mrcynical's Battlefield 1942: Deluxe Edition (PC) review

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Meet the game that spawned a new genre out of nowhere

When Battlefield 1942 was close to release, nobody was particularly excited about it- after all, what could yet another World War II game do that others hadn't already done? Anyone saying the same today would be branded a fool, and quite rightly so. BF42 has grown into the biggest online game since Half Life, and at times even surpassed Counterstrike in terms of player numbers.

But game sales aren't everything- after all, lots of people go to watch rubbish sports teams, so quantity and quantity are obviously not inter-related. But a game like this does not need to prove anything to anyone- it just IS good.

Let me explain: World War II game; allows you to choose a variety of infantry roles or pilot ground, air, sea and submarine vehicles; as objective-driven or non-linear as you want it to be; doesn't kill you with realism. Do I need to go any further?

The graphics are, in a word, basic. Not just because the game is 2 years old- they were looking a bit dated even on release. But that is one of the things that contributes to BF42's main success: it works so well online. Even with a ping approaching 100 the game is perfectly playable online (hey you don't need nanosecond reactions to hit a battleship with a bomb surely?) whereas attempting to play a more eye-pleasing game (UT2004, CS:S or dare I say it Battlefield Vietnam) under those sorts of conditions would turn into a very uninspiring mess. With planes accidentally landing upside down.

My one criticism of the game's concept stems from its arcade virtues- it's no fun being a PBI (Poor Bloody Infantry). Yes, you can run around sniping the gunner off a tank (which is why you'll never find a tank with anyone in the exposed gunner seat) but it'll take you all day to destroy the thing, even if you happen to be the otherwise-useless AntiTank soldier. In theory you CAN kill a tank as an infantryman, but seeing as it takes 3 or 4 direct hits you can guess how often that happens. Through no malice on the part of the players concerned, this inevitably leads to groups of half a dozen or more 'plane campers' (or replace plane with any other decent vehicle) sitting in their team's main base doing sweet FA to actually play the game- in fact this sedentary beginning is perhaps what puts a lot of people off this game, which is a real shame since it is a true joy to play. But please don't start me about the amphibious assault levels that take 5 minutes to respawn a landing craft (anyone see the problem with that?).

There are maps there for everyone- whether you want to concentrate on anything from battleships to half tracks, there is a map uniquely suited to each type of combat- dogfighting, naval engagements, small-scale island wars with PT boats in between, there's even some claustrophobic urban combat spoiled somewhat by the fact that you can't even enter most of the buildings never mind move between them (which seemed garbage even before CoD's online demo came out). The sheer variety of levels (and vehicles) means there is an infinite number of strategies you could come up with- you will quite literally never have done everything in this game.

Even with these flaws, the game is a classic in its own right, and well worth the outlay whether or not you have broadband (did I mention the fact that all but a few maps have full bot support), but when you consider the number of add-ons available you wonder why everyone does not have a copy of this game: I'm not talking about the official packs, RtR and SW, which were alright at best, but about the literally huge number of free modifications that are out there. Unless you've been living on the planet Zorg for the past few years, you'll have heard of Desert Combat. Yes, it is no longer being
developed (the team sold out to EA) but a 'final' version has been released to fix the bugs, and about half a dozen spinoff projects have vowed to continue updating DC. And if US Vs Iraq isn't your cup of tea, why not a Vietnam mod (no, you don't
have to buy BFV to give Charlie a kicking), or perhaps a more realistic World War II experience, or even World War I (complete with blimps)? The replay value of each and every map, couple with the limitless play time offered by the mod community, means it should be a crime not to own this game. Go buy it now!

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