Review: Battlefield 1943 (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Battlefield 1943
Genre: FPS
Developer: DICE
Publisher: EA
Release Date: 07/08/09

Recently EA developers DICE decided to take a gamble. Would people buy a pared down version of Battlefield if they put it on Xbox Live Arcade with only a few online levels instead of releasing a full game? The answer is yes. Many, many people would do so. Part of the reason why is the fact that Battlefield 1943 not only remains true to the roots of the Battlefield experience, but because it simplifies aspects of the gameplay in order to make it accessible for everyone.

Unlike Bad Company there is no single player mode and no narrative. There are two modes, Conquest and Air Superiority, and Air Superiority is a variation of Conquest. For those who might’ve been sleeping in a cave for the past decade, the Battlefield games have revolved around the Conquest mode. Essentially, Conquest is a battle for spawn areas. Each team has a bar representing the amount of troops that can spawn. There are areas on the map to control and once you control those areas troops can respawn from there. Every map has five of these areas and whenever a team is in control of a majority of these areas it causes the opposing teams respawn bar to constantly shrink. As such, the objective of any game is to control these areas and defend them.

This is easier said than done.

There are three Conquest maps and one Air Superiority map. All of the Conquest maps are laid out in such a way that it truly shows how well DICE knows this style of game. There are no two maps that are similar and all of different ways of planning how to approach an area offensively or defensively are completely different.

Graphically, these maps are impressive and run off of the Frostbite Engine that was used in Bad Company, which means just about any building or plant life that looks like it can be destroyed is in fact destroyable. This means that sniper nest that looks safe is only a frag grenade away from being the worst hiding spot on earth. The maps are smaller than those found in Bad Company, but the draw distance is incredible; you can see what’s going on across the map, especially if you are using the sniper rifle. Of course, that has its own issues, as there are some skilled players that can actually pick you off from across the map….

Regardless, Battlefield 1943 is one of the best games graphically on XBLA. It uses the same engine as a retail game and it shows with amazing draw distance and great effects that happen with no slowdown.

Battlefield has always been a series that has had some great sound effects and audio, and 1943 isn’t an exception to this. The music during the menus perfectly fits the theme of the game, and all of the sound effects are powerful. If an explosion happens near your character, it will even cause an effect where every other sound afterward is dulled until your hearing is better. However, one unfortunate problem that I’ve incurred several times while playing the game is that the audio just cuts out randomly. I’m not sure of the cause for this, but it will just go silent occasionally for a couple minutes, a problem that I haven’t experienced in any other game.

One auditory note that I should warn other players about: if you are the type to use your headset a lot in this style of game… well you are out of luck. I’ve run across very few players who actually use their headset while playing Battlefield 1943. I’m unsure of the reason behind this, but it is something you might want to be aware of.

The game controls exactly the same as any other Battlefield console game, meaning if you have experience with either Battlefield 2 or Bad Company, then you already know what to expect when it comes to the control scheme. For those who are unfamiliar, it doesn’t control that differently from other FPS games like Call of Duty. The left trigger allows you to zoom in, the right trigger fires your weapon, X reloads, A jumps, B is used to interact, Y is for melee, and the R button switches between weapons. It controls perfectly with one exception that has always been an issue with the series: Vehicles still control awkwardly. Left trigger makes you go forward, the left bumper is used for reverse, and it takes awhile before you get the hang of how to actually get around with any of the vehicles because of this. Especially the planes. I highly recommend going through the tutorial for planes.

As previously mentioned, the map layout couldn’t be better. Like EPIC with the Unreal series (and to a lesser extent Gears), DICE knows how to perfectly balance a map for this style of gameplay. There are areas where you will have to defend a hill or try to conquer it, areas that seem like they aren’t major points but spawn tanks or other important vehicles, and other interesting things. Then there are the ways that DICE has streamlined the gameplay. In many other genres the word “Ëœstreamlined’ would be considered offensive, however for an online arcade version of Battlefield it feels only natural. Instead of 5 classes there are only 3: Scouts, Infantry and Rifleman. Scouts have the long range weapons, Rifleman midrange and Infantry short range. Currently online, the Rifleman and Scout classes are among the more popular classes since the short range weapons of the Infantry do less damage than either of the other classes, but that said, they are all evenly balanced. Infantry seems to get the short end of the stick, but they’re extremely useful for repairing vehicles, along with their anti-tank weaponry. Of course, most folks playing seem to want to either snipe or run and gun, in which case the other two classes are perfectly suited for this. Scouts and Rifleman both have some useful anti-armor weapons as well, but they pale in comparison to the Infantry. However, given the range of the draw distance and the fact that you can headshot someone from nearly across the map, Scouts are a popular choice for this, while Rifleman is the perfect choice for up front assault.

Instead of making you worry about health and ammo, the game grants you infinite ammo and regenerating health. This is a departure for the series, but given the nature of this game, it fits. Regenerating health just makes sense as they axed the support class. All of this adds up to a game that is finely balanced. The game can shift at any moment as players join and leave the game. At first, many did not seem to understand the point of Conquest and conquering spawn points wasn’t very hard to do, but over the past two weeks that has changed. The game is a battle for every inch of space with unspoken strategies shifting from one moment to the next, and Battlefield 1943 takes the addictiveness of the decade old Conquest mode and cuts away everything unnecessary until only the fast paced action of it remains.

Also there is less of a feeling that you aren’t playing very well with Battlefield 1943, as nearly everything you do gains you experience to the next rank. If you get more kills you will gain rank faster of course, but even a player with far more deaths than kills can advance. So far every server I’ve played on has been filled, but I can see this still being a fun game to play even if you are only playing with a general and two soldiers.

Since the game was released there was a bounty for each system on a set number of kills. Once that level was reached, then EA would unlock Air Superiority for that system’s users. While I do not like the fact that a mode made for the game was intentionally withheld until those playing reached a specific benchmark, Xbox Live users hit that number extremely fast. Unlike Conquest mode, Air Superiority is all about aerial warfare. There is only one area to capture, and the only way to do so is by having the most planes in the area at once. It’s definitely different from the other maps, and is useful for gaining more experience in a plane.

While playing the game there are achievements to earn and stamps to collect, which are infinitely harder to earn than the achievements, and while the gameplay is great, after a while of playing the same maps over and over again, you start to get tired of the same old thing. This is why full priced games generally are released with several maps and game types. By the time you reach that point, however, you will have sunk in enough time into the game as you would have a full priced title, so I’d say it is certainly worth the MS points.

There is one thing I would ask of those reading this before deciding to purchase the arcade Battlefield: honestly, for the price, just buy Bad Company if you don’t already own it. Battlefield 1943 costs 1200 MS points, or $15. It isn’t very hard nowadays to find a new copy of Battlefield: Bad Company new for $20 and that title has a full single player mode and more online modes and maps. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy Battlefield 1943, but I am saying you should buy Bad Company first.

The Scores:
Game Modes: Decent
Graphics: Great
Sound: Good
Control/Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Great
Balance: Incredible
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal: Great
Miscellaneous: Above Average
Final Score: GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary:

If you like FPS games and have 1200 MS points to spare, then Battlefield 1943 is perfect. It has been streamlined, but this was done in such a way that the game moves faster than ever before. It’s exciting, addictive, and a great way to waste an afternoon. But if you are going to spend $20 on a point card to buy this game, you may want to spend that money instead on the more expansive Battlefield: Bad Company if you don’t already own it.



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