Battlefield 1942: Road to Rome
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|First Person Shooter Games, Battlefield Series
For the solo gamer, Battlefield 1942 was an experience that veered between mild annoyance and utter frustration, but for those with a capable machine and broadband connection it offered a multiplayer experience unlike any other, with dozens of players flying, sailing, driving and shooting their way across some of the most expansive locales in FPS history. Rightly or wrongly, instead of addressing the weaknesses in the game (the poor single-player game being about the most obvious), Digital Extremes has instead decided to build on the game's strengths, expanding what was already one of the most vaned WWII gaming experiences still further, adding Italian and French troops, setting them and their allies across six new maps throughout Italy and Sicily, throwing in a couple of new weapons and nine new or remodelled vehicles.
Though the French and Italian soldiers look and sound the part, the five troop kits remain identical (scout, engineer etc), so there isn't anything fundamentally new added to the gameplay by having them join the party. A new Italian weapon for the Assault class and a British weapon for the French Medic is about the sum of the changes on the Infantry side of things, although engineers of all nationalities.
Of the new vehicles, both sides have been reinforced with a twinengine fighter bomber, there are a couple of new light tanks, a US half-track with a heavy antitank gun and a German tankdestroyer. The new vehicles are great fun, especially since secondary positions like machine-gunners are more protected than they were on the old tanks and main weapons are harder to bnng to bear. Just to make things even more difficult for those keen to jump into a new tank, many of the new maps include fixed anti-tank guns, which apart from being a great tool for defence, mean that those who miss the chance to climb aboard a tank will at least have a big gun to run to for backup -which should hopefully reduce the number of team-killers that blight the odd online game.
Best of all the new additions are the maps themselves. While generally smaller than those of the full game and as a collection nowhere near as varied, they are nevertheless packed with detail. Olive trees overlook deep ravines while treacherous roads link deserted mountain villages. Because of the rugged landscape, heavy armour is practically forced along roads frequently bordered by high ground and lethal cannon fire. Leave the roads and progress can be slow, jeeps and APCs can be wrecked in seconds, while tanks can often become trapped. Consequently, most of the new maps favour the infantry, with slow measured advances and desperate counter-attacks. Engineers, the whipping boy player class of the original game, are now an important part of the action, laying mines across important roads and backing up armour as they advance, repairing as they go. It's clear a lot more thought has gone into the maps and units this time around.
Although it's still the case that BF1942 remains more dedicated to the multi rather than the single-player, the developers have improved the Al quite considerably. The computer-controlled players neither drive like they are blindfolded nor shoot with the accuracy of a Washington sniper. Compared to the bots of Unreal Tournament 2003, we're still way below standard; there's still very little camaraderie between you and your Al goons and the singleplayer game still feels more like a team deathmatch than a proper team experience, with no control over your allies. Tactically the troops only understand one strategy; rush to the front line and shoot the enemy. Nonetheless, the single-player game is by no means the pointless exercise it once was.
One major enhancement to both the single and multiplayer game is the increased 64-player limit on games. Though it's frequently the case that more is better, it comes at a price. On our 'desirable' system the game occasionally slowed down with 63 bots running around and in multiplayer games you can forget it unless you have a broadband connection.
The Full Monte
Although Road To Rome falls someway short of being the perfect add-on. considering it has only been a few months since the release of the original game, the developers have managed to pack quite a lot into it in a very short space of time. For multiplayer fans there are endless hours of battling ahead, for singleplayers considerably less (though certainly more than the seven or so hours required to complete the Medal Of Honor add-on). With plans to continue to expand this most rich and varied of first-person action games, we only hope it isn't too long before some sort of tactical command structure is added into the game.
Download Battlefield 1942: Road to Rome
Some Day all wars will be fought like this: virtual troops battling it out in a gruelling arena, taking control of powerful tanks on the ground, ships at sea and planes in the air, as well as yomping on foot with other online combatants. Digital Illusions' Battlefield 1942 may have suffered in single-player due to poor Al and hurriedly assembled missions, but in multiplayer it delivered an incredibly immersing theatre of war with up to 64 PC gamers being able to join in the action.
