US: 1 Jul 2009
Compared to its peers, Battlefield 1943 seems like a gimped game. With only three classes, no unlockable weapons, no persistent online character, only three maps, and one game mode (though by now a fourth map and new mode have been added to the game), it simply doesn’t stand up to Halo 3 and Gears of War 2, both of which offer a tremendous amount of multiplayer content. But once you jump into a battle, you quickly realize the only thing that’s missing from this game is the excess. What you have left is a game that strives for no more than what’s necessary to make it fun and succeeds in every way.
The game plays like a traditional Battlefield game. Each match revolves around capturing flags, which act as spawn points, while killing enough enemies to drain that team’s “health bar.” It’s a combination of “Capture the Flag” and “Team Deathmatch” and results in a game with a little something for everyone. Offensive players can capture enemy flags while defensive players can protect their own. Players who prefer deathmath games are free to run around killing others, while players who prefer to capture flags can make that their focus.
Each battle is made up of several small skirmishes centered around the flags. Sometimes these fights are over quick. Other times the skirmish becomes a stalemate and the flag remains the center of battle for the entire match. Since each game revolves around these smaller fights, it’s guaranteed that no match will ever play the same. The ever-changing frontline encourages players to explore every corner of the map, and since there are only three maps in rotation it’s easy to get familiar with the general layout of each one. Once that happens, you’ll start to figure out ways to take advantage of the landscape. Now newcomers have a chance to learn some of the battlefield tricks usually reserved for die hard players. Whether it’s a hilltop perfect for sniping, or a steep slope you can jump up, every player can learn the intricacies of each map without sinking an absurd amount of time into the game specifically because there are only three.
The three classes are perfectly balanced with each one possessing a unique advantage in certain situations. This makes choosing a class an important tactical decision that players must make every time they die. Tank at your base? Spawn as Infantry and use the bazooka. Does that mountaintop have a clear view of the enemy base? Spawn as Scout and snipe. Infantry advancing? Spawn as Rifleman and shoot a rifle-grenade into the group. Because each class is tailored for specific situations, players are encouraged to constantly switch between them, adding another element to the ever-changing battlefield.
As previously stated, a new map and game mode have been added to the game. Players can now play Air Superiority on the map Coral Sea, a map and mode dedicated to air combat. Flying has always been notoriously difficult in Battlefield games, and it’s no different here. What is different here is the tutorial mode, a welcome new feature and necessary for newcomers. With it, anyone can become a proficient pilot.
Dogfighting in Battlefield 1943 is one of the most exciting experiences in any recent shooter. Since you have to take into account the distance and speed of the planes and aim ahead when you shoot, taking one down is a challenge. There’s no exact science behind shooting down a plane, it just takes practice to learn how far you should lead before you open fire. When you do shoot down your first plane it produces a moment of elation, and even as you become an expert, dogfighting still contains similar moments of glee. Whether it’s shooting down your first plane, saving an ally who’s got someone on his tail, parachuting onto an enemy carrier and stealing their plane, or bombing a plane as it takes off, Air Superiority is filled with moments that make you want to throw your fist into the air and shout “Yeah!”
Battlefield 1943 is packed with moments like that. On its surface it seems like a very realistic shooter, but at its core, it’s an over-the-top arcade game filled with spectacularly unrealistic moments that you’ll want to tell your friends about. It has far less content than some of its peers, but what’s there is perfectly balanced so that no class, no gun, and no map stand out as a clear best. You’ll use all of them and love all of them. While other multiplayer games are growing with map pack after map pack, Battlefield 1943 proves that bigger is not always better.