Battlefield 1942 Blowout Bonanza
A little over a year ago I wrote a review for Something Awful of Battlefield 1942, one of the most hotly anticipated PC gaming titles of 2002. I loved it on one hand, because it did so many things that no other game really offered, and I hated it on another, because it had severe almost to the point of crippling problems and bugs. I mentioned in my review that I hoped Digital Illusions, the developers of Battlefield 1942, would correct a lot of their errors. A year later I can honestly say that not only is Battlefield 1942 a completely improved game, but its community has flourished and a handful of epic and promising mods have been released. DICE gets a lot of flack by default for being associated with Electronic Arts. However, over the year since BF1942's release they have demonstrated a genuine devotion to their game beyond what you can normally expect from a developer.
The only serious bug remaining in their product is the chat lag, and while some annoying features persists (like the long load times between maps and frequent CD checks), DICE has done what they could. I find myself in an awkward position to an extent because I was one of only a few people who reviewed their game at release and ripped it a new asshole. I was entirely frustrated with trying to play the game online and my review sparked torrents of hate mail. With a year gone by the roles are largely reversed. A lot of the title's fans have turned to whiney sniping about the chat lag and a few other problems while DICE slaves away at continuing to improve their game. Meanwhile I couldn't be happier with owning Battlefield 1942. Its gameplay is now solid, its netcode seems greatly improved, servers are less prone to buckling under the weight of large games, and best of all the modding community has exploded.
I'm not here to lecture the fans about biting the hand of a dedicated developer; I'm here to talk to you about the mods and expansions for Battlefield 1942.
Official Expansion 1: "Road to Rome"
Road to Rome is the sort of expansion pack that makes people bitch about charging 30 dollars for an expansion pack. It came out way too soon and it was a dubious concept coupled with a half-hearted effort. The original Battlefield 1942 covered a number of the major battles of Rommel's DAK, so there really didn't seem to be a big need to reprise the North Africa/Italy setting in an expansion. It would have made much more sense to add new vehicles and weapons that emphasized earlier battles like the invasion of France, Belgium, and other Western European countries. They do include an equally forgettable Free French faction but frankly both they and the Italians come off as boring and too-Germany/Allies like in execution. Even the Italian tank they chose to include resembles the also-added Sturmgeschutz to the point that it looks like they just adapted the vehicle model. The allies make out slightly better with their new vehicles including the Grant tank and a half-track mounting a 75mm gun.
A halftrack mounted Allied gun shells an enemy position.
Road to Rome's content additions are anemic and essentially feel like things that should have been included in the original game. The addition of the Italians as a playable faction is not particularly exciting, a fact that owes mainly to their overwhelming similarity to the Germans. All this could have been forgiven - if not overlooked - if the expansion had come with a lot of great maps, but it doesn't. A few of the maps like Salerno and Anzio are very fun and well done, but the majority either seem like direct rehashes of map designs already covered or completely not fun and historically inaccurate maps like Monte Cassino. I would actually say that the Monte Cassino map is the single most disappointing thing in the entire expansion. It had the potential to shine like a diamond in the midst of a bunch of pretty boring junk and instead is one of the worst maps in Road to Rome. The brutal and harrowing siege of the Abby on Monte Cassino is reflected in the expansion with a map that makes it extremely easy for the Allies to steamroll up the mountain. The design for the map itself is unimaginative and shallow and seems more like a fight taking place in a canyon than on the top of a mountain.
The strongest argument for getting Road to Rome is that it's actually pretty popular. If your favorite server just upgraded to include it you may feel the need to do the same thing. Additionally if you happen upon the rare server that picks and chooses its maps carefully you can end up really enjoying a few of the Road to Rome maps when mixed in with the vanilla ones. Otherwise you're going to find yourself running up the same hill that you saw on Iwo Jima only this time it's in the desert! Woooo, awesome!
A group of Italian troops are about to eat a bomb.
Verdict: Only buy this expansion if you're a completist, a huge fan of the Italian military and its equipment, or some sort of masochistic gamer who likes playing dull repackaged maps. I would be happy with the content presented in Road to Rome if it had been given out free a piece at a time like DICE's excellent "Battle of Britain" map. 2 out of 5 is all I will give Road to Rome and even that is only for the handful of maps that are genuinely good. None of the rest of the new content is worth paying even reduced prices for.