The Road To Rome is an expansion pack for Battlefield 1942 that concentrates on making the multiplayer WWII experience even better, conscripting players into the fierce fighting that took place during the Allies' Italian campaign. When we looked at where we wanted to go with the expansion pack we finally came upon Italy, because some really heavy battles took place there," says producer Anders Hoh. The war in Italy is not that widely known, which added some novelty value. Plus, it was also an appealing thought to add new landscape scenery to the Battlefield 1942 universe as well." You'll notice this immediately from playing the add-on pack, which shows beautifully-lit Mediterranean olive groves and distinctive architecture, which is used as cover for troops that now include the Italian infantry and French legionnaires.
Fields Of War
However, the biggest addition are the six new maps, which include the Sicily-based Operation Husky, and each area includes new rules of engagement that encourages gamers to play the existing multiplayer modes - such as CTF - very differently. For instance, explains Hoh, one of the maps is kind of a traditional King of the Hill level. When you reach the top, the teams can't spawn again, which will make this area very important to defend. If you lose it, you'll have to fight your way up the hill again to retake it. This also works well for single-player. Talking of which, Hoh and his team have been busy giving the computer-controlled soldiers in The Road To Rome a right royal boot up the arse, which will hopefully improve the single-player experience, effectively creating unscripted battles that you can enjoy offline again and again.
Digital Illusions has also jemmied in eight more vehicles, ships and aircraft such as the British Mosquito twin-engine fighter bomber and an Italian torpedo boat. Almost all of the new vehicles work differently," says Hoh. The new British and German tanks have protected turret gunners, the aeroplanes are nice mixes between a bomber and a fighter and we've included new stationary anti-tank guns. Although there aren't any new infantry classes in The Road To Rome, many have been given new weapons, such as a Sten-gun for the British and French medics, and deadly bayonets for all the engineers' rifles, meaning there'll be close combat with a new twist - so to speak. I'm especially fond of the Italian assault gun, the Breda. It has a nice sound and feel to it when it blazes off, adds Hoh. We'll find out whether Battlefield 1942: The Road To Rome is worth invading once the fog of war has cleared in a future PC.
After focusing on the encounters with the Germans and Japanese in Battlefield 1942, the Italians make their appearance in the expansion pack, Road to Rome. With a number of new additions including new vehicles, weapons, and six new maps, the $20 price tag is easily justified. Although there are a few minor issues, the overall experience from Battlefield 1942 was retained and in many ways, improved.
It can be difficult to decide if an expansion pack is going to have enough new features to breathe life back into a game that's become exhausted. Often an insufficient amount of new features or improvements are added, giving more of the same gameplay that you're already tired of playing. Road to Rome however, does include new features that require strategy changes and the addition of certain vehicles and weapons that help freshen up the game.
The six new maps in particular stand out as the layouts were obviously designed to maximize combat and strategy. The large size of the maps, at first glance, appears to be too open but the bridges and other obstacles focus the combat and create key areas to control. Teamwork has also been increased as taking bridges or other strongholds will require a calculated assault to have success.
Other new additions like the vehicles also encourage teamwork, as many of them require at least two soldiers to operate. In addition, the gunner on top is more protected, allowing for the driver to focus on keeping the tank or truck alive instead of worrying about losing his gunner.
One problem with Battlefield 1942 that still persisted in the expansion pack is the general performance. Even after installing the latest drivers for my ATI Radeon 8500 graphics card, it still was extremely choppy even at low-resolution settings and almost impossible to play. However, when I downloaded the latest patch (v. 1.3) the performance increased dramatically. If you had issues with Battlefield 1942 running in the past, you may want to revisit it with the latest patch. Whatever the problem was, they apparently got a handle on it.
Battlefield 1942: Road to Rome continues the success and balanced gameplay that was found in the original. You'll easily get $20 worth out of this game and if you had trouble running Battlefield 1942 in the past, try the latest patch as it may create a totally new experience.