Battlefield 1942, by Aspyr
Posted: 25-Sep-2006

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Aspyr Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: GAMES

Overview
Battlefield 1942 puts players at the heart of World War II combat, allowing them to choose from 16 famous battle sites, including Omaha Beach, Stalingrad and Wake Island, from the four main theaters of World War II including the Pacific, Eastern and Western Europe and Northern Africa. With the ability to control more than 35 authentic Axis and Allied vehicles and select from five distinct character classes, players are faced with incredible choices in their plan of action. The Road to Rome will focus exclusively on the key, yet largely underpublicized Italian and Sicilian campaigns of WWII. Battlefield 1942 also features incredible single player action. These levels feature unscripted, advanced AI allowing players a completely different experience each time they play.

Features

  • A unique, robust multi-player component that supports up to 64 players on certain maps
  • Choose from fighter planes, dive-bombers, or heavy bombers and use your air superiority to gain a major advantage.
  • Wreak havoc with your naval firepower with battleships, destroyers, and landing craft.
  • With a range of armored vehicles, unleash the brute force of these armored beasts.
  • Sometimes a sidearm is all you need! Choose from sniper rifles, sub-machine guns, rocket launchers, and much more..
  • With Road to Rome included, you will get more maps, more vehicles, and more fighting forces.


Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later
  • PowerPC G4 or later
  • 867MHz or faster
  • 256 MB or higher
  • 1.6GB free disk space
  • Radeon 7500 or better, or GeForce2 MX or better
  • 32 MB VRAM or higher
  • DVD Drive
  • Multiplayer Requirements:
    • Internet and LAN (TCP/IP) play supported
    • Internet play requires a 56Kbps or faster connection


Evaluation Machine

  • iMac G5, 1.2 Ghz, 512MB RAM, OS 10.3.7


Installation

Battlefield 1942 comes on a DVD, and installs both Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 1942 - The Road to Rome. They run as separate applications, but each contains menu buttons to automatically connect to the other. You will be required to have the DVD loaded in your computer when playing, and when venturing off into multiplayer action, the first time will require you to enter a serial number. There's a lot of data that gets loaded on your computer (1.15 GB), but the installation is relatively easy.

Gameplay

If you have played Call of Duty, Aspyr's First-Person Shooter that also took place during WWII, you'll already be familiar with the backstory of Battlefield 1942. Just as in Call of Duty, you take on varying campaigns for American, British, and Russian troops going up against Germany, Italy and Japan.

Where Call of Duty submerses you into a storyline with specific characters and unique tasks, Battlefield 1942 focuses on battles that take place across great landscapes to conquer and hold outposts. In some ways, it's like a fusion between Stratego and a first-person shooter.

The very first campaign takes place on a vast area of desert land with a number of scattered bunkers. In this campaign, you are the British fighting against the Germans, and there are 6 outposts that can be won or loss (each side has one headquarter outpost which cannot be lost). The map shows who owns an outpost based upon the flag flying over it (if the flag is white, that means the outpost is up for grabs). To win an outpost, you must overtake any enemy forces already there, and then hold the area for a short while. Once your flag is flying, you are free to leave the outpost (but of course, without guard, the outpost may easily be taken by the enemy). The game also keeps score of how many troops remain on each side. You only have a certain number of troops active in combat at any given time (adjustable within the preferences), and when someone dies, your score decrements and they respawn from one of the controlled outposts. When you die, you are given a chance to choose which outpost you want to respawn from.

Each campaign starts off with a briefing screen while the game graphics are loading. This screen provides some background on the campaign, the primary objectives, and an overview of the map you will be playing on.


Campaign Briefing

After the briefing screen, the spawn screen allows you to choose where you will spawn into the map, and whether you want to start off as a medic, scout, assault soldier, anti-tank troop, or engineer. Each role gives you a different range of weapons. For instance, as an anti-tank troop, your main weapon is a rocket launcher, or as a scout, your main weapon is a sniper rifle. Rocket launchers do well against tanks, while a sniper does will at picking off enemies from a long distance.


Choosing a spawn point and weapons specialty

The missions are fairly simplistic. As each campaign immerses you into a WWII scene, your goal is to take control of strategic outposts while fighting enemy forces. Some of those outposts start off as uncontrolled by either side, while others are held by the enemy and must be captured. You can only hold one outpost yourself, so when your comrades show up around an outpost, you can can move off to help capture another (or take a chance and leave the outpost alone). During the course of the campaign, you want to see your score (aka, soldier count) stay higher than your enemy.