Official Expansion 2: "Secret Weapons of World War II"
The old Lucas Arts classic "Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe" is among a handful of flight sims that I actually enjoyed. I am not a hardcore flight sim nerd. I don't get off on the incredible realism of say stalling every time I try to turn in IL-2 or shooting enemies outside of visual range using radar like in most modern flight sims. With that in mind I approached this expansion with more than a little excitement. It promised to cover a few of the wacky weapons World War II spawned with a definite emphasis on the jet and rocket aircraft of the Germans and Americans. The inclusion of the fanciful jet pack was a bit over the top but by and large the aircraft presented in the game like the Natter and the Goblin, came very close to full deployment. The tanks are fun too, although in my opinion the rocket-racked Calliope Sherman that includes a main gun and a Katyusha like artillery launcher is a bit unbalancing. A good player can engage an entire field of enemy tanks without worrying about the dreaded pause for reloading.
The new player controlled aircraft spawns are one of the more interesting features of the expansion.
Strangely lacking is the Me-262, which I guess just wasn't weird enough for the developers at DICE, but we can always hope it will show up in one of their generous free map downloads.
I love this expansion, in my opinion it totally makes up for the failures of Road to Rome, but it isn't without some definite downsides. The majority of the maps are not particularly good and favor one side or the other a little too much. The Eagle's Nest map, while allowing you to play out a fictitious battle for Hitler's house, is not accurate and not very fun for the Axis team. A map of steep cliffs and narrow winding roads is probably not the best choice to load full of super heavy tanks and rocket launcher vehicles. Probably the most spectacularly dumb thing in this expansion is the Wasserfall surface to air missile the Germans have. It is nearly impossible to control, which I suppose it should be, but this translates to gross incompetence for the Germans on any map that features the missile. Usually some genius runs in and grabs the controls for the Wasserfall and proceeds to crash missile after missile into the town where his own troops are gathered. I think I have only seen a player effectively use the missile once and I freely admit I can't handle the damn thing, but I'm smart enough to stay away from it.
Another drag for players of this expansion is that it really hasn't - and may not ever - hit the wide circulation level of vanilla Battlefield and the Road to Rome expansion. You won't struggle to find a server but you'll certainly struggle to find a good one with a decent number of players. More often than not there is one fast server absolutely packed and a couple that either have 5 or 6 players or horrible pings.
A Sturm Tiger and basically useless Wasserfall launcher.
Verdict: I'm going to give this one 4 out of 5 on my mod scale. It is PACKED with new weapons and vehicles, and almost all of them are interesting, fun, and fairly balanced. I've got to shave off half a point for some of the weapons that are either counter productive or cause imbalance and shave off another half point for two or three maps that are not very well thought out. For those of you who love Battlefield 1942 but felt burned by Road to Rome, I heartily recommend this expansion, but also suggest you wait until it drops in price.
The release of the original alphas for Desert Combat could not have been better timed to coincide with world events. America was on the brink of war with Iraq once again and the pragmatists developing this wonderful mod had packed their total conversion full of relevant content. Initially somewhat unstable and buggy, successive releases of Desert Combat have stabilized the mod and propelled it to the pretty much unchallenged position as "Best Battlefield 1942 Mod".
Attack and transport helicopters add a new degree of modern tactical flexibility to Desert Combat.
The mod allows you to play either Coalition forces or Iraqi forces in a number of running battles that take place, not surprisingly, in the deserts of the Mid East. The number of vehicles included in the mod is positively staggering. From high-speed modern interceptor aircraft, to attack and transport helicopters, to main battle tanks and APCs, and even SCUD launchers. The vehicles are extremely fun to use and with a few exceptions (like the SCUD launcher) they feel completely "right". The M1a1 blasts through Soviet tanks with ease and the gatling-gun equipped Vulcan APC fires off a nearly unending stream of tracers at the enemy. The helicopters are nimble and deadly in the hands of a good pilot but have a unique handling profile compared to the other aircraft, making them difficult for beginners to manage. If you're used to the Me-109s and Spitfires of Battlefield 1942 then the F-16s and Su-25s of Desert Combat will be quite a change of pace. Their controls are essentially the same but they move with unbelievable speed across the battlefield and have extremely agile handling. The lack of real air-to-air missiles will likely be noted by a few grumbling flight sim nutballs, but if you're playing Battlefield 1942 for realism you're playing the wrong game.
