Battlefield 1943

Summer movies are big, cross-marketed up the wazoo, and usually short on logic. Summer books are speedy paperbacks, suitable for light beach or poolside reading. But until Battlefield 1943 came out, we didn’t really have a good model for the summer videogame: cheap, familiar, modest, and crammed with replay value.

On paper, Battlefield 1943 seems like a dud—a three-level rehash of a seven-year-old World War II shooter. But this scant digital download carries a massive payload of fun. Players drop into Pacific battlegrounds like the island of Iwo Jima and compete to capture hills, defend airfields, and win the day. A metric shit-ton of weaponry is on the table: Tanks, fighter planes, jeeps, landing boats, fixed machine guns, and anti-air cannons can all be pointed at the enemy.

Half the fun of Battlefield 1943 is getting to the front line. After catching lead, you respawn in the nearest friendly base—usually a fair trot from the action. That’s when you need to grab a squad-mate, pile into a jeep or tank, and use the power of numbers to push forward and cut through enemy defenses. If the mission succeeds (hoots and hollers all around), the wrecking crew moves on to the next goal; otherwise, it ends in failure, with all involved bleeding out in a ditch. Either way, the action follows a great trajectory, from safety to the anticipation of battle to the moment of truth.

There isn’t a lot of squadron camaraderie online. The current batch of recruits is mostly silent, nixing their headsets and microphones. It helps that Battlefield 1943 already rewards teamwork by granting extra experience to players who hold down the fort and assist in making kills. Minor tweaks to the Battlefield formula, like infinite ammo, rejuvenating health à la Halo, and a series of achievements, rewards, and ranks put an up-to-date, polished feel on the affair. Perhaps the game’s biggest stroke of genius comes in the way it fuels the one conflict that will always get gamers talking—the console war. EA tracked the total number of kills logged since launch, pitting Xbox 360 players against their PlayStation 3 brethren. When the death toll hit 43 million, a new map, The Coral Sea, was released. The Xbox 360 camp won bragging rights for spilling the most blood. Either way, every Battlefield 1943 player wins.