Battlefield 1942: Secret Weapons of WWII updated hands-on impressions
We take a near-finished version of Secret Weapons of WWII for a spin.
Earlier this year, Electronic Arts released Battlefield 1942: The Road to Rome, which was a very successful expansion pack to its hit first-person shooter Battlefield 1942. Though fans were mostly happy with Road to Rome's new maps and vehicles, some players wanted more. Facing competition from its own community, which produced mods like Desert Combat, EA went back to the drawing board and will soon release Secret Weapons of WWII, a new expansion pack that promises not only more maps and vehicles, but also a new gameplay mode and new infantry weapons for the various classes. We recently had a chance to try out a near-finished version of Secret Weapons to get a feel for the new content offered in this more-ambitious expansion pack to Battlefield 1942.
Most fans of Battlefield 1942 have probably already tried the multiplayer demo of Secret Weapons, which EA released over a week ago. While the demo gave players a good overview of the new vehicles, including the extremely quick Goblin and Natter jets, and the versatile amphibious transports, several of the more-impressive vehicles and weapons were left out, including the supertanks for both the Allies and the Germans, as well as the larger jet-powered fighter-bombers.
The first difference players will notice in Secret Weapons is that a few of the playable classes have been given new weapons. Allied engineers wield a shotgun that gives them lethal firepower at short range, although their effectiveness at a distance is compromised without a rifle. German engineers get the Mauser K98 grenade rifle, replacing their demolition packs. It's simply an attachment to their standard rifles that lets them launch a grenade with more distance and accuracy than throwing it. On many maps, Allied medics are armed with silenced Sten submachine guns, allowing them to kill while remaining hidden. German scouts will enjoy the Gewehr 43, a semiautomatic sniper rifle with a zoom lens. Instead of having to lower the weapon and pull on the bolt to load the next round, German scouts can fire off shot after shot without having their view moved out of the scope. Assault-class troops on both sides will also get new automatic rifles.
The supertanks for both sides are among the most appealing new features in Secret Weapons. The Allies get the T-95, a tank with a long cannon mounted on a massive chassis. The gun has the unique property of firing in a virtually straight line, with infinite speed on its projectile (rather than lobbing shells in an arc that you have to compensate for). The Germans counter with the Sturmtiger, a tank with a naval cannon mounted atop a somewhat smaller chassis than the T-95. The Sturmtiger's aim can be adjusted only vertically, but like the guns mounted on ships, it hits the ground with massive splash damage that takes out any infantry nearby. Although the smaller chassis makes the Sturmtiger feel somewhat more maneuverable than the T-95, it's very difficult to aim the cannon, especially since the recoil from each shot violently rocks the small chassis back and forth. The fact that the T-95 can make minor adjustments to aim laterally as well as vertically probably makes it a better tank overall, but the Sturmtiger compensates with its massive splash radius and its ability to double as a mobile artillery unit.
The Allies also have an additional new tank--the Sherman T-34. This tank is a standard Sherman with rockets mounted on top. The driver of this Sherman variant still controls the tank cannon, while the gunner handles the firing duties on the rocket launcher. Much like the Russian truck-mounted rocket tubes on the original Battlefield 1942's Kursk map, the rockets of the Sherman T-34 can be fired off sequentially in rapid volleys and are extremely effective against grouped infantry and light vehicles. The gunner has the ability to swivel the rocket tubes a bit to the left and right, and he or she can also make minor adjustments in elevation. However, with the tube launchers attached to the turret, both the driver and the gunner need to coordinate their actions carefully. The best part about being the gunner on the Sherman T-34 is that your head and torso are not exposed to infantry fire, unlike in the standard machine gun emplacement on a regular tank.
New Bombers and Maps
The Allies and Axis will also deploy jet-powered flying wings, whose unusual designs suggest similarities to today's B-2 stealth bomber. The Axis aircraft, the Horton HO229, serves in a fighter-bomber role with its machine gun and rocket armament. It's fast and extremely maneuverable, but it fires only one rocket at a time. The Allied AW-52 is more of a heavy bomber than the Horton. It has a much longer wingspan, making it somewhat less nimble than its German counterpart, but it still offers good speed for a bomber. The AW-52 is armed with both rockets and bombs, and it can shoot or drop both types of ordnance in pairs. You're still limited to four rockets and two bombs before you have to wait for a reload, so it doesn't exactly blanket the battlefield with explosive power.
Aside from these new vehicles, Secret Weapons will add a new objective-style gameplay mode. Those who have played the recently released Battle of Britain map will be instantly familiar with this style of play. Six of the expansion pack's eight maps can be configured for objective-based gameplay, which in every case involves the Allies as the attackers and the Germans attempting to defend map emplacements. For example, the Kbely Airfield map features a sprawling German airbase with two huge hangars that contain alien saucers. The Germans must defend the multiple entrances to their base against Allied incursion and keep the alien craft from being destroyed. Mimoyeques is almost like Battle of Britain played in reverse--the Allies start off on a small island with an AW-52 bomber spawn point, as well as a C-47 transport plane. The Allies will need to cross a large expanse of water in order to destroy a V3 rocket base held by the Germans on the other side of the channel.
Though much of the attention surrounding Secret Weapons of WWII has centered on the rocket pack, its current implementation makes it more of a curiosity than a serious threat. On each map, the rocket pack is hidden in an otherwise nondescript building. Only one rocket kit at a time may be in play, and the wearer of the pack can be armed only with an MP-40 submachine gun. Flight is a tricky affair, and most new players will only be able to manage short hops. As it stands, the inclusion of amphibious vehicles in the game seems to have much more of an effect on the gameplay, since they make every waterway a viable transport route.
Overall, Secret Weapons of WWII is shaping up to be a much more daring and ambitious expansion pack than Road to Rome was. While the new vehicles in Road to Rome were only slight variations of standard tanks and vehicles, the new craft in Secret Weapons promise to be much more unique in appearance and function. Amphibious vehicles open up the maps to unexpected avenues of attack, and the new handheld weapons should make each side more distinct. Longtime players who are tired of the conquest mode will probably look forward to the new objective-based maps. Fans of Battlefield 1942 won't have long to wait for this expansion pack, as Secret Weapons of WWII is currently scheduled for release in early September.