All of the infantry weapons have been replaced with their modern counterparts and the inclusion of a deployable mortar for engineers adds some interesting tactical options for a team that works well together. More impressively the voices for the Americans have been completely replaced; less impressively the Iraqi voices are all American voices too, even to the point of making references to Coalition Command. The mod is still heavily under development though and the level of professionalism displayed in their work to date makes me believe they will fix this in due time.
Desert Combat also introduces several good maps that emphasize the flat and desolate terrain throughout much of Iraq and also works very well with most of the desert maps from BF1942. There are also a few interesting urban maps for the game, including a dockside battle and an isolated urban area that the Coalition Forces have to take by air. These maps work well and help to break up the tedium of repeated armored battles in the middle of nowhere.
The urban maps help get the sand out of your panties.
Verdict: Desert Combat is the most popular mod for Battlefield 1942 and this owes to several reasons already mentioned. For me the best thing is how immersive the battles can be. After watching US forces seize Iraq and seeing the fighting on TV it feels intimidating to jump into the sandy landscape of Desert Combat and start blasting away at Iraqi tanks. One of the most enjoyably nerve-wracking things you can experience in gaming is driving around in a slow-moving T-80 and hearing the distinctive roar of an A-10 Warthog's gun firing somewhere above you. The only spoilers for DC at this point are the lack of variety in the maps and the newcomers in helicopters. I can't count the number of times I've seen a helicopter take off only to watch it nose first into a nearby building. It's funny once, but if some jackass keeps costing you the game by trying to learn how to fly a Blackhawk you're going to want to quit playing. 4 out of 5, nearly perfect for a mod but still needs some polishing.
It's hard to make a fun game about the Vietnam War. It was a brutal, messy, and unpleasant conflict in American history and was low on the sort of high-speed action seen in World War II. In a way this disconcerting unpleasantness could ultimately work in favor of a mod like Eve of Destruction, which changes the style of a game like Battlefield 1942 about as much as you can without introducing lasers. I wouldn't have believed that the BF1942 engine could handle the amount of foliage featured in Eve of Destruction if I hadn't played it. Land melts into shallow swamps time after time and rivers wind their way perilously through dense jungle foliage. The mod is an impressive achievement in level design and the definitely the first game I've played that seems to capture the "look" of crawling chest deep through the muck of French Indochina.
Stalking through a misty rice paddie can be pretty tense.
Sound is also important, and the designers of this mod have filled the jungles with chirping frogs, buzzing insects, and other effects that compliment the sights surrounding you.
It's too bad that the developers of the mod have gotten these key elements so exactly correct yet have, so far at least, fallen totally flat in creating a fun mod. Gun combat seems awkward and the weapons often look more than a little bit off. The player and vehicle models are decent but at times distracting. A good example is a jungle map featuring several small villages and bridges in which the Viet Cong have access to APCs. It removes you from the setting and seems inappropriate for a battle to be fought between guys in black pajamas and American GIs that revolves around tanks and gun boats. I'm sure it happened in Vietnam, but when you play the map three times in a row on a server it starts to get pretty damn stupid.
I admit, creeping around silently in the dense underbrush and killing someone with a knife is a thrill, but most of the time you end up fighting on top of a bridge or hill just like in the regular old Battlefield 1942. If the map has chokepoints those are going to be where the majority of the fighting occurs. On some maps this works in favor of Eve of Destruction and the game turns into a frenzied battle over soggy jungle real estate. More often the fighting revolves around the aforementioned bridges and checkpoints. This is a design shortfall of the BF1942 mechanics itself where a simple "seek and destroy" would probably work better than a checkpoint based multiplayer game.
The mod works best when it boils down to sudden and intense infantry fights in the jungle.
