Battlefield 1943 Hands-On

DICE is releasing the next Battlefield on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and PC, and we were the first to go hands-on with the game.

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There's a tangible buzz in the air at DICE's Stockholm headquarters. It's indicative of a studio hard at work, which is not surprising, given the number of unannounced games that the company must be working on right now. So it's with some sense of relief that producers Patrick Liu and Gordon Van Dyke are finally able to talk about their own project, which will be the latest game in the beloved Battlefield series. Named Battlefield 1943, the game will be a download-only game for Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and PC.

Our demo began with the same trailer that you can see alongside this preview. It proudly announces that Battlefield 1943 will use the Frostbite engine--the same one that powered the destructible environments in Bad Company--after which it shows off the land-, sea-, and air-based combat that should be more familiar to players of Battlefield 1942. The message seems to be that this is classic Battlefield multiplayer updated with cutting-edge technology, a thought that's only reinforced by the inclusion of the Wake Island map from Battlefield 1942. Van Dyke explains that 1943 will have more in common with Bad Company in terms of gameplay, but with all of the things that made 1942 great. That includes a heavy focus on vehicular combat, as well as the obvious similarities in historical setting.

After the trailer, the conversation naturally turned to the game's download-based delivery. It's a topic that the team is excited to talk about, while simultaneously being keen to gauge our opinion on. "We want Battlefield 1943 to be the premium downloadable game on consoles," Van Dyke said. With a technologically advanced engine powering a new entry in a proven franchise, that shouldn't be too much of a problem, but at what cost? "We're not talking about that just yet," he conceded, "but think premium pricing along the lines of something like Braid." Even more surprising, the team said that the game will weigh in as a paltry 350MB download, at least on Xbox Live.

As for the game itself, the maximum number of online players will be 24, and you'll be able to play as both the US Marines and the Japanese Imperial Army. The lack of bot support is a small niggle for those who wish to practice, but that doesn't stop it from being newbie-friendly; you'll be able to level up your character and show your experience to others, but it won't afford you extra weapons or abilities. Battlefield 1943 will offer the Conquest game mode only, which means that you have to capture and control five points on the map to win the game, with capture points offering you and your team new points from which to respawn. As for maps, Liu and Van Dyke talked about the aforementioned Wake Island, as well as Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal.

Once we'd gone through the stats with the producers, they offered us the chance to play against DICE employees through two matches on the Wake Island map. Battlefield stalwarts will immediately recognise the boomerang-shaped layout of the map, with two aircraft carriers located off of each tip. We started the game on one of these carriers and immediately ran toward one of the aircraft. Piloting the plane was initially a bit tricky but quickly became intuitive; the right trigger is used to accelerate and the right analogue stick changes your pitch and roll. These aircraft are equipped with machine guns and rockets, and the Frostbite engine lets you topple entire buildings through judicious use of the latter.

Our experience with the new game was punctuated by some incredible standout moments. Playing as the Japanese side, we were able to melee-kill someone using a samurai sword, a bizarre but highly entertaining weapon. There were times when airplanes blasted overhead, toppling the buildings around us but miraculously missing us entirely. But our favourite moment was jumping into an air-raid shelter, which provided temporary cover against the enemy while we piloted a formation of aircraft to bomb a target. You have to time the bombing run just right to hit your target--which we failed to do on our one and only go--but with the right skill, these shelters should have the ability to turn the course of games.

Even at this early stage, Battlefield 1943 is incredibly fun to play. It possesses all of the hallmarks of a great Battlefield game, and the Frostbite engine offers the graphics that you'd expect in a full retail release. If you're interested in playing the game and you're in the New York area this weekend, then head to Comic-Con, where the team will be giving hands-on demos on February 6, 7, and 8. With the game in pre-alpha already, we're hoping to see a lot more of it in the coming months, so keep your radar tracked to GameSpot for more info as we get it.

[Editor's Note: In the original version of this story, we referred to Battlefield 1943 as a XBL/PSN-exclusive. EA has subsequently also announced the game for the PC. We apologise for any confusion.]

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