I recently picked up Battlefield: 1942, a first-person shooter set in a series of WW2 battlegrounds. The game, which has been available for a while now (I rarely am hip enough to pay full retail for games anymore), has two expansion packs; you can pick up the 3 pack for around $40 or Costco has just the first game for about $15. 1942’s online play is great, allowing you to make a series of back-to-back battles with a set time limit and a variety of options. This kind of game makes it much easier for me to jump online with my buddies for an hour, as opposed to playing something like Neverwinter Nights or Asheron’s Call, where the first hour can be spent simply sorting your pack.

I’ve never been much for frag-fests, aside from an occasional late-night blowouts on Quake 2 (and one in particular in the library that did not end well). I have, on the other hand, played a number of single-player first person shooters (Quake 1/2, Unreal, Half-life, Return to Wolfenstein, etc.), though I’ve felt like I missed out on something with never having tried Counter-Strike or the other online versions of these games. 1942 seems to fill that gap, providing solid team play and 5 different “kits” – typical infantry (machine gun, grenades), bazooka guy (5 shots with a bazooka), medic (can heal allies w/in a radius, machine gun slightly less powerful than Infantry), engineer (sniper rifle sans scope, mines, explosives, wrench to repair tank), and sniper (slow loading rifle with a high power scope, grenades). All kits have a type of pistol, a knife, and a type of explosive (usually 3 grenades). Anyone, regardless of kit, can jump into the tanks, jeeps, boats, and airplanes that scatter the battlefield. The tank is a blast (apologies for the pun), but I have yet to master flight, unless mastery involves crashing into mountains.

The logistics are fairly straight forward. Teams (Axis & Allied, with nationality determined by the location of the map) are measured by “tickets” and tickets expire depending on a number of circumstances, including death/regeneration and control of strategic points that freckle the game map (if one team controls more areas, the other team’s tickets clock down at a faster rate). So, controlling and defending key points on the map is an essential element of gameplay. Another key element of the play that I like: if you die, you respawn after a brief time period (and at the cost of tickets), allowing you to seek revenge.

I wonder how much 1942’s map-building resembles more strategic turn-based war games (such as the kind Matt likes to play). Certainly, the capture and control of strategic points reminds me more of RTS-type games, where you have to harness resources in order to build up and protect your armies, though clearly 1942’s first-person perspective and real-time effort is quite different than hovering over the war-gamer’s cardboard chips, thoughtfully planning your next move.

One other plus, in my mind, is that 1942 is not just a frag-fest; running headlong into danger is likely going to get you killed. After storming Omaha Beach a few times, I started learning how to use the buildings to flank the enemies, eventually winning the day, despite starting with a lower number of tickets and at a strategic disadvantage. Sniping can be fun, though the long reload time means quick death when things get fierce, like when fighting in the streets of Berlin.

As of now, I have only played with a few friends against mostly bots. Now that my gameplay has improved somewhat, I’m eager to build up a slightly larger team so we can try some PvP battles against opponents that are (presumably) smarter than the AI. I’m also curious about the social aspect of the game. What kind of people, for instance, tend to choose Axis? Usually the weapons are better, so there is certainly a strategic angle there. And since the game has stripped all Nazi-type insignias from the game, the stigma doesn’t seem quite as strong – almost an odd reversal of America’s Army, where you are always “America” and the opponent is always just “the enemy” (on both sides).

Anyway, if anyone is up for charging Omaha Beach, I’m game.


2 Responses to 1942

  1. Matt K. says:

    The computer game that has the most cred among the hex and counter guys I play with is Combat Mission:


    I downloaded the demo, and couldn’t really get into it; maybe I need to give it more time. Be curious to know what you think. It’s supposed to do an excellent job of modeling squad/platoon level tactics.

  2. Jason says:

    I’ll take a look at it, although my patience w/ RTS is not generally my cup of tea (with a few exceptions).

    1942 is def. *not* a strategy (real time or otherwise) game, per se, since it’s a team-based first person shooter. But I do like the map objective points, which has a feel of more strategy-based games.

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