By the numbers, Battlefield 1943 may look smaller than what veterans of this team-based combat franchise are used to. With only three maps, three character classes, and 24 players in a match, you'd think it would be hard to recapture the same madcap sense of combat mayhem that's been the Battlefield trademark since the series' grandaddy, 1942, hit the scene in 2002.
DICE lead producer Patrick Liu disagrees. Though the numbers are lower, he contends the core action in '43 is just as dynamic and unpredictable as the other games in the series. The game's designers have been playtesting and tweaking the game side-by-side with 1942, after all, so any serious differences should quickly become apparent.
"It's not specific numbers that make a game deep or make a game fun," Liu told me. "As long as you design it coherently, it's going to be fun. There are three classes, but they're three very distinct classes. We had six or seven classes [in the original game], but only half of them were used. Same thing with [the 24-player limit], a lot of people are whining about that... the level design is made for 24 players."
Some things definitely never change; as a veteran of the original game, I can confirm the planes in 1943 are still a real pain in the ass to fly. Liu said the game will have a tutorial mode that will let you practice flying all of the planes as much as you want before you go online, which ought to level the playing field a bit. Battlefield vets know exactly how much damage a skilled pilot can wreak on the other team.
Liu stressed the team at DICE has focused on the 1942 feel first and then layered in more recent Battlefield mechanics--destructible levels, unlockable doohickeys--second. The performance-based medals, which will take the form of postcards and stamps, are purely for bragging rights; unlike other Battlefield games, you'll have access to everything from the start, rather than having to rank up to get the best weapons.
The game plays well enough on the Xbox 360 controller, so I'm looking forward to seeing if it preserves that crazy action I remember from 1942 when it hits Live Arcade and PlayStation Network next month. A PC version is due in September, though EA hasn't chosen to show that game off just yet.