One of the largest draws at Electronic Arts' Camp EA 2002 press event was Digital Illusions' forthcoming multiplayer-focused World War II action game, Battlefield 1942. Six PCs were networked onto a LAN game that was rotating through several of the game's new levels every few minutes. While Battlefield 1942 has been undergoing a public beta test for several months now, the only maps currently available for play have been Wake Island and Tabrook. The appeal of playing this frantic and addictive game on entirely new levels caused quite a stir around the Battlefield 1942 demonstration area.
One of the new levels on display was Iwo Jima, which was arguably the setting for the most brutal battle waged between the US and Japan in the Pacific theater of World War II. In Battlefield 1942, this map is nearly three times as large as Wake Island, and shaped to look like a pinecone as opposed to a horseshoe. This time around, it's the objective of the Allies to swarm the island's beaches and overrun its Japanese defenders. Unlike Wake, Iwo Jima is very rocky and mountainous, which means that the Allied team can only use a handful of corridors and passes in order to move from the beachhead into the heart of the island. With fortified structures and machinegun nests on top of nearly every cliff, it seems that the balance of power on this map favors the Japanese team.
However, the Allies have some heavy firepower on their side in the form of a massive battleship and the USS Enterprise, one of the Navy's most formidable aircraft carriers during the war. This battleship is much larger than the Japanese destroyer in Wake Island, and it has a pair of massive guns aft and fore of the deck, as well as a number of smaller batteries and anti-aircraft guns in between. The Enterprise, which, interestingly enough, lists to port because of kamikaze damage it sustained during the actual battle, can launch two aircraft off of its deck at once, and like the nearby battleship, is much larger than its Japanese counterpart from Wake. Both of these US Navy ships can also launch Higgins boats to land troops onto the beach.
We also played a little bit of Kursk, a map based on a decisive tank battle in the Eastern Front where Russian defenders managed to stop the onrushing Germans. This map plays similarly to Tabrook, though the area is heavily wooded, and provides for much more cover than the wide plains of North Africa. Each side has access to a number of tanks, jeeps, and armored personnel carriers, as well as a pair of fighter aircraft. The Russians can also operate a very powerful rocket artillery unit that can be driven nearly anywhere on the battlefield, and has the ability to fire six long-ranged and extremely deadly rockets.
Another map gave us a first look at the Allies' B-17 bomber, a plane that can hold up to three players--pilot, bombardier, and turret gunner--and can carry a devastating amount of firepower. For all of its potency, however, the B-17 is a lumbering beast, and it usually requires a fighter escort in order to successfully reach and bomb its targets without getting shot out of the sky.
The final game will have 16 different multiplayer maps, so even after spending hours with the beta and a good deal of time with this latest build, we've only seen a fraction of Battlefield 1942. From what we have seen, though, we can safely say that this is one of the most addictive action games we've played in a while, and there's no reason to believe that the final game won't be just that.
Battlefield 1942 comes out for the PC this September. Interestingly, Electronic Arts representatives had no news to divulge about the Xbox version of the game. At any rate, we'll have more news and updated impressions of this game in the coming months.