Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Digital Illusions
Release Date: September 3, 2003
Buy 'BATTLEFIELD 1942: Secret Weapons of WWII': PC
Battlefield 1942 exploded onto the scene last year, continuing the team- and class-based multiplayer theme made popular by Team Fortress and CounterStrike. EA quickly ran out of room for all the various "Best of..." awards the game won. It was promptly followed by the Road to Rome expansion, which was based around the Allied invasion of Italy and gave you some larger maps and a few vehicles. Secret Weapons of World War II introduces weapons and vehicles that were in the design stage or saw limited use, during the war. While some of the additions (flying wings and rockets) look like they should be in a sci-fi comic book, they are incredibly fun to play, while still remaining balanced.
The first map I played, Kbely AirField, had a nice, tight design, and the map had a flow and purpose to it. Up until this point, if the server was set to repeat the map, I would groan. I had so much fun playing this map, however, that I found myself disappointed that the map didn't repeat. The next map was just as good, as was the one after that. As each new map revealed itself, Secret Weapons made a huge leap upward on my "games to play" list.
In total, there are eight new maps, the majority of which support the theme of experimental weapons. Most of the maps are raids on facilities the Germans are using to conduct their weapons research. The maps place great emphasis on teamwork, even more so than the original maps. In the Telemark map, where the Germans must defend a research facility in the Rjukan Valley, a spotter working in tandem with someone manning the naval cannon can wreak some serious havoc on the Allied assault.
While the map designs aren't revolutionary, they've been laid out excellently and are fun to play. The control points are well placed, and keeping them controlled will keep players on their feet and force them to think. One standout map is Essen, where the Germans must defend a weapons factory. This map illustrates how balanced the new maps and weapons are: while the Allies get some heavy air support, the Germans make up for it with decent anti-air weapons. Another interesting map is The Eagle's Nest. This mountain top chalet was a gift to Hitler on his 50th birthday, which he promptly turned into an underground fortress. In the game, the German high command is continuing to run the war from here, and the Allies must lead an assault against it.
Secret Weapons introduces a new "objective mode" to six of the maps. In this mode, one team must complete an objective, usually destroying a target (planes, generators, rockets, etc.) to win. Excellent teamwork is a must in this mode; there is no room for someone to act on their own. The objective mode also allows for a much shorter game than the standard conquest mode. I was a big fan of the assault mode in Unreal Tournament Classic and was thrilled to see EA use that game type on these maps. It's definitely a welcome change from watching the tickets count down in conquest, and I can see this becoming a favorite for clan vs. clan battles.
There are some fun new weapons and vehicles in here as well (about 16 in total), and they are fairly evenly split between Axis and Allies. One of the new planes for the Allies is the C-47 Cargo Plane, which serves as a mobile spawn point. It takes you by surprise when the Allies parachute in on top of you right after you wipe out their assault. The Allies also get a Sherman Tank with T-34 Calliope, a very effective, very deadly weapon. Picture a Sherman tank with a TOW launcher in addition to the normal tank gun, and you get the idea.
The Allies aren't the only ones who get some fun new toys. One new weapon the Germans get is the Wasserfall Guided Rocket. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to ride on a Wile E. Coyote Rocket made by Acme, strap yourself onto this one. I could have sworn I heard the Roadrunner go "beep beep" as I lifted off in this baby. The Germans also get the Sturmtiger, a Tiger tank with a modified chassis and has a naval cannon instead of a normal barrel. For fun on both the land and sea, try out the Schimmwagen, a two- person amphibious vehicle which is a blast to drive around. For pure speed and mobility, you can't beat the motorcycles with the machine gun-mounted sidecars. The Germans and Allies each get one made by BMW and Harley Davidson, respectively. The motorcycles also make great anti-personnel weapons, as I was frequently able to run over people before they even had a clue I was coming. There is a neat little horn you can use if you're feeling nice and want them to get out of your way.
There aren't any major graphics upgrades in this expansion, but I found the maps very visually appealing. The snowy mountains, deep valleys and wide rivers are a nice improvement over the desert and Eastern Europe maps that made up the previous offerings. As I was taking the screenshots for this review, on each map I had no problem finding areas that just looked cool.
The one issue that continues to detract from my enjoyment of the game, though, is the chat system. The messages from the game and other players are in a small area to the left of the screen. Important messages, like your teammates telling you what control point to head towards, can easily get lost or scroll off the screen quickly. When I play with my friends, we use a third party program, Gamespeak, and headsets to communicate in the game. It would have been nice to see either an improvement to the chat system, or in-game support for headsets.
The sound engine hasn't seen any upgrades, but it wasn't really begging for one either. I have a 5.1 surround sound system, and listening to the jets and rockets screaming from side to side is quite an aural pleasure. The game does ship with the 1.45 patch, which fixes most of the sound issues the game had at release. As an aside, the 1.45 patch works with the previous Battlefield offerings and is available free from EA.com.
Other than the objective mode, Secret Weapons doesn't add any other new game types. Battlefield's focus has always been multiplayer, so there is no single player campaign. You can play against the computer, but the AI is so pathetic it isn't worth the bother, other than for learning the maps and practicing your skills driving the new vehicles.
The game is remarkably stable, and I encountered no lag or connection issues while playing. If you are connecting to a server that is under a heavy load or has a poor connection, you will get some lag, but that's inherent internet lag, not lag caused by the game. To ensure a good connection, I typically play only on the official EA or Nvidia servers.
Each expansion has disc-based copy protection, so if you frequent a server that jumps around the different expansions (and you own all of them), you will find yourself having to swap CDs frequently as the different maps load. The load times for the maps are also the same as before; they haven't made any improvements there.
If you are a fan of Battlefield or team-based multiplayer action, you really can't go wrong getting this expansion. The new weapons and vehicles are a fantastic addition to the game, and the new objective mode provides a refreshing change of pace. Secret Weapons is a tremendous improvement over Road to Rome, and I'm disappointed this may be the last Battlefield 1942 offering, as EA is focusing development efforts on the upcoming Battlefield Vietnam series. If you liked the concept of Battlefield but didn't like the maps or the setting, the improvement the expansion brings makes it worth getting as well.