Since I was far too busy sinking hundreds of hours into the superior Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and its Spearhead expansion when Battlefield 1942 was big, I went into Battlefield 1943 without fond memories of assaulting the beaches of Wake Island or scaling Mount Suribachi. Which is unfortunate, because then I could probably just laugh off some of 1943's frustratingly archaic game design and reminisce days gone by.
Battlefield 1943 has some serious issues. It only has three maps, and those constantly repeat thanks to the infuriatingly bad random map rotation. Often you'll be stuck playing the same map four or five times in a row, emphasizing how few maps there are in the game. Which is a shame, because all three of those maps are actually really good. You'll just get tired of playing the same one over and over.
1943 also suffers from some balance issues that hold it back. The sniper rifle isn't powerful enough to justify the achingly slow fire rate as it usually takes at least two shots to kill someone, which can sometimes be difficult with such uneven terrain and chaotic battlefield conditions. Making matters worse are the icons that appear over enemies' heads even when they're behind buildings or on the other side of the map, preventing any surprise flanking tactics or covert sniping.
The planes in 1943 are especially vexing. Even once I got the hang of the wholly unintuitive controls, I still feel like they're almost completely useless. The game offers no feedback to let me know, for instance, how far I should be firing ahead of enemy planes to hit them and the icons to spot people on the ground need to show up earlier. The only things I've found planes consistently good for is parachuting to a flag quickly and crashing into other planes.
Perhaps the worst part about planes, though, is how necessary they are. At the start of every map, you'll spawn on an aircraft carrier off-shore, so the first five seconds of every match are a race to nab a plane. Otherwise, you're stuck in a boat, unless you don't make it in time before your teammates selfishly take all of them without waiting, in which case you get to swim to shore, which takes ages. The fourth map that recently unlocked, Coral Sea, focuses entirely on air combat and is easily the least fun aspect of the entire game. At least it's quarantined to a separate mode.
Despite all these maddening flaws, Battlefield 1943 still manages to be a fun WWII-themed shooter. As I mentioned earlier, all the maps (except Coral Sea) are really well-designed and visually interesting. In fact, 1943's art style is extremely striking, managing to be refreshingly bright and colorful without feeling "cartoony." The little touches like the music that plays while in a jeep add a lot to the overall experience.
All the weapons feel and sound magnificent, with the rifle in particular being absolutely outstanding. The destructibility of the environments really changes how the game is played. Tanks become terrifying beasts that can level the building you're hiding in and walls become very temporary obstacles in your escape route. It's also incredibly thrilling to blow through a wall and storm into a building in order to get to someone.
Mixing tanks, planes, jeeps, parachutes, bombing runs, and normal foot soldiers seems like it would be too chaotic, but actually, that's when 1943 is at its best. Occasionally, all the toys in the sandbox will click together in such a spectacular way that you won't be able to stop grinning. Though it feels cliché to mention at this point, you'll have a ton of "Battlefield moments" to rave about with friends later.
Ultimately, Battlefield 1943 is a game with a lot of significant, glaring issues, but is still a blast to play nevertheless. The highest compliment I can pay Battlefield 1943 is that, at its best, it totally reminds me of the fun I had with Allied Assault. Definitely worth the $15.