For those facing the war this means hunger, misery and especially death in almost every way possible. I never took part in a war and I don’t wish to since a few weeks ago when I saw a small movie with an afgan soldier brutishnessly killing a Russian. On the other hand war means also heroic deeds and patriotism. In fact, these two aspects mix and so war fascinates, not in a morbid way, many of us making us dreaming about those historical times or wondering what would have happenned if we took part in that armed conflict. Speculating the lack of interactivity of books and movies, game producers launched titles like Return to Castle Wolfenstein or Medal of Honor: Allied Assault who try to recreate the second World War athmosphere, this being one of the main subjects that games approached in the last few years. One such game who recently entered the scene is Battlefield 1942 built on the engine and gameplay of Codename Eagle, produced by the swedish from Digital Illusions three years ago and who attracted lots of people with its multiplayer and the possibility of controlling many vehicles.
Right from the start, Battlefield 1942 really rocks. The intro movie is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a game. The only comparison I could do is if I consider the Red Alert teaser from good old 1997. Entertaining music, breath taking scenes, everything you need to be stunned and willing to get to the action as quick as possible has been implemented in the beggining. The same music filled with lots of adrenaline, repetitive but never boring, welcomes you in the menu who, fortunately, presents you two modes: single-player and multiplayer.
The single-player missions do not form a classic campaign. Even if you play Axis or Allied (USA, Japan, Soviet Union, Germany and Great Britain), the 16 scenarios are just a warm-up for the multiplayer mode because there is no story to follow, just brief descriptions of historical facts. Here you play with bots against bots. There are options that can modify the AI but after a few hours you easily notice these guys are not the real deal you’ve expected especially considering the unforseeable actions and mistakes.
There are 5 classes available: Scout, Assault, Anti-Tank, Medic and Engineer and you play in a first person mode with them but Battlefield 1942 is not just a FPS. You can control one of the 35 types of vehicles starting with airplanes, tanks, jeeps, APCs, aircraft carriers and submarines in multiplayer but this is no simulator. It is true that ground vehicles follow the enclination of the landscaoe, that they have different speeds and different ways of controlling these monsters but the game always keeps it simple. Some vehicles can be controlled with keys and mouse. Keys give you direction and speed while the mouse helps you look around. More persons can, also control almost any vehicle, or parts of it once which gives a plus to the gameplay and possible tactics. When piloting or driving you can change perspective which is a welcomed feature since the freedom of movement in the first-person mode made me bite the dust a few times.
Even if speed and efficiency is not class dependent you cannot any weapon like Counter-Strike. Anti-tank class comes with a rocket launcher, the Medic heals his mates, the Engineer repairs any vehicle and the Scout can take down enemies with a sniper. One can notice that Battlefield 1942, a team-action game in fact, makes a huge step in front of Counter-Strike, offering a more exact specialization of players, not as realistic as they wanted to be although for example projectiles have a curved trajectory, tanks are better armoured in front than in the back or on the sides or the turning or falling of a vehicle means the death of its passengers. It’s true that any game must entertain you and must make you feel as good as possible and from this point of view Battlefield 1942 excels especially in multiplayer.
The multiplayer features the same 16 maps (Guadalcanal, Stalingrad, Kharkov, El Alamein, Berlin and the favourite Omaha Beach) grouped in 4 great historical locations from WWII (western and Eastern Europe, Pacific and North Africa). If in single-player the game is very slow with everything to the max, it doesn’t matter the computer you have, in multiplayer there are problems with ping variation, long map loading times and, what’s most frustrating, often connection breaks so a very good Internet connection is needed for a smooth, out of trouble, gameplay.
In 16, 32 or even 64 players you will live one of the most fascinating multiplayer experiences when you will find yourself immersed in a 1 or 4 squared kilometers maps where everything hums and happens quickly and noisy for only one purpose, to destroy the enemy. The quick and muffled whistling of snipers’ bullets, the grave and intensity pushing sounds of bombs falling from the sky, earthquakes due to tank shells, everything contributes to the smallness and near chaotic sensation.
Besides Team Deathmatch, Co-Op and CTF, Battlefield offers the Conquest mode (that you can also find in single-player) very much like “capture and hold” from Team Fortress. In this mode each team starts with a number of tickets. If this number reaches zero the team loses. Each time you die your team loses a ticket. These tickets are also lost if the number of flags diminishes, flags which mark the neutral zones between the two teams. To capture one it is enough to stay beside one for a short period of time and that no other enemy unit is near by.
Even if the posession of other sites like bridges, bunkers or small villages do not influence the number of tickets they have their strategic importance partially due to their placement on the map and partially due to the fact that you can replenish your life or ammo.
Battlefield 1942 lets the death or survival of one player in a secondary plane and brings ahead the teamplay in all its splendour. Nothing is more delightful like a battle won because of the perfect coordination of the team players, each with his job well done. A great help comes from vocal communication and even the game doesn’t feature this there are no problems with the well-known Roger Wilco software.
Anyway, the game’s engine, Refractor 2 (the first version being used in Codename Eagle) is a very well performing one that allows a soldier being built by 4000 polys, a jeep having 2000 and a 300 m battle ship 10.000 polys. You just add the Ai, the realistic movement and physics of the vehicles or just some water and you’ve got a pretty complete image of Refractor’s capabilities. As the promisses of an editor luanched with the game were not materialised we can’t do anything besides waiting for an add-on to proove the flexibility of this engine.
It didn’t bother me the poor landscape, but the ground will not be affected by the explosions, the buildings under heavy bombing remain intact and the trees just won’t break when trying to pass over them with your tank. It is true you can pass over wired fences but it is frustrating when getting stuck between some palm trees or sand bags. On the other hand the maps are too small considering the action and movement range of some vehicles. In fact the limits of the maps are not represented by a wall but by an announcement that says desertors are punished with death which really happens if you persist in that direction.
Letting aside the negative aspects, it’s impossible not to say that Battlefield 1942, a succesful combination of more genres, represent the first step in the development of multiplayer games which try to simulate as good as possible the harsh reality without losing the gameplay, the most important and crucial element in a game. Battlefield 1942 is a living proof of an exceptional game in its simplicity.