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Battlefield 1943: Pacific

Hands-On: Battlefield in its purist form

Battlefield 1942 was a groundbreaking multiplayer shooter, but we played the demo considerably more than the main game. The generous one-map multiplayer trial became an internet sensation almost overnight, with the full scale and infinitely-repayable formula of DICE's war spectacle available for all at its most purist.

As soon as the main game arrived, we lost interest; 15-odd maps and umpteen sides seemed only to dilute the experience of the wonderfully pure and expertly designed Wake Island demo map. Strangely, it seems we weren't alone either - purchases of the full retail release were considerably smaller than demo takeups, DICE producer Patrick Liu tells us.

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In a way this makes the studio's next venture, Battlefield 1943: Pacific the perfect series instalment. Like the internet-shattering 1942 multiplayer demo, it's a no-fuss, download-only Battlefield classics pack; three maps hand-picked by fans, streamlined classes and gameplay, and all the next-gen tricks of the gorgeous Bad Company engine.

Planned for release on XBLA, PSN and PC this summer, 1943 will support play for up to 24 players and feature three of the series' best maps: Iwo Jima, Guadal Canal and the ever-popular Wake Island itself. All of that for between £10 and £15.

The setup is the same us before; Conquest, the only game mode planned for release, has the US and Japanese battling for six control points scattered across the gigantic tropical map. As soon as one team gains majority control of the territory, the losing team's 'spawn ticker' will start to reduce. Once it reaches zero, no more squadies will be enlisted onto the frontline - simple.

This is the original big-battle shooter in its purist form. It's smaller in scope than previous full retail releases, but like the 1942 multiplayer demo DICE hopes gamers will enjoy the more streamlined, excess-free experience.

The update looks lush. If we hadn't been briefed beforehand you could've easily misled us into believing that 1943 was a full retail release. While not quite as dazzling as big brother Bad Company, 1943 easily matches the standards set by modern day shooters in the looks department - and it's inherited the fully-destructible environments of its relative as well.

Upgraded visuals aside though, the most important thing about the new game is that it feels like the original game. Moments into our private multiplayer session with DICE and we're back queuing on the aircraft carrier for planes to spawn, dropping bombs on the nearby American scum-ran capture point and crashing spectacularly into a tree. It's like we never left.

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The spirit of 1942's straight-faced realism mixed with absurd Humvee air stunts and laughs has been brilliantly captured in the update - the Japanese even carry samurai swords in the new version, though the comedy's never obvious or flaunted anywhere near Team Fortress 2-levels.

The slow-ish pace of Battlefield means the transition from mouse and keyboard to console controller is smooth, and we had no problem sniping, piloting and taking a humvee off a cliff on the 360 version.

The sheer scale of the unfolding skirmish is still impressive; as a scout you can snipe frog-marching Japanese on the other side of the map and the views from the air are just as epic. One addition has players who capture the airport radar building calling in airstrikes, though they'll have to recharge every few minutes.

Character classes have been streamlined since the first game, with the original five cut down to just three; Infantry, Rifleman and Scout. The Infantry class inherits the old engineer's wrench ability, while the medic isn't needed at all thanks to a new and welcome Call of Duty-style regenerative health system. More controversial is the addition of regenerative ammo which cuts the need to run half way across the map to top up (we'll leave that one for the forum users to fight over...)

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