Year: 2001 – present day
If Return to Castle Wolfenstein was my first date with PC gaming, Battlefield 1942 was when she invited me to meet her parents, and the relationship went to the next level. My god, did I really just write that analogy?
You could shoot people like any other FPS, but the maps were ENORMOUS. Big enough to accommodate vehicles. Drivable vehicles, and not just cars and tanks. Who else remembers taking off an airline carrier in the Pacific and flying Japanese Zeroes over Wake Island to strafe the allied runway? Or piloting a Lancaster bomber over the rolling hills of Normandy, bombing farms and windmills where the Nazis were hiding? And forming a platoon of Sherman’s to race across the desert plains of El Alamein? Battlefield 1942 had everything going for it, enough to blow my adolescent little mind. It came out just 2 years after Perfect Dark. Can you imagine how it felt to go from running around in what was essentially some corridors with 4 mates and some bots, to full-on vehicular warfare with up to 32 other players online? Battlefield felt like the future of gaming.
For good or bad, team killing became a regular thing, although it was never something I saw the point of. Waiting on the runway for airplanes to respawn, a mad scramble to jump in the cockpit before your teammates would usually follow, and some people couldn’t handle it. Planes often exploded before they left the runway, which is probably why they began to scrap take-off altogether in the later games. But that was part of the charm I guess. I miss that aspect of the newer Battlefields, which don’t let you take off and there’s never a reason to land. Spawning in midair disconnects me from the experience too much, and the newer games in general feel a bit too streamlined for their own good. Which is why my fondest memories of Battlefield lie with some of the early sequels.
Battlefield 2, as well as spin-off Vietnam, paved the way for the Bad Company revolution and Battlefield 3, which for me is the pinnacle of the series. Forget the singleplayer, I’m referring solely to the multiplayer aspect here. If you had a few mates with headsets and a team speak server, you could have a whale of a time. The game implemented squads by this point, making it easy to jump into a game with your mates and form coordinated teamwork. Paul, Sam, Jon and myself had many epic battles in Bad Company 2 and BF3. The Frostbite engine allows for some of the best destruction in gaming, making it stand head and shoulders above any of the Call of Duty games.
No other game can create the thrill of experiencing an entire building exploding all around you and collapsing in a heap of rubble. Or moments of glory such as when my mate Paul, who was our designated helicopter pilot, would carry our squad into the fray, swooping low over the danger zones, hovering close enough for us all to leap out and start securing checkpoints. With the zone cleared, we’d jump back in and swoop to the next one, machine-gunning troops on the ground with side-mounted miniguns.
Battlefield games create stories all of the time. Micro tales of heroism, insane acrobatics, one-man killing sprees combined with the tactical precision of a squad of mates all communicating and sweeping through enemy territory. Multiplayer battles can be complete and utter carnage, with planes exploding overhead, Humvees tearing down dusty roads, tanks reducing buildings to piles of rubble and snipers picking off stragglers from a mile away. I don’t like where the series has gone in the most recent versions, Battlefield 1 feels too streamlined for its own good. But I reckon it’s just a phase. Even 19 years later, Battlefield still feels like the future of gaming… And if it’s not, at least I have my memories of the glory days.