Taking your FPS skills online is certainly nothing new, ever since the days of 14.4k dominant Internet online shooters have been popular, but it has only been recently where gamers could take their skills and mould them in a true team environment. While games like CS and Quake has always had the ability to play in team based mode, there was nothing that bonded players together, to fight as one. Battlefield 1942 is perhaps the most popular online FPS to date that succeeds in creating the closest thing to real team based warfar, and with mods and add-on packs galore, the fan base just keeps growing. Today, we check out one of these commercial add-on packs, Secret Weapons of WWII from EA and Dice.
Although previously BF1942 has been known for its realistic portrayal of vehicles and weaponry, Secret Weapons strives on the very opposite - the potential and rumoured weapons that each side could have developed. Is this type of gameplay a welcome addition to the ever growing series, or is 'make belief' warfare not in the interest of the BF1942 community?
If you are familiar with the menu and setup sub-system of Battlefield 1942, which you should be if you're buying Secret Weapons, then nothing besides the menu music and menu background will appear to be any different. While it may seem to be a simple feature, keeping the same feel and functionality from add-on pack to add-on pack is important so gamers can get straight into the action without having to familiarize themselves with a new setup.
Although single player is available in the Secret Weapon add-on pack, for some reason the campaign mode did not seem to be any different to the original's at all. By this I mean not only were the maps and missions the same, but the weaponry and vehicles were the same aswell. Obviously most people will buy this game for online use, but offline gameplay, specifically in campaign mode, can be an enjoyable experience. Fortunately, however, if you would prefer to become accustomed to the new style of gameplay before making a fool of yourself online, you can still do single-player in the form of "instant battle", though this has no real purpose beyond initial familiarization. I don't suspect many people will care, but an offline campaign mode with the new Secret Weapons gameplay would have atleast given gamers on slower Internet connections a little relief.
So, seeing as there is nothing worth while in single player mode, lets take it online, shall we. Personally, I don't like to use the in-game server browser, I just feel it slows down response times, and I never trust it when it states the server is full or the server is not replying. With this said, luckily programs such as 'The All-Seeing Eye" don't need any major updates to recognise the new servers for Secret Weapons, so I was ready to take the game online in only the matter of minutes.
Unfortunately, since I received the review copy early on in its retail journey, most of the time the best I could manage was around 10 people on local Australian servers. This means I never really got the full experience Secret Weapons had to offer as far as full on warfare goes, and there is no guarantee that your region will be any different. It is quite a savage cycle really, if it isn't popular, the people who did buy it won't get their money's worth, because there won't be enough people to play against, however with a fan base as big as Battlefield 1942's, I don't suspect this will be a problem for long, the servers will be packed in no time.
However it doesn't take a full server to realise that the new maps are exceptionally good. Most of the maps have the same sort of feel and appearance, which is not exactly ideal, however if you ask me, they do a much better job of convincing the gamer that the timeframe is indeed 1942 during World War II. One of the aspects I felt the original BF1942 never quite mastered was the atmosphere created by the maps, however Secret Weapons certainly creates a believable atmosphere for the desired time period.
Along with the new maps comes an array of new vehicles, 16 to be exact. While the amount may not sound astonishing, the variety makes each and every one a gem, from the C-47 Cargo Plane to the ever humorous Motorbike, fully equipped with side carriage and horn. With the Secret Weapons add-on installed, the complete number of available vehicles in the entire game comes to 46, which is quite impressive indeed.
Many of the new vehicles live up to the Secret aspect of the add-on pack. Although Jet based air fighters were a reality towards the end of the second war, their actual use was not very influential, and hence, they were not really considered to be a hugely historical aspect of WWII. With this said, Secret Weapons features a few jets models for both the Allies and Axis, and on top of this, expect to see more far-out there features like the top secret rocket pack for soldiers made by the Germans and the Wasserfall guidable rocket. As you can see, the emphasis has been practically inverted here with Secret Weapons.
So, what happens when all this comes together? One of my initial thoughts was that these somewhat fairy tale features would have a negative impact on the gameplay that I so thoroughly enjoy. I remember when I first read the fact sheet for Secret Weapons of WWII, I dreaded the day of its release as I was sure it would put a black eye on the series. However, I couldn't have been more wrong. While the new style of gameplay won't be for everyone, for the BF1942 fans looking for a little variation or change, Secret Weapons of WWII will provide extremely enjoyable and unique gameplay while still providing the same impressive fundamental gameplay found in the original game.
Secret Weapons doesn't appear to feature any graphical improvements, atleast none that are apparent during the heat of battle. Fortunately, however, BF1942 was always a reasonably attractive looking game. With details at the fullest, textures look sharp and are reasonably high res, the models look, again, reasonably decent, and the animations aren't too shabby either. Yep, it's a reasonably good looking game all-round!
Of course, seeing as this is just an add-on pack and not an entirely new game, we can't expect any major improvements to be done to the engine and funnily enough, no major improvements were implemented. This means that the same sometimes buggy and chunky engine is featured, which also means anyone looking for the highest image quality ingame will need a very beefy system indeed. Even on our 3.2GHz, 9800Pro system we detected some ingame slowdowns, so casual gamers be warned, your system will be pummeled. However seeing as there are no direct visual changes, if your system could handle the original BF1942 fine, Secret Weapons should also run fine.
Like most first-person shooters, Secret Weapons of WWII utilizes the 'WASD' control scheme along with mouse, which is a proven favorite for most FPS gamers. Controlling the player isn't the main focus though, it is controlling the vehicles which I feel has greater emphasis to the gameplay, as most of the important fighting is really done inside a tank or a plane than on the ground. Luckily, like the original BF1942, controlling vehicles is seamlessly integrated with the normal player controls, making it very easy to jump in practically any vehicle and cause some mayhem. Planes are a little tricky, especially the faster ones, but it won't take you long to master them at all. All in all, the control system is easy and effective, and what more could anyone possibly ask.
While many people will probably consider the normal BF1942 and perhaps Desert Combat enough gameplay for the moment, Secret Weapons is definitely worth a look. Road to Rome was a good add-on pack, but in my opinion, Secret Weapons is better. Not only can Battlefield 1942 fans enjoy new maps with new ways of killing your opponents, there is also a huge amount of new vehicles, some of which introduce a very apparent surrealism aspect to the game, it is like the war that could have been comes to life on your PC. For those who play Desert Combat, many of the new features will be familiar (the jets and cruise missiles for example), but there is still enough fresh gameplay to warrant the purchase. Even if you are not keen on playing with, in the most part, imaginary weaponry, it is still atleast a great way to pass the time until Battlefield Vietnam comes out.