Battlefield 1942

By  Cosmo

Caution: if you have a pressing work schedule; if you have a family or spouse who expects attention; if you are studying and value a good GPA; do not buy Battlefield 1942. I repeat; if you are not prepared to surrender large, disproportionate chunks of your time plus a shameful amount of your waking thoughts (and possibly dreams) to playing this game, steer clear. But if you're audacious and you have the time, you won't find a better game this year. Period.


Accurately capturing the sense of BF42 is tricky. It’s primarily an online game without a steep learning curve, geared for fast and furious action in a historical setting. Much of the play is similar to a first person shooter (Half-Life or Medal of Honor) yet the military aspects and abundance of vehicles one can command is more along the lines of a lightweight simulation. BF42 is truly not a sim, not a wargame, and not wholly a first person shooter. Think of it as a battlegame. The big difference between BF42 and other action games and shooters is the atmosphere it creates. Nothing else comes close to taking you away from your office or den and catapulting you into a convulsing, arcing world of menacing tanks, dive-bombing planes, parachuting assault teams, and bellowing battleships like Battlefield 1942. 


I started off playing the BF1942 multiplayer demo for two weeks (this review covers the multiplayer aspect unless otherwise stated). It featured Wake Island, a horseshoe-shaped island with 7 strategic bases, buildings, hills, cliffs, trees, and roads. The forces were the American vs the Japanese, with the Amis possessing the island at the onset and the Japanese arriving with a carrier and destroyer. When the game starts, the US players must try to guess where the Japanese are going to land, while the Japs are swarming in from the sea in landing craft and dive bombers. The first few minutes are very hectic!  The objective is simple, fight your way into control of the island's bases and wear down the enemy.


This whetted my appetite for the full version and when it arrived I immediately installed and tried the Omaha Beach map. Piloting the landing craft through the crashing surf, fiery tracers, and erupting explosions was delightfully hairy. Hitting the beach, I found a host of angry German infantry and a tank waiting for my teammates and me. Not to mention the snipers nested in the concrete overlooks. Somehow we fought our way through the enemy and began climbing the cliffs.


BF42 is a world unto itself. In addition to the Wake Island and Omaha Beach maps you can play Gazala, Tobruk, Battleaxe (desert maps); Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima (Pacific Islands); Market Garden, Bocage (countryside/small town), Kharkov, Battle of the Bulge, Kursk (countryside), Berlin and Stalingrad (urban maps). Each setting allows different strategies and positioning. From the beaches to burned out factories, exploring each map and the multitude of vantage points keeps the game fresh.


You can play as one of 5 types of soldiers (scout, assault team, medic, and engineer, anti-tank). Each soldier has special talents, strengths, and weaknesses. A medic can heal himself and others. Engineers have the ability to fix their tanks and ships but are slowed by a bolt-action rifle. Scouts use a sniper rifle with a magnificent scope. You can pick off an enemy from 600 yards, providing he is standing still. While focused on sniping, however, the scout is extremely vulnerable to attack--he cannot see anyone walking up on him. The assault soldier is a good all-around man-to- man fighter while the anti-tank member is good to have when enemy armor arrives, but he cannot defend himself well.


The two sides, Allies (US, Soviet, British) and the Axis (German, Japanese) share a large pool of vehicles and this is one of the unique strengths of the game. You can take first person control of all the vehicles--jeeps, half-tracks, tanks, AA batteries, shore guns, planes, carriers, subs, DDs, and battleships to name a few. Operating the vehicles doesn't require digesting a think manual--jump in and go. While the operation is simplified the battle operation is essentially the same. Planes can strafe and bomb, tanks lumber around and can deliver a wicked cannon attack, and ships support beach landings and serve up long range artillery.

 While BF42 is studded with hardware, tanks are the stars. Most of the battles take place on land and nothing dominates the field like armor. When used in combination with a couple of savvy infantry players, a couple tanks can sweep the other side from the map. While nowhere near as accurate as a Steel Beasts or Panzer Elite, BF42 tanks are fun to operate and even more fum to pit against enemy armies. And while there are tanksims that rate higher in simulation, none offer you the chance to take on real players performing as infantry.


