Battlefield 1942: Road to Rome

Battlefield 1942 is unabashedly one of my favorite games to come down the pipe over at EA for some time, so the prospect of an expansion was an immediately appealing one for me, and thus Road to Rome found its way quickly onto my hard drive. Featuring a variety of new maps, vehicles, and weapons, Road to Rome expands the scope of the original game and ensconces the player into the Italian campaigns.

Though Road to Rome presents a new front, six new maps, new vehicles, and weapons, it doesnÂ't introduce any compelling new gameplay elements. Essentially, playing Road to Rome is not a significantly different experience from playing the original game, so the question can be asked: has DICE just slapped together a few new maps and stuck a price tag on it, or is there improvement worth the cost here? Read on to find out.

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The criticism that Road to Rome doesnÂ't introduce very much new material to Battlefield 1942 might be a valid one. Six new maps doesnÂ't seem like all that much when companies like Epic are, for their own game, openly putting out equal volume content as a downloadable bonus pack, and though there are new vehicles and weapons they arenÂ't significantly different from what youÂ've seen and played before. Perhaps weÂ've become spoiled by thick expansions full of new units, expanded single player content, and multiplayer enhancements. Perhaps we expect more for our gaming dollars from an expansion pack, and what Road to Rome presents seems more suited toward patch material. Perhaps all those things would be true if Road to Rome wasnÂ't so well constructed, engaging, and appropriately priced, but it is all those things and more, and itÂ's well worth the $19.99 price tag.

I canÂ't help but wonder what, if any, kind of multiplayer enhancements might have properly expanded the original Battlefield 1942. While CTF is an interesting diversion, the game mechanics of Battlefield 1942's Conquest mode are so well conceived that any new gameplay type would likely be, at best, a brief deviation from the familiar Conquest. Instead of tacking on a feature absolutely no one was asking for, DICE clearly spent their time fine tuning the existing game, and Road to Rome is a testament to thoughtful design and balance.

Road to Rome introduces six new maps scattered across the war torn Italian countryside. Fans of Battlefield 1942's sweeping ocean and island maps might find themselves a little put off by RomeÂ's focus on ground combat. The new maps are, as a rule, fairly large, but well constructed and rarely Spartan. Rome recognizes and corrects issues with some of Battlefield 1942's African maps, locations like El Alamein, which often left the player feeling abandoned and alone in the ever flat desert. Despite the size of Road to RomeÂ's maps, thereÂ's rarely that feeling of disconnect, and always a constant sense of danger.

Further, the maps implement elevation and stationary emplacements better, imparting a genuine opportunity to contribute to victory on foot. At release Battlefield 1942's netcode and hit prediction left infantry combat as much a result of lag as talent, but some quality work by the DICE team within the latest 1.3 patch has reinvigorated gunplay, and Rome takes full advantage. Sniper rifles are now a viable combat technique and the sloping cliffs of Baytown, the beach assault of Operation Husky, and the stony crags of Monte Cassino facilitate all forms of engagement. In RomeÂ's well designed maps, finally Battlefield 1942 feels as much like an infantry skirmish as a clash of vehicles.

RomeÂ's maps also have natural well designed goals, creating a greater sense of balance between the two sides in assaulting or defending the given objectives. The King of the Hill style Battle of Salerno, or Monte Santa Croce with its tightly packed control points and central defense position, encourage teams to mobilize quickly, form an organized assault, and then defend crucial points while providing secondary support to lesser locations. The maps rarely fall into the trap of either favoring one side over the other - as original maps like Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima clearly do - or making the quick capture of a particular control points a lock for victory. The battle waged is a constant tug-of-war that demands steady organization, and even in the darkest hour the tide of war can swiftly change.

Supporting this map balance are a variety of well conceived vehicles and stationary emplacements. Artillery guns have been added to facilitate hill assaults, and the secondary gunner positions on most vehicles has been fortified meaning that players can provide support without facing certain death. The American M3 and Italian M11-39 tanks, for example, both have a limited firing arc for their primary guns, but .37mm secondary mounts that prove both viable as a gunner position, and critical for compensation of the tanks weaknesses. Similarly, both the dogfighting British Mosquito, and bomb laden Messerschmitt BF 110 are well implemented aircraft with clear advantages and weaknesses. The vehicle design of Road to Rome supports the natural balance of the maps. They can be deadly in bolstering a strong ordered assault, but cannot, unlike the original vehicles, turn the tide of the war alone.

Road to RomeÂ's visuals still have their familiar stylized palette and the washed out colors that reinforce the perception of being a part of a classic war film. With sound issues and crash bugs now patched appropriately, the full experience of Battlefield 1942 seems fully realized in the nighttime storming of Monte CassinoÂ's monastery or the urban struggle of the Battle of Anzio.

If I have any strong criticism itÂ's that the chat and message interface is still poorly laid out and subject to bizarre bouts of chat lag. In a heavy firefight kill messages move by quickly, while a command given five minutes past might persist. Additionally, Road to Rome leaves me wanting more, which isnÂ't so much a criticism as a fact, and the only thing better than six great new maps would have been nine. IÂ'd have also liked to see a new class implemented, perhaps a hybrid, or a specialized combat unit, but that falls firmly into the wish list and outside of actual criticism.

In summary, Road to Rome is priced right for the experience it provides. While some will criticize its lack of content, they will almost certainly miss the value of Road to Rome. Rome is not just an expansion of volume, but of quality. It takes the experience of Battlefield 1942, and puts it into locations that best support the gameplay, it balances the powers, introduces smartly designed vehicles, and fully realizes the aims of Battlefield 1942. As an expansion it does not rely on bells and whistles to succeed, but focuses on creating a fun and consistently visceral game. Road to Rome is all about the game, and that gives it more value than any graphical update or haphazard new multiplayer mode ever could.

Score: 9/10

- Elysium

Comments

Top notch.


I'm loving RtR. I've only played half the maps (its surprisingly hard to find a good server online actually playing RtR maps even when they are RtR servers), but the games I have played have been great.


I'm hosting a LAN party in a couple weeks and the plan is for many many hours of BF1942 and RtR.

A great refinement of gameplay.  I've only played half the maps as well but they're great.  It maybe should have been a free patch a la UT but at least it's not as ridiculously overpriced as Spearhead.  Worth the money in my opinion.  Oh, and I'm going to Dramatic Marlin's LAN party and it's gonna rock playing RtR!