Battlefield 1942: The Road to Rome impressions

The expansion for EA's WWII multiplayer shooter is coming out next week. We take a look at the retail version.


Battlefield 1942

Today we had our first opportunity to spend a significant amount of time on EA's online servers running the upcoming The Road to Rome expansion pack for Battlefield 1942. Digital Illusions designers, EA testers, and members of the press filled two 32-person servers that cycled through the six new maps in the expansion, which is due out in stores next Tuesday.

The Road to Rome is pretty quick to install, and it adds the version 1.25 patch for Battlefield 1942 in the process. While the 1.30 patch is still due out soon, version 1.25 is an interim update that will be released to sync up Battlefield 1942 servers with the code that's necessary for The Road to Rome. Even though it has its own shortcut, the expansion is tightly integrated with the original game application. It's possible to join or create games with either the new maps or the original ones, and your settings from Battlefield carry over directly when you boot up The Road to Rome. Note that playing The Road to Rome requires a valid unique CD key for both the expansion and the original game.

As previously mentioned, the expansion includes six new maps that are set during the WWII campaign in Italy. Most of the maps are very large, but it doesn't seem to take any longer to load them than the original Battlefield maps. The Italian setting provides a change of pace from the existing maps, not only because the color palette has a suitably earthy Mediterranean look, but also because the new maps are generally quite rugged and hilly. The maps Operation Husky, Monte Cassino, and Monte Santa Croce each have distinctly defensive terrain that can make the Allied assault an incredible challenge. Salerno is a king-of-the-hill map, with a flag on the top of a hill, but neither side can spawn from the side of the hill, and there are treacherous roads leading to the summit that can be shut down with judicious use of the antitank guns. Baytown is one of the largest maps and features a river that winds through the middle as well as a number of different village areas to capture, so planes can be particularly effective to use here. Anzio also has a river running through the main valley, and here it's easy enough to bombard from one side to the other, as the Allies try to advance from their base in a seaside port.

The maps seem to provide good opportunities for both infantry and vehicle-borne players. But half the fun of trying out the expansion came in exploring the capabilities of the new vehicles. One thing we noticed is that since all the new vehicles with top gunner positions offer protection for the player manning the secondary gun, many more players are willing to jump in and help out a tank driver. Several of the new tanks can't turn the main gun very far to either side, so this extra protection can be particularly helpful. The vehicles that seem to potentially deal out the most damage are the attack bombers, the Axis and Allied twin-engine planes that are fairly maneuverable and yet carry a hefty payload. These planes come into play on Baytown, Santa Croce, and Anzio, and they can be a real threat to tanks and groups of infantry.

We'll have a full review of Battlefield 1942: The Road to Rome next week.

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