especially when it comes to First Person Shooter games, although I will not let that affect the review.

The game is obviously set in 1943 (WW2), hence the name, and features two sides fighting against each other: United States Marine Corps and the Imperial Japanese Army. The aim of the game is to capture flags or rather territory and dominate the opposition until they have nowhere else to go. Both teams are aided with useful vehicles such as planes, tanks, boats and trucks to travel faster or to cause major damage to the scenery. I say this because the game runs on the Frostbite engine which has allowed the developers to make almost everything destructible such as buildings, trees and vehicles.

Players are no longer safe inside the once indestructible buildings of the "old games" and it is this twist that enhances the gameplay. One example was when I hid behind a tree after being discovered by an enemy tank and waited until they went away. This tactic failed as the tree fell over from the shower of tank bullets and I ended up being exposed. You can guess the rest and it goes to show that it's little features like this that can change the way people strategise in the game. Unfortunately there are a few structures that can't be destroyed and this takes away the feeling of freedom and can cause the player to die as they wasted their shot.

The game seems to relate to the number "three" quite often because there are "three" classes: Rifleman, Infantry and Scout although I think Sniper would have been a better name since that's really what the scout is. There are also "three" levels plus a bonus one called "Coral Sea" which is unlocked once the entire community rakes up a massive "forty three" million kills. Why that particular number? The hint is in the game title. It's an ingenious idea since it brings the community together, attracts more players and creates an aim that drives people to play for longer hours. If it were up to me then I'd have made the achievement even more interesting by only allowing the first console to reach that number to unlock it, essentially creating a competitive console race. Although the level would eventually be shared with the losing console otherwise it would lose sales. As I write this, the leading console with the most kills is the Xbox 360.

In relation to numbers, did you know that the game is only £9.99? (1200 Xbox Points) That's amazingly cheap for a game of this quality and it's all because it's distributed online instead of on a CD. The way of the future no less and it is something that I think a lot of games companies will adopt in the near future. I think the price is perfect since you are only getting three levels (+ bonus map) and the classes are simplified to allow all sorts of players to quickly jump in and have a great time. It's the type of game that can be played for an hour and is good for those of you with little free time to play games.

During my playtest I got a chance to try each class and I have to say that my favourite is the Rifleman as he appears to be the "middle man" that most people can quickly master. I managed to gather up an "amazing three" kills with that class, although you can blame my terrible skills as I am mainly used to playing on the PC! The next class, infantry, is more like the machine gun guy who works best in close quarters and lastly is the scout class which I believe is the hardest to master as he requires greater accuracy. It takes a fair amount of skill to kill an enemy who is jumping up and down and running about.

The gameplay handles like any other first person shooter game and does not throw anything new into the formula although it doesn't need to as the game does what it was made to do and that is to simulate a WW2 game. As you play more and more of the game you earn new ranks which are only used for bragging and showing that the player has experience. It would have been nice if the ranks gave the player slight advantages over others such as a slight damage increase.

The controls aren't confusing although I did have trouble getting into vehicles as there was a delay after pressing the B button. This kept causing me to press it again essentially making me get in and out over and over. Other than that, there are plenty of control options which you can change to suit your needs such as reversing which analog stick aims and which one moves the character around. Flying the plane is also difficult and I can guarantee that you will crash at least five times before taking off but don't let that make it sound like a fault because once you master it; you can dominate the scoreboards and gain a huge advantage.

Regarding sound, it was unfortunate that the volume was considerably lowered during testing however from what I did hear, it sounded like I was participating in a real war as far as I am aware. (Who here has fought in a real war?)

For a game that's distributed online, it's amazing how high the graphic standards have improved over the years and when I first played the game I almost felt like I was playing EA's Crysis. The lighting ranges from tropical daytime in two of the three maps and a warm afternoon in the other. It would have been nice if Guadalcanal and Wake Island had different distinguishing features however this is not the case and it's disappointing since there are only three levels. They are so similar in fact that I can't even tell which one I tested at the event.

One thing that bothers me is the fact that the game only supports a maximum of 24 players, which is impressive for a downloadable game, however the levels were partly adopted from the older game and it feels as though they are still too big for the maximum amount of players. Funnily enough the FAQ on their website acknowledges this and claims that testing has shown it works, but I disagree. I just hope that the PC version can support 64 players as that's almost a standard number for most online PC games these days.

Speaking of the PC version, I haven't been able to play it yet because it is not out until autumn 2009. I would like to see the ability for users to create user made levels as I believe it is vital for the industry to support modders as they can greatly improve a game and raise sales. An example I can think of is that the modders could add blood to the game since it seems to lack it for reasons unknown.

Overall the game is very polished with no glitches that I am aware of although there are rumours of a "falling through the ground" glitch after death but this can be easily overlooked for such a cheaply priced game with brilliant visuals and easy to use controls. In regards to the glitch comment, I stand corrected as I just found this YouTube video that reveals a rather humorous glitch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_d4vRDbUM4 - Thanks r34perpwnz

If my experience with the console version was good then there is no doubt that the PC version will be even better! Let's pray that they include a software development kit for all the modders out there.

I would like to end the review with a quote by Daemon Hatfield (2009) on IGN because I think this best describes the feeling of the game: "One of my favorite moments is when I spawn on an aircraft carrier and have to take a ride back to the island on a boat. Tension builds as I see explosions and gunfire erupting everywhere I look until I finally hit the beachhead and rejoin the fight. Great stuff."

For more information on the videogame visit: http://www.battlefield1943.com/

(Image Sources: EA Press ZIP sent by E-mail)

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