previews\ Jun 4, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Battlefield 1942 - PC - Preview

Michelangelo’s masterpiece David began as a slab of amorphous marble.  Through diligent carving, chipping, and chafing, Old Mike was able to create one of the most recognizable pieces of art the world has ever known.  It looked similar to other contemporary statues, but refined.  Other statues became mere dolls, and Michelangelo once again set a new standard.  Where am I going with this?  Electronic Arts has taken the worn-thin genre of first-person shooters, chiseled away the excess, and created another masterpiece in Battlefield 1942 for the PC. Among the flurry of first-person World War Two titles available to consumers this year, Battlefield stands out above the rest.


Taking place in 1942 and including all the famous battles of WWII, maps range from islands in the South Pacific, to cities in Eastern Europe, to the sandy Northern African plains, to the famed beaches of Normandy.  Each landscape is richly detailed and large enough to accommodate sixty-four online players.  Any good general knows that war is not just won on the ground.  Airspace and coastal waters are also large enough to provide ample space for aerial dogfights and maritime mayhem.  There are four theaters, Northern Africa, Eastern Europe, Europe, and Pacific Islands, each with four maps for a total of sixteen playable maps, each based on pivotal WWII battles. 


Producer Ken Balthaser stressed the attention to detail for authenticity.  “All members of the Axis and Allies wear their country’s authentic uniform, speak their native language, and use real hand gestures.”  The players do look splendid, and shouting things in Japanese quickly becomes a guilty pleasure.  All vehicles are precise replications if their real-life counterparts.  The overall detail of the scenarios looks so authentic, gamers will probably find themselves needing treatment for post-traumatic syndrome. 


Picking a side to fight for isn’t the only choice recruits will have.  In addition to choosing to fight for the Axis and Allies, players will have the ability to start off as one of five classes of infantry in addition to being behind the wheel of several vehicles.  Infantry classes include medics, anti-tank, scout, assault, and engineer.  Each role has its place in war, and is vital for success.  Medics heal soldiers, engineers repair vehicles, and anti-tank soldiers wield the mighty bazooka to take down vehicles or inflict a little overkill on unsuspecting foot soldiers.  Nothing like a little overkill. 


Vehicles can be piloted immediately from spawning into the game, or by encountering them on the battlefield.  Each country has a number of unique vehicles at their disposal, each in different classes.  Ground vehicles include tanks, jeeps, and anti-aircraft cannons are controllable by any player, and can be exited and entered at will.  The flying machines include single-prop fighters and bombers that carry belly gunners, bombardiers, tail gunners, and a pilot.  The titans of the sea include submarines, destroyers, and battleships, each with multiple stations for an ultimate cooperative experience.  Whether you want to bombard the shores with a battleship, sink the battleships with a bomber, or shoot down a bomber with an anti-aircraft gun, it’s all here in brilliant explosive glory. 


The real selling point of Battlefield is its multiplayer capabilities.  Multiplayer mode can hold 64 human-controlled players without a problem on broadband connections.  Servers will be hosted by Homeland and EA and hope to provide excellent connection speeds even for players with 56k modems.  Battlefield 1942 should be THE game to play online this summer. 


Battlefield will be available for the PC this Fall and for the Xbox in the Winter.

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