Developer: Digital Illusions
Estimated Release: Fall 2002
Squad combat on steroids
One of the big games we missed at E3 was BattleField 1942, a multiplayer squad based shooter set in World War II. There are a number of aspects that separate BF 1942 from the crowd Ė these include the huge emphasis on vehicles (land, sea, and air), the huge maps that support up to 64 players, and new twists in how the different classes work together. The graphics engine for the game is a proprietary one called Refractor 2. While it wonít be mistaken for anything that will give Doom 3 a run for its money, the engine is more than competent, capable of long draw distances and rendering so many players and vehicles at once. The long draw distance is useful for spotting troop movements far away on the huge, sprawling maps in BF 1942, or a fighter plane off in the distance coming at you for a strafing run. You also get excellent smoke effects and meticulous detail on the various vehicles youíll be piloting in the game.
The developers in the game did a good job at carefully modeling the looks of the various vehicles after their real life counterparts. Russian T-34 tanks, American P-51 Mustangs, jeeps, halftracks, APCs, and more look exactly as though they were pulled from a WWII documentary. However, BF 1942 isnít a hardcore simulation Ė vehicle performance will be balanced for gameplay purposes, not realism. So donít expect to go rampaging through American Shermans if youíre driving a German King Tiger. Having said that though, the vehicles play a pivotal role in the gameplay, just as they did in the real war, the first one where vehicles played a key role from start to finish.
Pair of Mustangs
Each side has a starting base where vehicles will spawn for use, including quick scout vehicles like jeeps, tanks that can be manned by two players (one driving and shooting the cannon, the other riding shotgun and firing the machine gun), aircraft like fighters (laden with bombs and machine gun shells), and even bigger vehicles like B-17 bombers and battleships with 16 inch guns! The control scheme for all the vehicles, land, air, and sea is easy to pick up and learn. W and S are gas and reverse for land vehicles, while A and D steer. In aircraft, W acts as a throttle of sorts, keeping your engine pumping and your plane in the air. A and D bank your aircraft for turns while you can easily switch between guns and bombs with your mouse. Maps based on island battles like Guadalcanal will feature naval units like battleships and even aircraft carriers for players to drive around.
The vehicles make for extremely exciting gameplay. The times I drove around in a tank, I got immense satisfaction out of blowing away halftracks and trucks making their way across the battlefield. Tank duels between two players are a ton of fun as well, with the two players circling each other, trying to juke the other into lobbing their shell to the wrong side for a glancing blow instead of a devastating direct hit. Charge in for a closer shot, or maintain your distance and try to outshoot the other guy? These are the tactical decisions you must make in a tank duel. Even driving around jeeps is fun as Iíd go on Grand Theft Auto-esque killing sprees, running over lines of enemy foot soldiers.
I witnessed a few exciting air to air dogfights as well. The funniest one was when I looked up to find two planes mixing it up while I rode shotgun on a two man tank. While trying to decide which plane I should shoot with my mounted machine gun, I saw the two planes crash into each other in a head-on collision, creating a spectacular explosion overhead. Everyone who was playing couldnít stop laughing at that botched game of aerial chicken!