Sorry, solo gamers, Battlefield 1943 can only be bought and played online. There’s no single player campaign, no option to fight bots – there isn’t even the option to run around the maps on your own (unless you’re playing the tutorial). It’s all about human vs human FPS combat; a game so perfectly balanced to accommodate and encourage the randomness of online play that it simply wouldn’t work with AI. Its predecessor, Battlefield 1942, had a single-player campaign, but it was the multiplayer that really put the series on the map.
Why? An AI player simply wouldn’t think to take control of a plane and aim it at an enemy tank in a kamikaze dive-bomb maneuver to save a spawn-point from capture or co-ordinate an attack on an enemy base by using landing craft to circle around the back and men parachuting out of planes to attack from above. No, Battlefield 1943’s main strength is in the way it offers up a balanced set of boy’s toys and encourages its 24 players to experiment with them. Lone soldiers can easily take out tanks, and one man in an AA gun can dominate the skies like a squadron of fighters.
Sure, getting to grips with the flight controls can be a pain, but once you get the hang of it, the planes in particular open up a wealth of new attacking options and add a real richness to the gameplay. You know you’ve arrived in Battlefield when you’re in the gunner’s seat of a tank, trundling towards an enemy spawn point, watching a dogfight overhead.
These big, unscripted moments encourage a sense of camaraderie that few other multiplayer games manage. The maps too, seem to have been designed to promote a sense of parity between attacker and defender, man and machine. Although there are only three locations included in the download (with a fourth, free ‘aircraft only’ stage becoming available shortly after launch) each area should be large and varied enough to hold your attention for months. Almost everything on each map can be levelled or destroyed, even stout buildings and trees, so there are few safe places to hide and camp with a sniper-rifle. On top of this, essential items like tanks, planes and AA emplacements regularly respawn, so there’s never a permanent advantage handed to any specific type of warfare or tactics.
If you find yourself feeling bored of ‘the same old maps’ in Battlefield, you’re not being creative enough with what you’ve been given. You need to think in three dimensions; you need to think about using the skies and the seas to your advantage instead of just running around the islands, treating the game as just another, bog-standard FPS. That said we do hope that EA continues to support the game in the future with fresh maps and gameplay tweaks. Even during our time with the pre-release version of the game, we encountered spawn-camping, although efforts have been made to prevent it becoming a valid tactic (kills in ‘non-griefing’ areas of the map won’t award points).
Camping snipers will also find it tough to dominate – bomb raids are lethal and widespread. It’s a pity that there’s only one mode on offer though; Conquest is a hybrid between team deathmatch and territories, where the aim is capturing spawn points across the map while scoring kills. The Coral Sea map, which will be available soon, introduces Air Superiority (team deathmatch in planes) so we’re hopeful later DLC will bring more modes.
When a game relies entirely on human interaction, there are always going to be highs and lows, and even with the odd dirty tactic, the thrills of Battlefield 1943 outweigh the frustrations. The super-reasonable price helps too. It’s almost an impulse buy, but despite being roughly a quarter of the price, the value and production values eclipse most full-price games. A great way to save cash and experience multiplayer gaming at its purest, most unpredictable best.
Jul 8, 2009