Review: Battlefield 1942: The Road to Rome (PC)

Posted in Action,PC,Reviews by Shawn Wallace on 2 2003f April 2003

The front is expanding!  Soldiers are being called out to join the war on the Italian front, venturing forth to do battle in the Italian and Sicilian campaigns of World War II.  Do you have what it takes to take the hills of Operation Husky and Monte Cassino?  Can you and your fellow soldiers fend off the Axis and lead the Allies to victory?  What’s more, can DICE and EA deliver, yet again, an immersive and satisfactory expansion to their ever-popular Battlefield 1942?  Read on to find out.

Initial Setup
A single disk and you’re off and running.  After getting into the interface, if you want to go straight to the new maps, you’ll need to either choose Instant Action for single player or use the Sort feature in the multiplayer component to show only the servers running Road to Rome maps.  Both of these options are easily findable and take nothing to implement.  Pick a map or server and you’re on your way.

2-hour Impression ©
It’s all here.  That same great gameplay element still exists and the new maps are challenging.  The same learning curve exists and by getting to know the maps you’ll have an instant advantage over your opponents.  There are some sound issues present but overall the experience has been positive.  I played for 6 hours and didn’t even know it… good stuff.

Since Road to Rome is an expansion pack the same basic gameplay is going to exist.  Just in case you’re new to the whole Battlefield 1942 experience here’s a quick rundown (if you’re already a seasoned vet, simply click here to move on).  Road to Rome (RtR) comes with the same gameplay elements of Battlefield 1942 (BF1942) but the game mode you’ll find most online is Conquest, which I’ll detail here.

Conquest consists of a map full of control points.  These points are marked by flags.  As each side captures these control points the flag at that point will change to reflect the controlling team.  Teams can capture control points by simply getting within close proximity of the control point.  The more teammates you have close to the control point, the quicker it gets captured.  However, if an enemy is within control distance of the control point you can not capture it.  Now, don’t get ahead of yourself and say ‘this is Capture The Flag’ because it’s definitely not that.  The entire point of the Conquest game mode is to get your enemy’s ticket count, relative to their control of the battle field, down to 0.  Depending upon the settings of the server you’re playing on, ticket counts can start equally or sometimes the team that starts at a disadvantage will start with a higher ticket count (just as in WWII, some scenarios will find your time starting on the downside of things.  When this is the case the entire objective is to get back to level ground or to take control of the situation.  Trust me, it’s fun).

As a team captures more control points and gets kills their opponent’s ticket count goes down.  It also works in reverse.  As they kill your team and capture your points, your ticket count goes down.  This is why the team play aspect of this game is so important.  If you think you can just run around and, single handedly, take out the enemy and capture control points you’re sorely mistaken.  Yes, it is possible to pull a ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and go up against a larger opposing force and win (as many seasoned BF1942 players will tell you, more than once they’ve taken out several opponents to capture a point and they’ve done it alone.  Many a classic gaming moment has stemmed from these actions but this is neither the time nor place to discuss such exploits) but generally it’s teamplay and cooperation that wins the day.

RtR introduces four new Italian maps to the mix of BF1942 maps.  These new locations are a fresh change from the BF1942 maps (the original maps take place in Europe and Africa while the new maps are Italian) and from the first moment you join a game you’ll notice the mediterranean architecture, the rolling hills and lapping waves that are almost always present.  To get right to the meat of things, one thing became very apparent after just an hour or so of gameplay… the terrain in RtR plays such an enormous role in how teams decide their strategies.  However, what RtR also showed me was how important terrain is in BF1942.  After playing so much and learning the maps it’s easy to forget how great a gaming experience BF1942 truly is.  RtR attempts to carry on that tradition.

The RtR expansion pack has tweaked gameplay only slightly by adding some new weaponry and vehicles plus a new type of terrain architecture.  The steep ocean cliffs make for a lot of ‘serpentine’ moves and also offer many a vantage point to the lucky soldier(s) who take advantage of them.  Scouts, which are the sniper class, become a vital necessity as the enemy has so many high vantage points that if you have a squad moving between these high hills and cliffs you’ll need someone that can spot an enemy from a good distance.  Again, team play rules the day and the smartest teams will have a nice balance of classes that are capable of many things.

Speaking of player classes, new classes weren’t added to the mix but adjusted and enhanced weaponry were added, mainly due to the French and Italian forces that players can now be part of.  Two of the biggest ‘movers and shakers’ as far as weaponry are the Italian Breda assault rifle and the British Sten.  The British and Germans have access to the BAR for their Assault class and the Italian Breda assault rifle is a fine addition to the weapons roster.  With a comperable rate of fire and a good aural punch to it, it’s sure to fit right in.