Frontal armor on a tank is much tougher than the sides and rear. A bazooka hit to the front won't do much but take one up the tailpipe and you'll be the proud owners of a burnt out hulk in no time. The latest patch augmented difference between the Sherman and the Tiger tanks. Now a Sherman taker should be wary around the German powerhouse. The Tiger can take 4~5 hits before exploding, while the quicker firing Sherman can withstand 3 hits at best. The patch also degrades the effectiveness of grenades against tanks, forcing more reliance on using anti-tank soldiers and explosive packs by engineers. There are some physics incorporated in the game but they are lax in some areas. Motor vehicles respond to bumps and hills correctly by slowing and can be damaged if rough terrain is taken too fast. Tanks rock when firing and moving so getting a hit on the run is a challenge. Much of the challenge is skillfully hitting the opposing tank quickly, before he can take you out. Splash damage of shell rounds close to infantry is too light--it takes a near-direct hit from a tank to kill a marauding rifleman.

Each side gets a certain quota of “tickets” or points; getting killed lowers the ticket score. The first side to lose all their tickets is defeated. You can also play capture the flag and deathmatch. If you are killed, you must wait 10~20 seconds to respawn and then only if your side controls at least one flag.


Air power is a strong force in BF42. Capable of strafing troops with frightful effect and dropping both bombs and torpedoes, the team that has a couple good pilots has the edge. Planes do not all handle the same --the Stuka is a slow-turning dog while the Mustang is quite flickable. There is a B-17 bomber that really rocks. It lumbers through the sky dropping loads of bombs that can force an entire team to respawn. The bomber can carry two other teammates to man the AA guns. All planes allow the players to jump and parachute in. The biggest problem with flying is the limited range of visibility. I suppose in order to keep the game playable online the developers limited visibility to about a mile. As a result the player seems to be constantly approaching a fog bank. I found it difficult to pick out and line up on targets. By the time I saw a tank or platoon in front of me, checked the map to ensure they were not friendlies, I was off course and flying past. Still, a good pilot can utterly destroy the opposition. Eventually you are conditioned to dive for cover when you hear a plane approaching.


There are basically five types of ships in BF42: carriers, battleships, destroyers, subs, and landing craft. You won't find the level of simulation fidelity anywhere near a Silent Hunter or sub Command. Carriers and battleships plow forward with relatively good speed but cannot venture into the shallows immediately surrounding the land areas. The main purpose of BBs is to bombard the shore positions and when a scout sends a report, they can be plenty effective. There is something grimly satisfying in watching those big guns boom out death on the other side of the island. If you pull in close enough, you can see the tiny little tanks and bodies flying in every direction.


Submarines scoot around on the surface in search of targets, i.e., the carriers and battleships. Although the gameplay for subs is considerably dumbed down for an easy learning curve, the tactics are pretty much the same. You will want to search out the enemy but you must dive before he sees you. A sub in BF42 is very susceptible to depth charging. And in harmony with Battlefield 1942's fast and steady action, once a DD locates you and begins hunting, you are likely to be sunk within a few passes. If you do succeed in sneaking up on a stationary surface ship, you can fire two torpedoes at a time. Reloads occur in 30 seconds and the bigger the ship, the more torps it takes to bring them down. Air consumption limits your time underwater and the rate at which it is expended is greatly exaggerated. Since BF42 games tend to last anywhere between 10 to 40 minutes, your style will be "scout, make contact, dive, fire-fire-fire, and try to get away" in 5 minutes or less. This would never satisfy a subsim aficionado except in the context of the BF42 world.


You may notice that some equipment is shared by different nations. It looks a little odd to see the Japanese riding around in a Kübelwagen, or SdKfz.124 Wespe artillery unit. The Germans don't get the Type VII U-boat but the Japanese do! Strange but they do the job. Of course, if you see Russians roaring around in US jeeps, you know that America sent huge numbers of these to our war-time ally.


Gameplay is BF42's strong suit--the word addictive best describes it. The variety of play is astounding. A hundred strategies will appear in your mind as you determine your role in the battle. Should you become a scout, crawl under some bushes near the base, and pick off enemy soldiers at 400 yards? Or perhaps be an assault soldier and comb the hills looking for enemy troops and snipers who, by the way, will not likely detect your approach. Should you man a plane and bomb enemy tanks and APCs pinning your men down? Or parachute deep into enemy territory and wreak havoc behind enemy lines where you are least expected? Lay out some explosive packs on a chokepoint and hide in the bushes waiting for an unsuspecting tank to pass by? I have played some maps as much as 100 times and each time the battle concludes I get a new idea, a new approach to the next mission. Even more incredible, you can wander away from the action and it’s hard to believe a mighty struggle is taking place just over the hill.


