So, two identical factions, three classes, three main maps and one game mode. For a download title it's an adequate start, but it does leave you in little doubt that the future of Battlefield 1943 lies in micropayments and DLC. Again, those reared on the mod community of the original game will no doubt bristle at having to pay for map packs and the like, and it's true that the prospect of paying to keep the game interesting rather negates the current bargain price.
As an initial investment, the game certainly impresses. It's an incredibly immersive dip into familiar waters, with the Bad Company's Frostbite engine offering up a satisfying destructible world, where buildings can crumble and walls collapse under the treads of a rampaging tank. Character models are a little basic, and the maps show their limitations when you take a plane high into the sky, but there's not much to complain about where production values are concerned. If anything dampens things on that front, it's the lag, which is most notable if you're trying to shoot down planes which teleport across the sky in distracting lurches. Hopefully the server fix will eradicate this problem.
Despite being pitched at console gamers, there are few concessions to the n00bs here. Anyone used to the subtle auto-aiming that makes most console shooters playable online will be flummoxed by the unforgiving accuracy demanded here, while the pace of the gameplay leaves little room for those trying to find their feet. There's a tutorial, but with no live foes it doesn't do much to prepare you for the mayhem ahead.
It comes with the territory, but it's no surprise to see the leaderboards for each match dominated by a handful of elite players who walk away from the round with over 500 points, while newcomers struggle to double figures. There's thankfully no friendly fire, but many of the other frustrations from Battlefields of old are still here, especially the prevalence of camping snipers. The sniper rifle in BF1943 is a ludicrously overpowered beast, capable of killing players in one shot from the other side of the map, so all it takes is for one team to have a proficient long-distance shooter and the precious balance so beautifully created by the weaponry and vehicles starts to fall apart.
Movement on foot is sometimes snagged by rogue scenery or a wayward incline, and vehicle control isn't all it could be. The planes are slippery customers, but mastering their peculiarities is one of the few ways to guarantee massive scores. You can also be sure to find queues of annoying players loitering around the plane respawn points, practically begging to be sniped. The land vehicles aren't quite as successful - with no reverse gear they're easy to jam into impossible spaces, and tanks are often more trouble than they're worth.
The slimline features also means that there's not much benefit in ranking up. Although there are awards for specific feats, these are just collectable stamps. There are no perks, no bonuses, no loftier purpose behind climbing the ranks than old-fashioned bragging rights. Nor are the lobby options much to get excited about. The front-end is functional but inflexible, clearly favouring those who just want to dive into the first available match. You can join up with friends as a squad, and carry your own private chat channel from one round to the next, but in terms of setting up custom games you're limited to basic options.
These minor irritations come and go as you battle through lengthy sessions, and while the gameplay benefits from the no-frills approach, rendering the action accessible to all in concept if not always in practice, there is a lingering danger that the game's undeniable appeal will dim pretty quickly with so few variables to play with. In the first flushes of infatuation it's an easy game to love, and one that will easily provide hours of ferocious enjoyment. In a few months' time the spell may well have worn off, but for this price that's really not something to worry about right now.
8 / 10