Battlefield 1943 is casual causality casualty

Game night last night consisted entirely of playing as one of the Ryan brothers in World War 2.  While I was a great service to my country, I inevitably was slain. Again and again.

“I was noscoped on the beaches, I was camped on the landing grounds, I was sniped in the fields and in the streets, I was pwned in the hills; but I will never rage quit. I will persevere. I will respawn.”

Churchill said that (or something to that effect) over seventy years ago. He knew that last Wednesday night in the year twenty and ten, that every action I’d take and every step I’d make would only lead to my demise.

Despite constant personal defeat, my team was often victorious.  I attribute this to the excellent “Squad System” in place in BF1943.  This system allows you to party up with 3 of your friends and join a game.  The advantage it gives is the ability to spawn not only to the half dozen flagged spawn points, but directly to any of your squadmates. I routinely spawned directly into the gunners turret of a moving tank from which I could shoot in the general direction of enemies before they would certainly kill me.

But my death would serve a purpose.  Each time I would hear one of my fellow squad members mention over Party Chat: “I got him for you.”

Battlefield 1943 is available on PSN or XBLA.  It is a full-fledged shooter at its core, but it is also stripped down to a more casual level.  While learning maps and classes is important, there are only 3 classes and a half dozen similar maps.  BF1943 appeals to the nostalgia factor of us that played the original Battlefield 1942 while offering a casual but intense FPS experience for new players.  Support for 64 players and bots has been removed, but it does offer the destructible terrain and graphics found in the latest console release of Battlefield: Bad Company.  The game mode is domination, where two teams try to capture flagged territories that also serve as the respawn locations.  This World War II shooter takes place on a variety of tropical islands, offering large open maps with an emphasis on long distance combat and many vehicles (planes, tanks, jeeps).

My few complaints with the game are mostly based around the interface.  Upon winning a map, you automatically matchmake into the next map with your squad, but for some reason the squad organization is disbanded and you are assigned to a random squad.  In order to make manual adjustments, you must press Start and Leave your current squad.  Then your other Party members must do the same. Then you can Invite them into a new squad.

In the meantime, all of the tanks and planes will be taken by the other players on your team.

The other complaint would be the odd choice of a default control scheme.  Needing a dedicated button to Enter and Exit vehicles is obvious and mandatory given the importance and availability of them.  But making that the B button, and moving the Melee attack to the Y button seems to be switching them for no reason.  Pressing Y will pull out a melee weapon and attack with it once.  Pressing RT will continue with more melee attacks and you must press RB to switch weapons back to your normal primary gun.  The reason for these concessions was to provide the ability to hop around different seats in the vehicles when you are driving by yourself (originally accomplished on the PC with the number keys).  It still feels a bit awkward, even after a couple hours of play.

As a game, it has a very high fun factor. Playing Wake Island is as fun as it always has been.  The heavy emphasis on vehicles means that while there are only 3 classes, most encounters feel fresh and unique given the location and presence of certain vehicles.  The graphics are bright and colorful.  The lush tropical presentation and open maps is a breath of fresh air in a genre primarily dominated by brown and gray hallways.

As the night went on, it became more apparent that my lack of experience was not the only thing effecting our matches.  I seemed to be suffering from pretty severe lag.  I would watch rockets miss and explode twenty feet to the side in the middle of the air; then my vehicle would also explode.

I also witnessed players of extraordinary skill.  Once I shot down a plane at point blank range with an AA gun.  As it exploded I caught a glimpse of the pilot escaping via parachute, gliding for only a second and landing directly on top of a tank.  He then used the tank to kill me.

By the end of the night, I knew I should go hunt down a copy of Bad Company.  With the sequel coming out soon, I knew I should begin to keep an eye on this as a console series.  It is unfortunate I overlooked it originally; assuming it was inferior to the PC shooters it was born from. The Squad mechanics help bring a sense of teamwork and cooperation that is missing in many other console FPS games, and a casual presentation helps with what could have been a much steeper learning curve.

Even if I spent much of my time admiring the respawn location map.

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