Playing on the easiest setting, you can explore the map more fully without having to worry about the enemies so much. The battle continues whether you are engaged in fighting or not. In one instance, I had left the room, and when I came back, my side won the battle without my help. Bumping up the difficulty a little, I was still able to explore much of the maps, while still being engaged in a challenging and strategic battle. Bumping up the difficulty setting higher, the focus starts to shift to more intense battles as well as stress-ridden strategic engagement.

You learn quickly that certain weapons are better suited for certain situations. For example, grenades and rocket launchers are needed to take out tanks, sniper rifles are best used against long distance engagement, such as taking out the gunner on a tank or a sniper from a building, and a rapid fire rifle is best used in close combat with a lot of foot soldiers.
Weapons that you get to use include knives, pistols, machine guns, grenades, anti-tank guns, and bombs. You can also take control of stationery guns. Ammo and health replenishment is done by standing next to an ammo box or next to a first aid cabinet.

The 3D landscapes and graphics are amazing in this game. Some of the really giant battlefields were simply breathtaking. From rocky mountainous landscapes, to city ruins, to countrysides and islands, Battlefield 1942 puts you in a great number of beautifully rendered settings.
The maps have terrain boundaries, but the explorable terrain is so huge that you don't feel confined like you might in a typical first-person shooter map. I was impressed by how much of the terrain could be explored.


Gorgeous 3D Landscapes

On the other hand, be prepared to have your machine's video memory and CPU put to the test. Aspyr lists the minimum requirement as an 867Mhz G4. That is definitely the bare minimum, and you really have to tone down the preferences to get decent gameplay on that machine. To fully enjoy the immaculate graphics capabilities of this game, I would recommend at least a 1.2 Ghz machine with a good video card and plenty of VRAM. In fact, the delay in getting this review out was due to not having a good enough machine when the game was first received. A few reviewers who initially indicated interest in reviewing the game also determined that their machines were not fast enough to run the game decently. So although this review is late coming on the scene, the good news is that machines are much faster nowadays. Anyone playing with a G5 will be able to fully enjoy all the game has to offer.

Battlefield 1942 also sports some very nice sound effects, creating some spectacular battle scenes. Add to that the number of vehicles you can control, and you have yourself an awesome action-packed experience in a number of different WWII battles. Whether you are running up and down hills looking for enemies, guarding an outpost, holding up a sniper position in a windmill, or driving a tank into enemy territory, the action never stops.


Countryside Landscape - Windmill on horizon can be used as a sniper position

Most vehicles support multiple characters. For example, you can either drive the jeep, jump in as a passenger, or man the gun in the back. Likewise, you can drive a tank, or with some tanks, you can jump on as a gunner. There's also a transport vehicle that is used simply for giving a bunch of soldiers a ride. For the most part, the vehicles were fun to operate, but there were a few exceptions. One of the exceptions was the attack boats that were used to land troops onto shore from the sea (think Omaha Beach). I found that the game was a bit buggy (inconsistent at best) the way it handled control of the boat. For the longest time, I couldn't get the boat to undock from the carrier. I would run back and forth on both sides of the boat hitting the action key, but nothing would happen. At points that I never understood, the boat finally did release and started on its way, and from there, steering the boat to land was pretty easy. However, once the boat went ashore, getting the door to drop down was another hurdle. In fact, I was never able to get the door open. Again, I was running around the boat, trapped like a sitting duck (because I've now landed onto an enemy territory). I finally figured out that I could jump out of the boat, but only at a specific spot. Overall, I didn't find the boating experience very intuitive to use.


Lots of Island Action in Battlefield 1942

The other non-intuitive vehicle that gave me trouble was the fighter planes. It was easy enough to get in the plane and takeoff, and the controls were easy enough to understand: what used to be run forward now sends the plane down, and what used to be run backwards pulls the plane up. What I never got used to was the sensitivity of the planes controls, going up and down or turning left and right. No matter how many times I tried using the plane in combat, I don't believe I ever killed a single enemy with the plane, and I never successfully landed a plane. Very frustrating. Fortunately, unlike the boat, you never have to fly a plane, so I basically just stayed away from them.

When I first started Battlefield 1942, I noticed that there weren't very many other soldiers in the game. This turns out to be a direct result of setting the difficulty settings low. The game provides versatile control over the difficulty settings. Instead of having a single settings that changes difficulty, there are a number of different settings. One of these settings is being able to increase the number of soldiers active in each battle scene. It was great to be able to increase these numbers without changing the other difficulty settings. I enjoyed the game far more when there was more action going on.

The battle scenes are vast, and varied quite a bit in each campaign. You could focus on different outposts, try different weapons, drive different vehicles, and use a different strategies. There is so much eye candy in the landscapes that you're bound to discover new scenery each time you play. All of these factors give the game a great replay value.

