I’ve always had a ton of fun with the Battlefield series on PC. I’ve sunk in many hours of my life into Battlefield: 1942, Vietnam, 2, and 2142. The games tend to come out too quickly, they’re always super buggy on release, and they can be frustrating, but at the end of the day they are simply some of the most fun games you can have on the PC. The simple idea of being on a battlefield, set in various times in our history, with full access to not only many kinds of infantry weapons but also almost every type of military vehicles imaginable makes for some intensely fun virtual battles. Sure games like Team Fortress had the concept of two teams battling it out with different types of weapons years before but when BF42 hit in 2002 it really changed how these games were played, now you had huge maps and a whole arsenal of abilities you could use against the other team in Conquest mode. It was kinda like King of the Hill, Kinda like Capture the Flag, but all together fresh and exciting.
Over the years DICE (developers of the series) experimented with different features but for the most part every game kept getting more complicated. By the same token more and more options were given to strategize with your teammates because of this complexity. Battlefield 2 (which was actually the third game in the series) added the ability to be in Squads with your friends as well as being able to play in a Commander roll for you team which allowed you to call down air strikes, UAV runs, and radar points from a face down map screen showing the battle. Battlefield 2142 took this concept even further (and years into the future) giving Squad Commanders and Team Commanders even more options as well as adding new games modes to the game and making a better use of vertical space (ie. capturing a point hundreds of meters above you by using rocket pods to shoot up to them). BF2 and 2142 also offered detailed statistics tracking with ranks and badges and awards and unlockables, most of which was all accessible through websites where you could compare yourself to your friends and try to earn bragging rights. The Battlefield series really was a prime example of the complexity and broadness that a PC game can have, something you couldn’t do on a console. Of course DICE still tried.
Between the time Battlefield 2 and 2142 came out released Battlefield 2: Modern Combat. A Console exclusive game for the Xbox and PS2 (and later ported to the 360) that tried to capture the feel of BF2 on the PC. Unfortunately it wasn’t a port but instead a completely new game from the ground up. Although a decent enough multiplayer experience on the console anybody trying it who had played the previous 3 games on the PC found it to be severely lacking. There wasn’t as much strategy, features were missing, it just wasn’t as good. (I tried to trade the 360 version into Futureshop a couple of months ago the the retailer wouldn’t even take it!) With Modern Combat being somewhat of a disaster DICE went back to the drawing board and just last year Battlefield: Bad Company was released exclusively for consoles. Unlike previous Battlefield games it had a full on single player campaign but the real action was in the multiplayer. The game was modern, looked great, controlled pretty well, and was sort of like playing a newer version of Battlefield 2, sort of. The old school Conquest game mode was not included with the game (although it was later patched in due to high demand) and the commander role was nowhere to be seen. The game was decent enough though and a sequel is on the way but something was definitely missing.
That brings us to today where I think whatever was missing is now finally here. On Tuesday Battlefield: 1943 was released onto Xbox Live and the next day it was released onto Playstation Network. The game is a remaking of the Pacific campaign from the original 1942 game with the modern Bad Company engine. DICE has really come a long way here, everything that worked in Bad Company has been injected into 1942 while leaving what hasn’t worked in the various versions out. 1943 is a game that I’ve been craving without even realizing it. The complexity of the series has been stripped out. There are 3 classes, 3 maps (next week a 4th map will be released), lots of vehicles, no Commander system and it’s classic Conquest mode all the time, and I love it. The Squad system started in Battlefield 2 has been refined and is now present in this game. Anytime you die if anybody else in your squad is alive you can spawn on them instead of only being able to spawn on the squad commander which is fantastic. This really speeds up the game and accross the board in general everything has been sped up. The awesome environmental damage from Bad Company is now present in these classic maps which really makes them fresh. You can be capturing a point hiding behind cover when all of a sudden, boom, the wall you werehiding behind is completely obliterated forcing you to move. In fact everything about the game really forces you to be on the move all the time. A anti-tank RPG can now take out a tank with one solid well placed hit from behind so you always need to be aware, always need to be moving. The defining moment for me came yesterday while playing in a squad with 3 friends we were leaving our aircraft carrier in a boat and I was manning the 50cal machine gun. A enemy Zero plane was flying in towards us making a strafing run. Bullets are hitting all around us, I open up on the Zero (as do the two guys in the front of the boat with their normal guns) and as the plane reaches directly above us it explodes sending fiery shrapnel raining all around us as we drive through it, land on the beach, and capture a conquest point. All of the other great features of BF2/2142 are in this as well, ranking systems, awards, a web interface to compare your soldier to your friends. Everything great that has been added to the Battlefield series over the past 6 years is now back in the original game without adding any of the bloat. If you sunk a decent amount of time into 1942 at all you will love this game, it scratches that Battlefield itch in all the right places.
Sure the game is a little more arcadey than it used to be but none of the strategy has been lost, in fact since it’s now almost easier to die and faster paced you have to be even more on your toes, thinking up plans, trying to outflank the enemy, winning the battle. This game really epitomizes the changes that I’ve gone through in my own gaming habits over the past few years. In September a PC version of 1943 will be released but will most likely be a little slower paced without some of the arcadey additions of this version (regenerative health and ammo, etc) but for the first time in a long time I think I’m going to stick with the console version. I’m not sure what exactly DICE have hit on here but whatever it is it’s an incredible amount of fun and I highly recommend it.