The gameplay differs greatly depending on which class you decide to play.  The Assault, Anti-Tank and Scout class will find themselves right in the thick of things while the Medic and Engineer will most likely be tasked to repair hardware and soldiers.  This doesn’t mean that Engineers and Medics can’t fight, quite the contrary.  They are well equipped in the weapons department and are find additions to any fighting force.

I was going to attempt to describe a sample scenario for you but after more than one try it became apparent that the entire BF1942/RtR experience really can’t be put into words.  Even though the single player experience, which has been improved since BF1942 due to the absence of bot scripting, is fairly solid, nothing compares to joining a 64 player server and attempting to take the Monte Cassino monastery or venture forth to the town at the end of Operation Husky.  However, what I can sum up for you, in two words, is the feeling you’ll have after putting in some time and wits into RtR: complete satisfaction.

Even though the gameplay section of this review is alot of words, it really doesn’t say much.  I think this is a good thing.  What that means is I’m not bashing the gameplay of RtR.  DICE has done a great job of keeping that same feel to RtR which if it had changed even slightly it would have meant severe repercussions amongst the BF1942/RtR community.  EA and DICE have a great franchise on their hands and to make such an adjustment would not have been kosher.  Trust and believe, RtR carries on the tradition with solid, action-packed, methodical, team-oriented gameplay.

RtR focuses on the Italian and Sicilian campaigns of World War II.  Just as the old asying goes ‘Fact is better than Fiction’, RtR just solidifies that statement even more.  Knowing that you’re reenacting these great battles from an enormous war are simply astounding and the level of detail and knowledge that DICE put into effect is a testament to not only the developers but to the brave soldiers that fought in this great war.

A great game is only made greater by the sound aspect.  I hate to say it but this is where RtR lacks.  The sounds in version 1.2 of this game were far and away nearly perfect.  However, the version 1.3 patch, which is what was in place for this review, attempts to change some of these sounds with disastrous results.  Not only are the sounds less satisfying there’s also some technical glitches that sometimes prevents the sounds from even playing.  Some tweaks have been located but this is hardly a replacement for just making the sounds correct from the technical side.  At the time of this review DICE and EA are already discussing a version 1.31 patch and here’s to hoping they include an option to revert back to the old weapon sounds.

Now, obviously, old weapon sounds don’t exist with RtR and those weapons and vehicles are just fine… whey you hear them.  The ‘occasional aural black-out’ does occur, especially when using weapons or vehicles that exude the same sound over and over in a fast manner, such as a machine gun.  Some shots simply don’t sound off and it does take away from the experience slightly.  However, the intense gameplay and concentration on teamwork easily makes up for this shortcoming.

The great graphics in BF1942 haven’t been toned down for RtR which means gamers are in for a visual treat.  Trees sway in the wind, beautiful aircraft buzz overhead, detailed structures dot the landscape and imposing tanks rumble over the battlefield.  Texturing is done very, very well and I’m going to make the statement that performance has been improved since BF1942 (that’s from playing the game with the 1.25 patch that comes on the RtR CD.  I’m not taking into account the 1.3 patch used during a majority of this review).

The absolute beauty of this engine is apparent when you hop in the passenger side of a jeep and look over to see the driver not only breathing but you can watch his facial expression change as an enemy artillery explodes around you and he reels from the impact.  DICE has done a great job of rendering not only the soldiers but every single item that appears within the game.  There are few titles out there today that can match the performance and visual splendor of RtR.

This is what BF1942 and RtR were made for.  The netcode performance, which saw a great leap forward in reliability between the retail release of BF1942 and the 1.2 patch, is just as solid today with RtR.  The interface is easy to use and, for those who don’t want to use the in-game browser, which more often than not suits me just fine, you can find many games using game browsers such as GameSpy or All-Seeing Eye.

That unpreditable, human element that’s present in all multiplayer titles is really what makes RtR shine.  In this digital arena, to see several people, most of whom have probably never met, gather together and work as a team to take the Monastery at Monte Cassino or work their way around the cliffs of Anzio and systematically capture enemy bases is a sight to behold and is present in very few multiplayer titles today.  It also helps that DICE and EA have worked hard to ensure that balance and playability are not only existent but have been pored over and adjusted until players of all skills levels can compete.  Yes, there’s a learning curve but it’s none too steep.

In Conclusion
Building upon a solid franchise, The Road to Rome brings even more multiplayer action to the masses with great new locations and hearty weapons and vehicles.  It’s not too much to think that this franchise could carry on with at least another expansion pack, possibly two, and when the hardware reaches the next stage, to get another update to this modern classic.  All in all, The Road to Rome is easily worth the cost and will provide hours of extended life to the BF1942 gaming experience.


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