Review: Battlefield 1942 (PC)

Posted in Action,Gaming,PC,Reviews by Shawn Wallace on 2 2002f October 2002

Ever since Quake the online gaming masses have banged their fists in request of an online game that can incorporate on-foot combat with vehicles. EA and Dice have risen to this challenge with their World War II offering, Battlefield 1942. Instituting grand battles, offline and online, with the inclusion of land, sea and air vehicles, BF1942 (as it’s affectionately abbreviated) seeks to do all of these things. Well, we can say it’s practically succeeded.

The game consists of 2 CDs and the install is fairly quick. Even though this means little to most, if you have at least two CD or DVD drives, you can put each disk in and when the game asks for disk 2 you can point it at your other drive. A small consolation but helps with the disk swapping none the less. The kicker here is that before the game was on shelves and, as of this writing, a version 1.1 patch is out. Feel free to peruse your favorite gaming file site ( FilePlanet and FileShack have the patch, just to name a couple) to pick this patch up as it addressed many an issue with the initial 1.0 release. After game installation I downloaded the 1.1 patch and it installs very quickly.

I’m going to back this up a bit as I played many hours of the multiplayer demo and a few hours of the single player demo. The single player demo (released prior to the multiplayer demo) was a nice taste but a technical mess. There were so many glitches it was hard to make a decent opinion of whether I would like this title or not. However, once the multiplayer demo was released, my fate was sealed. However, as far as 2 hours into the single player experience of the retail edition of this game, I was weary of whether it could hold any water. I allowed myself only select multiplayer sessions and tried to focus on the single player aspect of this game but the single player has a few glaring flaws. However, do not let this sway you. Read on, my friend.

It’s been a long, long time since I have felt the sheer joy and excitement from a game. Players can choose from several individual classes as well as various classes and styles of gameplay. Players can range from an assault class which carries a heavy machinegun to a medic or even an engineer. The assault class is, obviously, focused on assault while other classes such as the scout (a sniper, really) and the anti tank which carries a bazooka style weapon. All classes come with a knife and pistol for those oh so personal encounters.

Game types vary from the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag to the shining jewel of Battlefield 1942, the Conquest gametype. A typical Conquest game sees the players on a map with several flags points and a ticket value. Depending upon the scenario the flag points are occupied by either the Axis or the Allies. The goal is to get within a certain range of each flag point and remain there until the flag point moves from enemy control to neutral control. A few more moments and the flag point will move from neutral control to friendly control. As each flag point is held, ticket values decrease. The goal is to hold as many points as possible. Another advantage is that players can spawn at any of flag points held by their team. The longer you hold a point, the lower the enemy’s ticket value goes (an example is the demo map, Wake Island, where, by default, each team starts with approximately 200 tickets. As you hold each point those values go down). Other actions, such as killing your opponents, cause ticket values to go down also. The first team to 0 tickets loses the scenario. Dice has also been kind enough to include a heartbeat the ticks faster and faster as you near a 0 ticket count. A fair warning that cardiac arrest is imminent for your team.

Map types vary from deserts to islands to forests (including snow) to cityscapes (or, to be more exact, the remnants of). You’ll find yourself battling on the islands of Midway to the leveled Stalingrad to the snowy hills of the Battle of the Bulge. Each map requires its own tactic. Such island maps as Midway and Iwo Jima will see troops landing in boats and taking enemy occupied bunkers. Desert maps such as El Alamein and Operation Battle Axe require heavy artillery and plenty of quick decision making. Forest maps such as the Battle of the Bulge and Kursk are sniper friendly, offering high hills for marksmen to perch atop and kill from afar. Cityscapes such as Kursk and Stalingrad also offer sniper havens but really allow armor and aircraft to shine in support roles. Let’s be clear that this is still a first person shooter and it all really comes down to efficient and effective troop movements. Unlike current popular shooters such as Counter-Strike and Unreal Tournament 2003, you’ll get nowhere fast trying to do things alone. One piece of strategy to always keep in mind… always, always, always have backup.

The vehicles that exist in this title are also a total treat. Shelling a beach from a destroyer is very satisfying as you pummel the shores and watch troops fly through the air like unwitting stuntmen. Cruising the desert in a tank, scanning the horizon for enemy armor, or flying across an island in a jeep present unique experiences for a shooter type game. Very, very satisfying.

To emphasize this game type, I can’t really remember the last game that had me sitting up on the edge of my chair with sweaty palms. Knowing that securing the one remaining flag point for just a few more seconds will ensure victory makes every shot count that much more. Understand that this game is NOT a twitch game. Hand to hand combat requires quick reflexes, to be sure, but overall a good strategic mindset will win almost every time.

The story centers around the key battles of World War II. The single player aspect of this game really feels more like a multiplayer battle so if you’re looking for an experience where you have specific goals such as rescue Mr. X or retrieve item Y then this isn’t for you. There’s a game that came out earlier in the year called Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, I’d highly recommend that to you.

Another high point of this game is the sound. One factor that helps this game so well is your different sounds of war from varying distances. A beach being shelled, an incoming bomb that buzzes just over your position, bullets whizzing by, airplanes screaching overhead, all add to the experience. The sounds are convincing and truly help to immerse you in the game. A Thompson being fired from afar and right next to you have distinctly different flavors. An artillery shell exploding next to you as opposed to slamming into the hull of a vessel a ways out in the water, again, sound completely different and authentic. If you’ve seen Forrest Gump and can remember the jungle combat sequence and the complete chaos of sound, you’ll be glad to know that BF1942 can produce the same dizzying sensations. Dying has never been so fun.

Again, spot on. Beautifully rendered palm trees sway in the ocean breeze. Soldier’s angry expressions glare at you as you fight hand to hand, face to face. Concrete bunkers are chipped, showing their gritty insides. Aircraft carrier deck’s wooden planks are notted and used. The sun glinting off of water is one of the more convincing effects I’ve ever seen, helping to add to the overall completeness and fun of the game. One item not included are blood sprays and splatters. They’re not needed. Just like a Stephen Spielberg movie, the pretty visuals are used to help advance the experience, not take it over and be center stage.

Just as I mentioned above, the single player experience mimics the multiplayer experience. The reason for this is that multiplayer is where it’s at with this game. Hopping on a server with 64 players at Guadalcanal or El Alamein is an experience not quite like any other. Charging the airfield on Wake Island with 10 other soldiers, guns blazing and rockets flaring helps make Battlefield 1942 a serious contender for Game of the Year by many sources. The netcode seems fairly stable, although not quite as solid as Half Life or Unreal Tournament. The game includes an inline server browser, although I’d recommend picking up a third party server browser like GameSpy or All Seeing Eye to find the server that’s right for you. Even if you do use the in game server browser, you’re still likely to find a decent server near you. Another testament to the completeness of the game.

Easily one of the best shooters of the year. The total immersiveness of the game is a testament to its developers. If you’re looking for a top notch online shooter where teamwork is key and the visuals are convincing (and the whole thing is just downright fun) then look no further than Battlefield 1942. Right now, this game is where it’s at.

Final Score: 90/100
» Official Product Page
» Publisher // Electronic Arts
» Developer // DICE
» Reviewer // Shawn Wallace

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