Battlefield 1943's biggest strength lies in the well-known core battlefield gameplay. Each game starts off with the two teams, the Japanese Imperial Navy and the American Marines (as the game is set in the WWII Pacific theatre) starting off at separate bases on opposite sides of the map. From there, the goal is to capture and hold as many of the five flags stationed around the map as possible, because doing so will deplete your opponent's reinforcement bar more quickly (respawning reduces the bar). When one team's reinforcement bar runs out, the game ends. The average game lasts around 15-20 minutes or so, a length which seems appropriate. The way you go about capturing and holding these checkpoints is about what you would expect. You'll spend most of your time on foot, running between the checkpoints, killing the enemy soldiers you see along the way, working together with your teammates to clear out enemy checkpoints, pretty standard FPS gameplay. Capturing the checkpoints is pretty simple, when you stand near it the enemy's flag will begin to lower, and after enough time passes yours will rise to the top, giving you control of the base, really standard Battlefield gameplay. To assist you in this are vehicles like cars, for fast transport; tanks, for a protected assault; boats, for crossing the water on the maps (the maps are all islands, so there's plenty of opportunities to use the boats); and airplanes, for aerial attacks on vehicles, infantry, bases, and of course, other planes. All the vehicles control pretty well, though the airplane can be a bit tough to use sometimes. The vehicles are also balanced pretty well, and each feels about as powerful as it should-the tank can easily blow up the jeeps, but have a hard time taking out the planes, etc. The main check to airplanes is the AA guns which are scattered throughout the map, which can make quick work of an unsuspecting airman.
The most powerful vehicle of sorts is the air raid, a group of three bombers which can lay waste to an entire base. The air raid must be activated and controlled from a small building usually contained at one of the bases, and is something that can really change the tide of battle. A well-placed air raid can take out upwards of half the enemy team, so it is definitely worth going after. The air raid bombers can be destroyed by enemy planes, but this rarely happens, so in terms of vehicles, the air aid bombers are by far the most powerful. The air raid does have a cooling off time after use, but once it is ready again, every player will be notified, and the rush to use it begins again. But, as I said, most of the time you will be playing as a foot soldier, of which there are three classes to choose from. The infantry class works well at close range, as it has a machine gun which devastates enemy soldiers at close range, but is useless at mid-to-long range. The infantry is also the main anti-vehicle class, as it features a rocket launcher which does a great amount of damage to vehicles. This class also features a wrench to repair vehicles with, making it an important class to use when driving vehicles. The second class is the rifleman class. It, in terms of class to class combat, is clearly the most powerful. The rifle is deadly at mid-to-long range, and is still pretty powerful at close range. The rifleman class also features rifle grenades which can kill groups of soldiers with ease. The class's main weakness is that it has to real weapon against vehicles, so it is not all-powerful, but if you have skill, you can dominate the game as a rifleman. The sniper class is about what you'd expect it to be; it features a scoped bolt-action rifle with pistol for close combat. The sniper rifle is a little tough to use, and the pistol is pretty weak, but this class has perhaps the most powerful defensive weapon in the satchel charge, which can be thrown and detonated. The resulting explosion can destroy pretty much any vehicle within a close range of it, including the armored tank. Each class has its use, and you'll see a good mix on the battlefield. Using the classes in conjunction to one another is one of the many keys to victory, something you will learn quickly.
The combat during the games is very satisfying. Large firefights will often break out on roads between bases, and prevailing in these requires great skill and a good plan. A well-planned attack can easily overwhelm greater forces, but a poor planned attack can be wiped out by even just a few defenders. The best battles happen at the bases, where sometimes your attack will run into a large enemy force staging its own attack, and the firefights that ensue are probably the best part of the game. It is also possible for a stealthily led force of foot soldiers to succeed in attacks, and sneaking around the enemy and taking out a greater force can also lead to some of the game's best moments. The only time the game gets really frustrating is when the other team holds all the flags, forcing your team to spawn far away from the action at the main base, but this usually only occurs when your team really deserves it.
The game's graphics are pretty good. Everything, from the player models, to the guns, to the vehicles is nice and detailed. There are occasional graphical glitches, like how on one of the game's three maps a destructible bridge will sometimes float in the air after having most of its supports destroyed, and sometimes the vehicles and objects won't get along, but these issues are very minor. The buildings are all destructible, and by the end of battle, the map usually is full of ruined buildings, which seems appropriate given the circumstances.
The game sounds decent. The explosions sound good, as do the weapons, though the sound will never blow you away with realism. It is not quite a problem, but it is rather unspectacular. Hope you don't get stuck in the menus, as the title music loops endlessly, and quickly grows irritating. The game's main issues, at least early on, were in connectivity. For a week after its release it was difficult to join games, though this issue seems to have been resolved for the most part. Annoying issues still pop up now and again, like how you will often be separated from your friends after joining as a party after a new game starts. This usually requires everyone to quit out and remake the party, an annoyance which detracts from the experience of the game.
Another issue is the squad system. The system is supposed to provide the battle with a sort of organizational system, with different squads of four players working on individual objectives, much as a battle may work in real life, and the system largely accomplishes what it sets out to do. Squad coordination is easy, especially when you can spawn on your other squadmates, and a well-run squad can be deadly. The big issue with this system is that you are only able to communicate with your other three squadmates, so coordinating a larger assault with the rest of your team is near impossible, especially when the game has a full 12 people on each team. This makes the game feel more focused on individual efforts than it should, especially when you can't find a squad to join, or when you cannot communicate with your squad, which makes the system feel like it fails somewhat.
One other flaw is that there is not enough incentive to play defense. The game uses a scoring system, where for certain actions players gain points, and through these points new ranks are gained (which have no effect on gameplay) and players ranked in game and on the leaderboards. Far more points can be gained through attacking than on defense, so too often the game will be spent exchanging undefended bases, as most players will opt to attack rather than to defend. Most defense comes in the form of players spawning at the base you are trying to capture, and if you are ready for it, it's not hard to dispatch the other team as they spawn. As long as your team is able to keep capturing bases and not be held without a base to spawn at other than the main one, you'll usually be ok. There is also no incentive for winning or losing, so most players will try to get as many points as they can before the game is up, whether it means winning or losing, so that means everyone will be on offense, save for a few snipers. Defense certainly does help your team win, but with little incentive to try to win, it's hard to justify sacrificing potential points for a victory. It really is shame, because if there were more incentives for defense, it would add more depth to the gameplay.
As this is an arcade game, the amount of content is limited. There are three main maps, and one map for a game involving only airplanes. The main maps are recreations of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Wake Island, and each is well designed and fun to play on. The main issue is that after a few days you really do get tired of these maps, as with only three to cycle the maps get old rather quickly. The fourth map, the Coral Sea, is used for a separate gametype called Air Superiority, where players spawn on aircraft carriers and take to the skies, vying for control of the airways. It's a fun diversion, but unless you really know how to control a plane you will die quite a bit and get very few kills, so it can end up being a bit frustrating as well. It is a nice thing to have, but not for everyone, and is certainly not as good as the main game.
Battlefield 1943 definitely has its issues. But for a mere $15, these issues seem small when compared to what the game has to offer, from great graphics to solid gameplay mechanics, so for any Xbox Live Gold member or PS3 owner, it certainly should be considered. If you can get a few friends to play with you, great times can be had on this game the first day you own it. Though there may be better multiplayer options out there, from Battlefield Bad Company to games like Halo 3, few come as cheap and as convenient as Battlefield 1943.