The game also touts great internet play with its multiplayer option. To get multiplayer to work, however, there were a few hurdles.
When I first attempted to play online, I was told that I needed to upgrade and the program just quit without giving me instructions on how to update. I went back into the game and clicked on the button to "visit website", but that took me to the ea.com website where everything is PC and Linux. There were no Mac links that I could find. I finally just went to the aspyr.com website, and clicked around until I found the Mac Battlefield 1942 support page, and there I discovered, downloaded and installed the 1.61D patch.

With the patch installed, I started up the application again, and by this point, you really start to notice those splash screens that you are forced to go through each time you start up the game. Honestly, once should be enough. Having to sit through six splash
screens each time you start up the game gets tedious (especially when the typically ESC, Spacebar or Mouse Click doesn't let you skip through them faster). I then experienced a number of different errors attempting to join a netgame (I assume this is due to my poor internet connection, even though I received a different type of error each time).

I chose a small game to join, and finally was successful at getting hooked up. Given that I never gained the experience that made me skilled enough to play well against other real players, I was basically cannon fodder. Further, since my G5 iMac was on a slow and flaky wireless connection to the internet, that also tainted my multiplayer gaming experience. I did play a few matches, and although my inexperience was quickly exposed, I could see that multiplayer could prove to be a lot of fun. In the process of trying a few multiplayer maps, I did notice that there were players out there who could fly a plane with ease (or so it seemed due to the way they came at me with precision). How did they do it?


Multiplayer - Playing against other players over the internet


The Battlefield 1942 interface, for the most part, was simple to use and simple to configure. If you don't like the default control keys that are set up, you can easily configure the keys to suit your tastes. I had no problems with the interface during game play. However, outside of gameplay, there were a few quarks with the interface.

For one thing, I couldn't find a way to launch Road to Rome (the expansion pack that comes with Battlefield 1942). There was a custom game option that let me select Road to Rome, but attempting to start a game just brought me back to the same game that I was already playing. I tried quitting, and launching the Road to Rome application, but that didn't help. I finally figured out that there is no scenario for Road to Rome, just 6 additional levels that are accessible only through the Instant Battle menu options. I tried Road to Anzio, which provided a new and refreshing map pitting you against the Italians.

After updating Battlefield to the latest revision, the installer replaced the application files in the Battlefield folder, but they were all replaced without the Aspyr icons, just generic application icons.

One thing that I would have liked to have seen was in game help (tutorials are always nice to get you up to speed). Going in "blind", not all of the features or controls are instantly intuitive.

Once I started a campaign on Easy, I was not able to change the difficulty level mid-game or even between levels. As I improved, I wanted to increase difficulty without having to start from the very beginning.

After completing all levels, I wanted to revisit the Iwo Jima campaign. After selecting that level from the campaign listing, the game said it would overwrite the saved games. I responded that it was okay, but then it started at the very first level instead of the level I chose (and now none of those battles were displayed anymore. This was somewhat disheartening.

The game did not support Cmd-Tab, so I was unable to switch out of the game to type up review notes (had to revert to the old pen and paper method of note taking).

Summary
Aspyr's Battlefield 1942 is an action-packed first-person shooter that takes place during World War II. The battle scenes are based upon the war, so the game provides great historical and geographical features as well as interesting war strategy. The open terrain and "free style" gameplay provides a lot of flexibility for strategy, increasing its replay value.
The game lets you play as Allied forces (British, American, or Soviet) or Axis (German, Japanese), and the Road to Rome expansion pack introduces the Italians. On easy settings, you can even hide out and just watch the action as the two teams battle it out. Battlefield is different from your typical first-person shooter by way of huge explorable terrains, outpost strategy, and respawning forces. The graphics and sounds are top notch, especially with its breathtaking explorable terrains. On my G5, gameplay was smooth and stable, and the game interface was very responsive. The game is video hungry, so although it's minimum requirements include a G4, depending upon your CPU speed and VRAM, you may have to tweak the preferences quite a bit before achieving smooth gameplay on a G4 (or upgrade to a faster computer). There were some installation and upgrade issues, and it lacks in-game help. There were also a few interface quirks, but none that affected gameplay. With its fantastic graphics, wide-open terrains, WWII backdrop, and unique gameplay strategies, Battlefield 1942 has something for all types of gamers.

Pros

  • Huge and fully explorable terrains
  • Fun outpost control strategy
  • Great graphics and sounds
  • Immerses you in a wide range of WWII environments

Cons

  • Difficulty controlling planes and boats
  • Lacks in-game help
  • Does not let you change difficult settings between campaigns
  • Interface quirks and tedious splash screens


Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 Mice