Battlefield 1943 is a unique entry in the world of videogames. Costing just $15 USD (£10) and weighing in at a meager 565 MB, DICE Studio’s downloadable multiplayer shooter features just three maps, three classes and one game mode, yet it has the look and feel of a big budget game, playing host to 24 players online and giving wannabe-soldiers access to a range of impressive World War II vehicles. Battlefield 1943 may only offer a bite-sized chunk of the complete Battlefield experience, but it has been fine-tuned to near perfection. It may also lack many of the features that we’d see in a Call of Duty game or any other fully-priced online shooter, but in terms of entertainment value, this relatively tiny download offers the whole package. If this fast-paced shooter is a sign of the things to come on the PlayStation Network, then there’s an even brighter future for downloadable console games then we could have ever possibly imagined.
Battlefield 1943 is a typical first person shooter that pits the U.S. Marine Corps against the Japanese Imperial Army in battles across three island locations. Though kill count is obviously extremely important as it sways the tide of battle and improves your overall ranking, the team goal is to take control of five territories across the various locations. The three classic Battlefield maps offer an array of tactical opportunities. Currently, Wake Island, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima are the maps available, though we’ve been promised another map, titled Dogfight, once gamers have accumulated 43 million total kills (we’re not far off that figure already). There’s going to come a time, of course, when the community yearns for some more maps, but for the time being the three brilliantly designed locations offer more than enough variety and tactical opportunity.
All three locations are graphically impressive, with each sporting a glistening coastline, highly-detailed encampments and rich foliage. Furthermore, each island has a distinctive design to allow you to experiment with a variety of tactics. The U-shaped design of Wake Island, for instance, offers an expansive area of sea which is ideal for providing aerial support for your squads, but it also has numerous hilly climbs that make it ideal for snipers. On the other hand, the smaller club-shaped island of Iwo Jima, with its hilly terrain, trenches and numerous machine-gun emplacements, is a tight map, so you experience much more action in terms of close-quarter fighting. Brandishing a bayonet close to our chests and impaling anyone who is caught wandering around the trenches is just one of our favorite strategies on this volcanic island. Overall, the three maps offer plenty of eye-candy, but they’re also cleverly designed to make the most of the various classes and vehicles that can be used to tip the battle in your favor.
Though there are only three classes available — Rifleman, Infantry, and Scout — they all bring something unique to the table. Unless you find a firm favorite you can expect to switch regularly between them (each time you die) in order to adapt your tactics and utilize their various strengths. Each class has its own primary and secondary weapon, and switching between them is simple and intuitive. They also handle particularly well. If you have the skills, you can quite easily snipe a soldier driving along in his jeep from high up on a hill, or fire a rocket straight at a tower and send it crashing to the ground. There’s also plenty of fun to be had out of placing the Scout’s satchel charges and standing back and watching the carnage unfold, or plowing through a group of Japanese soldiers with the Infantry man’s sub-machine gun. Having unlimited ammo certainly helps to keep the action flowing, as does being able to jump into one of the vehicles and move swiftly from one end of the island to the other.
The thrill of jumping into a landing craft and darting across the water with other friendly boats by your side and storming a stronghold en masse helps to bring home the intensity of war. Equally, taking a ride in a tank and blowing to pieces an enemy stronghold, or swooping overhead in a fighter plane to unleash a barrage of bombs, makes you feel like you’re really part of an epic team battle. Vehicles are great fun to use, mainly because their weapons can cause some serious destruction, and although the tank and the plane do take some skill to handle, using their power to help out your teammates and clear an enemy stronghold is an essential and enjoyable part of each battle.
Inexperienced gamers, who will almost certainly get killed on a regular basis, may be put off by the fiercely competitive online community, which is already rife with great players, but seasoned gamers should relish the challenge. Indeed, the more we’ve played Battlefield 1943, the more we’ve enjoyed it. Though capturing territories is always the goal in Battlefield 1943, the beauty of having different classes, various vehicles and large maps is that you can go about winning in an infinite number of ways and tailor the experience to your own enjoyment. You can hop into a tank and bulldoze your way into an enemy camp, or jump into the cockpit of a plane and scatter bombs over your opponents. Alternatively, you can head out on-foot and take up a position on a hill to snipe out enemies from a distance, or run into a stronghold all guns blazing. Similarly, you can choose to defend a position or attack an enemy encampment, join a squad of players and work as a team, or greedily go it alone in an attempt to make it onto the leaderboard when the end-game stats are calculated. There’s so much variety to the gameplay that no Battlefield game ever feels the same.
The enjoyment of the Battlefield experience is helped immeasurably by the fact that the games run extremely smoothly. So far, we haven’t encountered problems finding a game, and there’s been no sign of lag thanks to the dedicated servers. There is one big negative that currently hampers the experience, however: the voice-chat is faulty. We can hear everyone in the lobby, but as soon as the game starts it keeps cutting out, or doesn’t work at all. It’s a frustrating issue, but we understand that this problem is being addressed and should be fixed shortly.
If Battlefield 1943 was a full-priced retail game we would moan about the lack of features, such as no clan support, having only one game mode, and the limited amount of weapons and maps available. For the price, however, you certainly get more than enough for your money. Great looking locations and expertly designed maps, a well-balanced weapon set, destructible environments and an excellent squad command system await those who download this gem of a title. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’d be foolish to miss out on one of the best ever games to hit the PlayStation Network. You can rest assured that the Battlefield servers are going to be busy for a long time to come.