For years gaming has participated in a sort of entertainment arms race. Each new game has tried to up the ante in terms of graphics, AI, level size, and other areas. Those unable to keep up have fallen victim to the march of progress. But something has recently changed. Crysis, more than any other game, represents a turn in the evolution of the games industry. Despite a stunning graphics engine, Crysis did not cause a wave of Crytek powered titles. The somewhat less beautiful Unreal 3 engine has become dominate thanks not to its graphical prowness but due to its flexibility. Technology, rated by size of maps or number of polygons, is no longer the trump card. And thus we have games like Battlefield 1943.
There is less of everything in Battlefield 1943. The three available classes differ only in the weapons they're given. There are no medics, engineers, or commanders. There are only three maps, each of which represent a battlefield in the pacific theater. And there are only four vehicles - and one of those four is the crappy assault boat used to ferry soldiers from the aircraft carrier spawn points to the main islands. It is a stripped down chassis of a game which does nothing that the previous titles have not. Yet it quickly becomes clear that questioning Battlefield 1943 of the basis of content not that potent a criticism. In fact, Battlefield 1943 begins to make the player wonder if the previous games in the series were simply being wasteful.
Battlefield 1943 is the essence of the multi-player team-based shooter experience. The player jumps online and shoots people. There are some tanks, and some jeeps, and some planes, all of which can help the player in the never-ending effort to shoot people. There are points which must be captured, and taking those points is almost impossible without the assistance of others, pushing the player towards shooting people with strangers. The formula is nothing new, but it works. It is the game's simplicity which makes it beautiful.
The classes provide the perfect example of how Battlefield 1943 does more with less. Each class has its own distinct role which it and only it can perform. The Rifleman is by far the best at mid-range infantry combat. The Infantry class excels at short-range engagements and anti-tank fighting. And the scout serves as a long-range striker and defender. Each class is defined not by special abilities but by the abilities of their weapons. The Rifleman has no class-based health of accuracy advantage. He is good at killing at medium range because his weapon, the rifle, is good at that task.
This construction of the classes is the opposite of what is found in a game like Team Fortress 2, and while it is not quite as deep it does wonders for the pacing. Any player can jump into any role as required and do decently as long as they've already pinned down the basic game mechanics, which are no more complex than pointing and shooting. The game's focus on guns as the primary definition of each class is helped by the fact that the guns themselves are well balanced and have a great feel. The SMG looks, fires, and sounds exactly the way an SMG should, and the same is true of every other weapon in the game. This is something that surprisingly few shooters get right, and it is nice to see the guns modeled so well in what is basically a shooter for those on a budget.
Battlefield 1943's adhesion to the core principles of classic Battlefield series gameplay does have the same flaws as other titles in the series. The Battlefield series has never been great at giving the player feedback, and this remains a problem. The combination of open maps and nearly invisible bullets result in many situations where the player's body will suddenly and inexplicably be turned into a pile of guts with little indication of how or by whom. This can be frustrating, particularly for inexperienced players, as those who are good at the Rifleman class can take out an opponent a third of the way across the map.
Battlefield 1943 also keeps alive the long tradition of stubbornly difficult vehicles, a trait which seems odd for a series which relies so heavily on them as a selling point. The jeeps, tanks, and planes all have the responsiveness of a sedated mule, and the wonky physics don't help matters. Tanks weigh little more than a bag of leaves and can easily be knocked on their side if a jeep runs into them. Planes, on the other hand, will drop like a rock if the throttle is treated too casually. And none of the land vehicles seem to have a low gear, which means both tanks and jeeps can become stranded on a slight incline if they for some reason need to stop.
But those are ultimately minor niggles, and they're easily forgiven by Battlefield 1943's trump card - the $15 dollar asking price. Battlefield 1943 is proof that the increasing complexity found in some shooters gets in the way of the fun instead of enhancing it. Sure, the relative lack of content will likely turn off hardcore gamers, who will no doubt blitz through the maps in six-hour gaming sessions, pwning noobs left and right. The rest of us, however, will appreciate the game's intuitive feel. As long as you remember how to aim and shoot, you can jump into a Battlefield 1943 server and have some fun. Find the enemy, point, and shoot - and isn't that what online shooters are supposed to be about?