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Battlefield 1942: The Road to Rome Review
developer: Digital Illusions
PIII 500, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 1GB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Feb 02, 03
|» All About Battlefield 1942: The Road to Rome on ActionTrip|
What would you rather have: quantity or quality?
When Battlefield 1942 was first released, it was like a rough diamond waiting to be cut. You could clearly see traces of brilliance and the immense potential that the game had in store, but it took several more months of polishing and bug fixing for it to become what it is today - one of the most popular multiplayer games in the world. Simply put, when Battlefield 1942 was released, it needed smoother net code, better performance and more balanced units. As I write this review, the latest patch v1.3 is available as a free download, and with it come many of the fixes and gameplay features that probably should've been in place at the time when v1.0 was released.
In any case, the fact of the matter is that Battlefield 1942 v1.3 offers very smooth gameplay and it makes Battlefield 1942 live up to its full potential. With a striving online community behind it; making awesome mods like Desert Combat and The Great War; and with an up-to-date patch support one would have to wonder what kind of expansion pack would be needed to compel fans to shell out some more of their hard earned cash; completely new campaigns, loads of new weapons ... dozens of maps, more graphical improvements? How about six new maps and eight new vehicles? How does that sound?
Unfortunately, we reviewers only get one bite at the apple, so to speak, so rather than re-review Battlefield 1942, I am left with the somewhat arduous task of reviewing only the new content in the recently released expansion pack, The Road to Rome.
On paper, this definitely doesn't seem like much, and if we were to judge The Road to Rome by its god-awful presentation and the lack of any introductory cut-scene, the latest expansion pack by DICE would appear to lag behind some of the awesome FREE mods out there. Not to mention that once you install the game, an auto-update utility upgrades it to v1.25, whereas you can now download v1.3 for FREE. This naturally begs the question: "Why would I ever buy this expansion pack?"
But before I answer that question, let me just give you a quick rundown of all the new features in slightly more detail...
The Road to Rome focuses exclusively on the key Italian and Sicilian campaigns of WWII, which means that all the maps are supposed to recreate the picturesque Mediterranean scenery - the olive trees, white marble houses, fat Greek men with their bellies hanging out, etc. Consequently, this means that we have two new fighting forces - the Free French forces (Do they come with white flags for surrendering? - Ed) and the fascist Mussolini's Italian army. Among some of the newly introduced vehicles included in the game are the German BF-110 and British Mosquito twin-engine fighter-bombers as well as new Italian, British, and German tanks and anti-tank guns. New hand-held weapons are also included, like the Italian Breda assault rifle, British Sten SMG and bayonets on rifles. The six maps in the expansion pack are as follows: Baytown, Husky, Anzio, Salerno, Santa Croce, and Monte Cassino. This last one is actually a recreation of the famous Monte Cassino Monastery, which saw its fair share of fighting and destruction during W.W.II. On a side note - historically speaking, The Road to Rome should've been called Battlefield 1943, as its settings and selection of vehicles all seem to indicate that the it takes place in 1943.
Just naming the maps and new vehicles, however, is hardly enough to convince anyone to buy this game, so the question still remains: "are these six new maps and a handful of vehicles worth my $20 bucks?"
If you are to believe this reviewer, the answer is a resounding yes - if you're a hardcore fan that is. The maps are so well designed, and balanced for either of the sides, that any self-respecting BF1942 fanatic simply must own The Road to Rome. Each of the maps is very unique: Monte Cassino is a great map for rushes; the Allies are supposed to take advantage or their overpowering armored vehicles by rushing the heavily fortified Axis positions, and Axis on the other hand are supposed to man the artillery guns as quickly as they can, and just lay some mustard on the nearby bridges. The bridges represent the two key points of entry for the Allied troops, and are often the biggest choke points in the game.
Salerno is unique in a way that it has one very important strategic base set on a rather steep hill (vantage point). Whoever controls the hill controls the map. Effective use of "paratroopers" and air support can be the key to victory on this map.
The best map of the lot, however, has to be Husky. I think most of the Euro AT staff played that one for like 7 hours straight yesterday. The map offers so much in the way of tactics and advanced strategies, it's just too much to handle at first. Its perfect layout of key areas makes it just about as addictive as BF1942 maps get. As an Allied soldier, you start out from a boat, or in the air parachuting on a beach. The axis troops are controlling the bases overlooking the beach (plenty of artillery fire there), but Allied troops do get a home base on the beach, which cannot be conquered by the Axis, and is relatively shielded from enemy fire. Here, Allied soldiers can jump into tanks and half trucks and start their conquest of the map by utilizing the overwhelming supremacy in the number and type of good all-around armored vehicles. But to ensure that the Axis troops aren't out of the picture once the perimeter defenses have been breached, DICE has balanced out the map by giving the Axis troops access to a bomber plane, which they can use to organize bombing runs or better yet, land on the beach once the allies have advanced further ahead on the map and create diversions. Husky has two or three very important strategic locations, and each of these can prove crucial in a match. What this means is that you'll get hours upon hours of fun just trying to master the most effective tactics on this one map.
As for the new vehicles, they further increase the strategic depth of the game. The addition of half trucks with mounted machineguns, and new tanks with limited turret rotation range and shielded machinegun nests; as well as the addition of hard hitting Italian tanks with weak armor; add a new dimension to the tank combat and provide some much needed gameplay variety. The most important thing here is that the mounted machineguns have finally become useful and that each of these new vehicles is well balanced with some obvious upsides and downsides to them. After many hours spent on Husky I found out that Italian tanks can serve as awesome artillery weapons when positioned properly on the map. You can overlook the choke points (like bridges) from a high vintage point and harness the long range and awesome armor-penetrating power of the Italian tanks' main cannons. Again, this is just one small example of the many strategies that can be used and explored in the game.
The new hand-held weapons didn't really strike me as anything spectacular. The addition of the bayonet can save you some precious time in close-quarter, melee combat but that's about it. The main focus of this expansion pack was on the maps and new vehicles.
Visually, and in terms of the single player mode, Battlefield 1942: The Road to Rome doesn't bring anything radically new to the table. The game is still a bit laggy in the single player, especially if you have a lot of bots in there, and aside from some richer explosions and possibly some improved particle effects, the game looks pretty-much the same as before. For those of you who are still playing v1.0 (though I find that highly unlikely), The Road to Rome might bring out a whole new technical side to the game, but those of us who've been downloading the patches religiously won't see much improvement over v1.2.
In the end it all comes down to whether or not you're a hardcore fan of the game, or just a casual BF1942 player looking for a bona-fide expansion pack in terms of content and new features. Those of you who were looking for the latter might very well be disappointed (and rightly so). The Road to Rome doesn't offer much quantity, and it's totally lacking finesse in terms of presentation and appearance. You start the game by clicking on 'custom game' and then selecting The Road to Rome option (which is pretty much how you'd start any other free mod), and there are free expansion packs out there that quantitatively offer more content than The Road to Rome (take Digital Extremes' UT2003 bonus pack for example).
The fact remains however that true fans will buy the pack and love it. Sure it lacks more content, but what they have in there is well worth their $20 bucks, if for nothing else than for the sheer fun of playing the new and brilliantly designed maps.
8.0 Very Good
The map design is nothing short of spectacular! The new aircraft and vehicles add more strategic depth to the gameplay, and they're excellently balanced. Immensely fun.
Single player is still very sluggish with bots. The presentation of this expansion pack is virtually non-existent, making The Road to Rome seem more like a free mod than a full retail product. For $20 bucks, expansion packs usually offer more content than this - at least quantitatively speaking.
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