The graphics are first rate, it is very easy to feel like you are far from home in a tropical climate. Swaying palm trees, tracers, explosions, soldiers, water--it all looks really, really good. The computer game has come a long way graphically. BF42 looks good enough that you begin to experience a familiarity with the maps as you would real places you have visited. The sounds are almost in the same level. Explosions and rifle fire punctuate the air; tanks rumble and clank, and the character voices are spot on.


Up to 32 people can participate so the battles are huge. If the server is a high-end PC with a good connection, there is no lag. On mid range systems there is a little lag occasionally, but manageable. I tested BF42 on two machines, a Pentium 500 MHz with 160MB RAM and a GeoForce3 Ti200 64MB card, and on a Pentium 2.4 GHz with 512 MB RAM and a GeoForce4 Ti4200 128MB card. With the graphics turned down the slower machine will run the game successfully. Some lag and stuttering occurs but not so excessive that you want to quit. On the faster machine with all the details ramped to the max everything is super smooth. When playing online you can search for servers with good ping times to avoid the slideshow syndrome. I have heard some players complain about the netcode or online performance but I can vouch that the game runs fine.  


Other details include a mini-map to help you find your way. Visual contacts with the enemy are not highlighted, any and all enemy soldiers must be seen by the player, which is a great way to handle it. This requires you to really look over your should and around corners. There are no weather effects, the world of BF42 is always sunny and bright. Chat messages track who is doing what and a series of commands are hot-keyed for rapid communication. Also, there is a good sound track for the mission set-up intervals.


The game comes with a capable single player campaign. The enemy AI is pretty good; you will find the easy level challenging. There is a glitch that occurs when an AI unit tries to enter a vehicle—you may see him hopping in and out repeatedly. I’ve noticed some reviews pan the single player game and AI but I found them to be smarter and more cooperative than 80% of the real life players out there. If there is a drawback to the game it is in the quality of players you will meet in multiplayer. The world of computer games is full of boneheads. More often than I care to remember I have been killed by some kiddie on my own side. The game allows you to make friendly fire (intentional or otherwise) impossible but it would be better if the game code could recognize a player who repeatedly and willingly attacks players on his own side, boots him from the game, and reformats his hard drive. Let’s hope for this in the patch.


This game is fun. First impressions are immeasurable. Some games never grab your interest, some win you over slowly, and a few win you over right away. Battlefield 1942 fits precisely into the last category. Battlefield 1942 is one of those rare games that you love at first sight. Like a book you can't put down or the party you just can't leave, BF1942 pounds you with overwhelming fun. Battlefield 1942 will own you. And you'll love it.

© 2003


Rating:  91

Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/
Game play Repeat Play Stability
Multi- play Mission Editor
13/20 6/10 10/10 10/10 20/20 10/10 9/10 5/5 3/5
BONUS: +5 large maps, attention to detail, and smooth multiplayer; 


Minimum Specifications:  Windows® XP, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows 98, (Windows NT and 95 are not supported) 500 MHz Intel® Pentium® or AMD Athlon™ processor 128 MB RAM 4x CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive 1.2 GB free hard disk space plus space for saved games (additional space required for Windows swap-file and DirectX™ 8.1 installation) 32 MB video card which supports Transform & Lighting and with DirectX 8.1 compatible driver DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card Keyboard Mouse

Recommended: 800 MHz or faster Intel Pentium III or AMD Athlon processor 256 MB or more RAM 16x or faster CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive 1.2 GB free hard disk space plus space for saved games 64 MB or greater video card which supports Transform & Lighting Environmental Audio™ capable sound card

Required for Multiplayer Games:  Internet (2-64 players) 64 Kbps or faster Internet connection 1 disc/player per computer Network (2-64 players) TCPIP compliant network 1 disc/player per computer Modem (2-16 players) 100% DirectPlay™ compatible 56.6 Kbps or faster modem High speed serial port (16550UART) for external modems 1 disc/player per computer.


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