Battlefield 1943 launched a week ago and after a slight hiccup, is now battling it out in a 24-hour war in the Pacific. Tapping in on an existing fan base from the Battlefield series, Battlefield 1943 brings Pacific Island WWII warfare to a console near you, offering online-only multiplayer gaming.
There's no shortage of multiplayer shooters out there, but with Battlefield 1943 there is no single player campaign, no offline mode – apart from a brief and perhaps unnecessary tutorial – it's all about online combat. A quick download that will cost you 1200 Microsoft points (or £9.99 on the PSN), it takes you straight into the action.
In conventional terms there isn't that much to review. Options are limited, graphics aren't mind-blowing and the maps aren't too comprehensive either. The choice of weapons, even, is rather limited, but that's not to say limiting. In fact, it’s these things that make Battlefield 1943 so appealing: less faffing and more trigger time.
Two factions, the United States Marine Corps and the Japanese Imperial Army, battle it out over a series of islands in the Pacific. A quick glance at Google Maps shows these to have a passing resemblance to their real-life counterparts, with a dash of history or gaming tip flashed on the screen as you move to a new map.
Currently there are four maps, with the fourth, Coral Sea, unlocked when Xbox gamers reached 43 million kills. A morbid target, perhaps, but one that was reached extraordinarily quickly. (PS3 gamers reached the same target a few days later.)
That's not to say killing is easy in Battlefield 1943. Folk don't just drop like they did in the likes of Battlefield: Bad Company. Aiming is a little more shaky too so you can't just drop people from afar and that's probably a good thing.
On the three land maps – Wake Island, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal – you battle it out on land, sea and air to capture various outposts and raise your flag over them. The enemy will be doing the same and the majority of your time will be spent capturing and re-capturing locations until one side dominates.
In reality that means its all-out war, with the first off the block capturing locations and getting a good heap of points. You have the choice of three types of soldier to play which you can pick each time you respawn: Infantry, Rifleman and Scout.
The Infantryman is equipped with a sub machine gun, which makes him ideal for close quarters, fighting in the trenches and clearing buildings. The Scouts pack the sniper rifle letting you hit a still target at long distances and with practise you can hit those on the move too. The downside is that it's slow to cock after each shot, so if you're not hidden or out of range, you need to get in a headshot to kill your opponent before he responds.
The normal Rifleman seems to lose out with a primary firearm that falls between the two, but he does have rifle grenades, which are really useful. Each solider has strengths and weaknesses but being able to switch each time you die brings plenty of variety as you play through a level.
Ammo is unlimited, with a short refresh time when it runs out, but you still have mags to change, so pump out 5 rounds from your rifle and you'll need to reload. Respawning is limitless too, with only a short delay before you're back on the map.
Respawning presents some options which are worth playing around with. We like the option of being able to respawn on another squad member because you can jump straight into the action, even into their vehicle, so you spend less time moving back into the action after you die.
You can form squads, with squad chat, so you can coordinate action which is really effective, although so far we've found that chat seems to be relatively rare. As groups of friends get playing, we're sure it will progress away from the normal coughing, laughing and profanity.
Each side has fighter aircraft, tanks, jeeps and troop-carrying boats at their disposal. Anti-aircraft guns are dotted around the islands, but the action generally moves on too fast for them to really lend much to the battle and you can rarely hit a ground target with them. A preferable option is an air strike you can call in from diving into the appropriate bunker on the map.
Control of all the vehicles is a little woolly. The tanks are a little ponderous and the jeeps race around bouncing all over of the place. Both can carry additional soldiers, so you can have a driver and someone riding top cover on your .30 cal.
You can, however, do everything yourself in the tank, from the main gun to the machine gun on the top, without having to switch seats. You tend to drive into things and thanks to a destructible environment that often doesn’t matter. It did take us a while to find reverse but once you do, you'll be ramming buildings and flattening enemies all over the place.
Some of the funniest moments are hurtling down a slope and ramming your opponent into a building: pure gaming brilliance. Driving over people is often the best way to make a speedy kill, because you know they are only two button presses from blowing you up. But on the receiving end, taking out an oncoming jeep and getting numerous kills in the process is absolute bliss.
The fighter planes are a different kettle of fish and take practise to master their controls. A balance of analogue sticks and power will be needed to turn your fighter and line-up for strafing runs.
You'll see some very slow aircraft overhead as the pilots ease off the power and glide onto target to drop their bombs. You can eject too, but remember to deploy your parachute. This is, in fact, one of the best ways to start the game, parachuting in to get your flag up, whilst others languish in their boats.
The newly unlocked Coral Sea brings with it a new gaming mode called Air Superiority. It's a good thing in a way that those who don't already have the game can download it now and get the new feature, rather than having to catch up. Air Superiority is an air-only battle, which some will like, but for us it doesn't stand-up against the land battles.
For those with lots of gaming mates, however, you'll probably want to use one of the other options of running your own games, finding online friends and getting going.
The key to being on the winning side in Battlefield 1943 is team work. Coordinating an attack makes a massive difference. It's starting to happen too: seeing enemy streaming en masse with planes circling overhead is an awesome sight; snipers picking you off any time you stop and aim, it's a full-on multiplayer dream.
Honing Battlefield 1943 into a simple multiplayer-only title was a great move as the lack of options or customisation don't mar the gameplay. We love the balance of the teams, there are few advantages to be had, no super weapons hiding or stupid armour to collect.
There are also plenty of players and since the server fix, getting a game doesn't seem to be a problem any more. Lag seems to be kept to a minimum too and you'll often see your rounds hit the ground where you expect. Occasionally there are some graphical quirks, like players running in mid-air when seen through the sniper scope and we've also seen some nasties viewed from the deck of the aircraft carriers (in particular) where the map blacks out.
But overall, the pace of the game is excellent, respawning options and being able to change character means you can tactically respawn and brings variety. It's great fun, easy to play, but tricky to master. For shooter fans it's a must-have.