Verdict: Eve of Destruction should provide a much different gameplay experience from what you would find in vanilla BF1942 or Desert Combat. As the mod stands now it's not quite ready to stake that claim and is caught somewhere between the jungles of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the tank traps of El Alamein. Hopefully with continued work it will improve and mature to a mod at least as entertaining as Desert Combat and possibly even more original. The mod probably only deserves two stars out of five, but it shows a lot of potential and is improving with every revision so I'm going to give it a hopeful and tentative 3 out of 5.
Forgotten Hope is the mod for me. Its initial beta was just released a little over a week ago but it has already captured, for me at least, what I always wanted from Battlefield 1942. It strikes the perfect balance between realism and fast-paced action, moving away from the very actiony vanilla game but not steering so far afield as to transform itself into World War II Online: 1942. The essentials are all the same, you run, drive, and fly your way across a large battlefield, but the two factors Forgotten Hope introduces are vastly more realistic damage modeling for infantry and vehicles, and realistic vehicles and equipment. Battlefield 1942 didn't even really try at either. I mean Panzer IV-Cs were just a nice looking stand in for "German Tank" and Tigers were "German Big Tank". The differences between a Panzer IV and a Sherman were little more than aesthetic. Every side had an "assault rifle" throughout the entire war? I don't think so missy.
On top of tons of new vehicles and equipment a lot of the old vehicles and player models have been retextured very well.
Forgotten Hope changes all that by including a wide variety of new vehicles that much more realistically reflect what would have been present at a given battle. I know a lot of you are thinking "who fucking cares war nerd?" Think again custard head, by having a mix of Panzer II light tanks, Panzer IV medium tanks, and scout cars in a battle you introduce more variety into that map and much more variety when you switch to the next map and it features a completely different set of tanks. Couple this with the fact that the tanks perform much more realistically than in the original game and you have a recipe for a completely different experience on the same old maps.
A great example of how this works is with the Kursk map, in which the Soviets receive outrageous numbers of T-34's, plus a new heavy tank, while the Germans receive a ton of long-barreled Panzer-IVs, and a lone hunting Tiger. The sheer joy of driving a realistically gunned and armored Tiger cannot be underplayed. You can blast the T-34s aside with a single long range shot to anything but the turret and their fire hardly even scratches the paint on your tank. Infantry is also much more realistically equipped, meaning that the majority of classes receive bolt action rifles or (for the Americans) M1 Garands (yay!). Other new weapons abound like really cool looking light machineguns for the support role folks, rifle launched grenades, and redone anti-tank weapons. Not to mention a plethora of new aircraft, other land vehicles, and ships!
This would all add up to a decent mod if Forgotten Hope didn't include a map pack, but it does! Curb that excitement a little bit, because the majority of the maps are fairly bland and just intended to showcase the wide variety of units. That's not necessarily a bad thing because the sheer number of units available on a lot of the maps really requires a good wide open space to drive them around in. Probably the most notable map of the bunch is Karelia, which pits Finland (basically Germany) as the Axis against the Soviet Union as the allies in a brutal fight across multiple trench lines. You heard it right, trenches at long last! They look fantastic too, but there are still some issues with players spawning beneath the trench line and excessive wall clipping. Hopefully these will get ironed out because whenever they're not happening the map is amazingly fun.
The light tanks are generally more useful against infantry than other armored vehicles and some new Allied tanks like the Matilda II are all but invulnerable to Panzer Is and IIs.
Verdict: Forgotten Hope is my favorite of the mods even in its current and very unfinished state. The feel of it differs just enough from BF1942 to make it seem like a completely different game, yet it doesn't lose anything in the transition. The number and quality of new vehicles that are already in the mod outshine any of the other mods in development and the developers promise many more are on the way. The big issues with this mod include the sorry state of the enticing Karelia map and the partially functional status of some of the more unusual vehicles. The new ships barely work at all and the new transport aircraft, while functional, exhibit some bizarre bugs like flashing between models, bouncing, and spawning already damaged. As bad as that sounds it's little more than an annoyance when you're looking at a base literally overflowing with vehicles to choose from. 4 out of 5 with the definite potential to become a 5 star mod.
