Review: Battlefield 1943

This article follows Kombo's review protocols

What the Game's About
A 565mb download-only title and the first of its kind on PSN and XBLA, Battlefield 1943 is a multiplayer-only extension from the Battlefield franchise, featuring a streamlined experience of the original. It offers both conquest and air superiority modes and four large maps (one is exclusively air-combat) in which up to 24 players can battle it out to determine whether the US marines are successful in their invasion of the fortified Japanese islands. The game differs from BF: Bad Company and instead returns to its roots, relying more heavily on vehicle use, territory-holding and general all-out slapstick carnage.

What's Hot
DICE knew exactly which elements of the Battlefield formula were the key ingredients, and the recipe has been stripped down to the essentials. While there are only three classes to choose from, they are excellently balanced and can be swapped mid-battle, providing you can find an appropriate corpse. Perhaps what’s most impressive is the ambition. Most XBLA games take a simple game mechanic, give it a mediocre graphical sheen and spin out a fairly substantial amount of content. BF:1943 however, takes all of the complexity and graphical prowess seen in full-priced blockbusters and merely trims the level of content down. For only 1200MS/£10/$15 approx. you get the level of quality you could expect from Farcry 2 or Bad Company’s multiplayer, making BF1943 outstandingly good value, yet it is the aforementioned perfect balancing that shines through above its competitors.
Players can choose not only between gunning or sniping, but also slamming a jeep into the wall of a building an enemy is hiding in, teaming up in a tank with an ally to blast their way through enemy fortifications or even nose-diving a plane into a flagpole in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the friendly flag from falling, only to jump out a second before impact and parachute to safety. The Frostbite engine allows for hundreds of different tactics, scenarios and other random insanity which makes every round a match to remember.

What's Not
Though visually the game chugs along at a good pace, there are irregular graphical issues, most notably audio-related. There is a nice shellshock-type muting of sound whenever the player is too close to an explosion, but on multiple occasions certain elements of the audio cut out abruptly and tarnish what is otherwise a beautifully crafted chaotic sound medley. Neither can it be ignored that this game encountered myriad connection issues immediately after release, on 360 more so than PS3. DICE can be partially excused for the disgraceful list of glitches and insufficient server capacities as BF:1943 has been more successful than they may have anticipated, and further excused for their continuous updates and improvements. Nevertheless, for a game that is exclusively about online interaction it is unacceptable for so many errors to be present in the first week of release. DICE are still yet to allow parties of friends to be placed on the same team each round and some servers are under-filled at the time of writing, so hopefully BF:1943 will receive even more fixes in the coming days.
Control-wise, BF:1943 takes a little getting used to too, and most players will jump straight to the fairly limited options screen to attempt to reconfigure the inputs to their own preferences. Once players get the hang of them, they are adequate, if not as tight as COD or Killzone. There are other minor niggles, such as the lack of any kind of HUD regarding flag capturing, short of looking directly up at the flagpole, leaving you exposed. Historical buffs will also notice discrepancies, with the IJN using the Kar98 instead of the Arisaka, among the more obvious historical fabrications, so it’s worth bearing in mind that this game is pure arcade-style, and can make no claims of the authenticity or realism that Call of Duty or BF:1943’s other contemporaries offer.

Final Word
With Battlefield 1943, DICE has created an incredible environment in which a simple set of rules allows for infinite experimentation and destruction and can be just as inspiring when watching from afar as it is being smack in the middle of the gunfire an explosions. With player skill and KD ratios taking a back seat, and allowing sheer fun and mayhem to drive, the possibilities for light-hearted team play seem endless, though unfortunately this is BF:1943’s Achilles heel; players are selfish and any form of coherence on the battlefield is very hard to find. If you can forgive the game’s niggles and want a bit of casual, silly carnage then this new streamlined version of Battlefield will provide exactly that, and for under tenner (£) you would be hard pressed to find anything better, online or offline. Move over Peggle, this lobby-free and addictive game is the new benchmark of excellence for XBLA and PSN games

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