City 16's Top 10 Games of 2009: #7

As we end this uncomfortably named decade some professional review sites have been trying to run down the best games of the last 10 years. What sort of madness is that? Sure, I attempted to gather a list of people’s favourite games of all time but they were implicitly the views of a single person, done with the proviso that one person can’t possibly have played every release and that their choices will be heavily influenced by personal taste.

Trying to create a list of the best, or most important, games of the last decade, with all the weight of expectation, the tricky distorter of hindsight and the venomous ire of internet dwelling gamers? Fuck. That. I’ll stick with sharing my favourite releases of the last 12 months.

Speaking of which, my submission for #7 is:

Battlefield 1943

Hey look, it’s not all indie-obsessed naval-gazing. I enjoy pretending to shoot people on an island during the second world war too!

Really enjoy it actually. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Battlefield games, despite never having played any of the main series entries. Battlefield 1943 took many of these elements (it’s essentially a remake of the PC-only 1942) and distilled them down into pure online shooter crack-cocaine. That it managed to be so compulsive without investing in the current trend of MMO style character investment, en vogue with the FPS since CoD4, is a testament to its focus and, thus, accessibility.

Compare it to the year’s other Battlefield release, the free PC online shooter Battlefield Heroes. A similarly stripped down version of the traditional online shooter, Heroes made players look to the long haul; earning points to buy weapons, leveling up to upgrade skills, completing challenges for bonuses and spending cash pounds to make your avatar an individual. One of these two games wasn’t very compelling (Hint: It’s the one this post isn’t about).

The difference was immediacy (well, that and Heroes was genuinely a bit rubbish). To gain any headway in Heroes you had to be prepared to be a higher level player’s bitch while you started to gather the elements that would make you competitive. Not so with 1943 in which everyone had access to the same equipment right from the start.

There were plenty of criticisms at the dumbing down of the franchise, but it was clear that this was never meant to be an indication of the direction of the franchise. It was an experiment in download-only multiplayer content for the console market. Many things were trimmed down or tweaked to make the experience simpler and more streamlined. Regenerating health negated the need for a medic class and regenerating ammo meant the assault class was also out. Despite this the game never felt diminished because what was left in more than made for a tense online battle.

Take the classes, which were a masterful lesson in rock, paper, scissors design. The infantry class had an inaccurate primary weapon but carried an RPG, making it invaluable against a tank assault, and the ability to repair vehicles; the rifleman’s gun was accurate and could cut down soldiers in a couple of shots, but had a small clip and no anti-tank measures; the sniper was powerful against soldiers at a distance and tanks up close, through use of C4, but was ineffective at mid-range. Whether you played on foot as your chosen class or jumped straight into a vehicle you were constantly forced to assess your survival odds going into any situation.

It’s also a surprisingly good looking game given the modest download size, the Japanese islands providing some of the most colourful locales of the year’s FPS offerings, and the carnage as buildings collapse, planes fall out of the sky and tanks explode around you is simply joyous.

It would have been nice to have some more than the three maps available (seriously DICE, not even any DLC?) but even now, months later, I find myself dropping in for a few rounds far more often than I have been with the attention-hogging Modern Warfare 2.

Better than the 7th best game of 2009 but worse than the 5th? That’ll be #6 in our countdown then, revealed tomorrow.


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