Other Mods of Interest
There are a shitload of Battlefield 1942 mods in development and early alpha stages. Two that stand out to me are the Star Wars mod "Galactic Conquest" and the GI Joe "Mini Mod". Galactic Conquest is shaping up to be a serious contender among Battlefield 1942 mods but its team is progressing very slowly and the two versions of an alpha they have released so far remain buggy and unstable. Despite this the models are good, the gameplay is ambitious, and the mod does show potential.
You too can help computer.
The GI Joe mod is an entirely amateur affair, but it's a really fun idea and the team creating it is working hard to make up for their shortcomings in professionalism with an abundance of talent and ambition. The current version of their mod is pretty wacky and half-functional and for whatever reason the project does not have the huge following I would expect.
Another mod that has my interest is a "Road Warrior" style post apocalyptic effort called "Dead Cities". Their site is really lacking in the information department, but it has a very cool and professional design and the handful of screenshots and renders there have certainly piqued my curiosity. The most recent update on the site was only posted a few days ago so we can hope that they aren't stagnating too badly.
Mods That Make You Wonder What the Fuck Were They Thinking
Home Front - This horrible looking Halo mod is totally unnecessary, looks really poorly executed, and features a team leader who is also writing fan fiction for the mod…and doing nothing else. Web Site.
Running around the desert with a throwing star!
Dice City - This just in, we've added a horrible looking shuriken to the game! This Grand Theft Auto inspired mod promises to be an abomination of modeling and design. I want to wish them well, because frankly I'm still irritated Vice City didn't ship for PC with multiplayer, but I think their odds of reasonable success are abysmal. Web Site.
Star Trek - This mod is deader than a hearse full of John Ritters driven by a Johnny Cash. Web Site.
Nuclear Storm: The Korean War - Nuclear Storm: The "We're Waiting for Battlefield Vietnam Now" War. These guys packed it in and decided to wait for Battlefield Vietnam because it will have a "better engine". I'm sure they'll finish it up in a jiffy as soon as that comes out. Web Site.
Red Mayhem (Previously "Red Alert") - Okay guys, I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that your mod is already finished and it's called "Command and Conquer: Renegade". The bad news is that it fucking sucked. Web Site.
Dark Reign - This mod is just depressing. It's a dual mod for Battlefield 1942 and Half Life 2, it's got some of the most pathetic model renders I have ever seen, and it's based on a mediocre and half forgotten real time strategy game. DO I SMELL SUCCESS OR WHAT GUYS?! Web Site.
Hydro Racers - It's a speedboat racing mod! I would download this and report back, but I mean honestly, it's a speedboat racing mod! Web Site.
The Call to Arms - Feeling more than a little underrepresented in Battlefield 1942, the team at "The Call to Arms" is working very, very, very slowly to develop a Canadian mod for the game. Get ready for the Dunkirk map where you can storm the beaches and be immediately slaughtered and then surrender! Fantastic concept and definitely needed! Web Site.
Space Combat - Hahaha! I don't know where to start on this sadsack mod. It's title fucking sucks, it is based on Starcraft of all things, it has no productive team members, they've got like five models and most of them are awful, and they have a release date set for less than a month and a half from now. One of their most recent posts is "concept art" of a "RAIL GUN!!!!" that looks like it was drawn by a 10 year old. Presented in full 2200 by 1586 pixel glory for your enjoyment. "Enegy Realse Hole" indeed sirs. Web Site.
I rarely would consider posting a second piece about a game I've already reviewed, but my piece on Battlefield 1942 was so dismissive I felt it necessary to talk about what a good game it has grown up to be. Not to mention a lot of the mods provide us with some unintentional comedy.
A Gentle Wind Blows. A Soft Rain Falls. Phriday.
Hello hepcats, hope you don't mind me taking poetic license with the article title there. It's Livestock again, interrupting another Friday update with the glorious news that we have another helping of work from the Something Awful Forum Goons! This week I rounded up work from two very similar Photoshop threads covering the heinous topic of Nazism! While we certainly don't endorse the Nazi party, we do respect them as some of the finest villains ever to grace history and entertainment alike. Not only does this Photoshop Phriday explore what it would be like of the Nazis had won WWII, it also goes one step further by showing what it would be like if they went to war with the Empire from "Star Wars." Like you didn't see that coming.
Please do be riding with us on our fantastic voyage. Go ahead, call shotgun. We've got the room.