Virtual Reality: Battlefield 1943 - August 6th 2009

We follow the exploits of one soldier in the US assault on Wake Island, fresh from the front in Battlefield 1943. This is a new feature for us, and aims both to show how compelling some games can be, while exposing the more obvious flaws in a light-hearted way.

On the flight deck of the USS Missouri I gazed across the Pacific bay. In the distance, the Japanese carrier that had taken up a position on the opposite side of the horseshoe-shaped island was bustling with movement. Figures silhouetted against the brilliant sun were running up and down, making preparations for an assault. My daydream was interrupted by the spluttering of a propeller engine. Our two pilots scrambled into their planes and began to trundle along the runway. There was a curious line of people all huddled around the planes as they began to depart. Our mechanics had already prepped the equipment and were safely beneath deck, adding to my bemusement. Regardless of what my squad mates were doing, our orders were to get to the landing craft and head for Wake Island as soon as the planes left the deck, and I wasn't about to disobey orders on my first assignment.

I had already missed the first boat, which appeared to have left under capacity. My attention was grabbed by one of the drivers calling out at me, "Wanna lift?" Sprinting to the opposite side of the deck to board his craft, I noticed one of the mounted turrets at the stern was empty. Jumping for the boat just as its locking mechanism disengaged, I was fortunate to land on my feet within the confines of the vehicle. My back slammed into the defensive rim protecting the gun, but at least I was aboard. The craft dropped fifty-feet into the ocean with a satisfying splash. Our soldiers were being particularly gung-ho today, but thinking of what was at stake, it should hardly have surprised me.

The approach to the island leaves soldiers open to fire from the sky.

Looking around the boat at those beside me I knew I was in for one hell of a struggle when we reached the island. Our planes had engaged some Japanese Zeros above to provide us with enough cover to reach the beaches. One of our pilots broke off and began engaging the Japanese landing craft, which had seemed to launch almost simultaneously with our own. The other gunner in our squad was firing worryingly close to my head, into the distance beyond, although I couldn't see any targets in that direction. We were nearing the beach however, so this increasingly-uncomfortable journey did not have long to last. The two other craft from our carrier headed around into the horseshoe of Wake Island in a neat formation, while we were aiming for the tip. The coast looked clear as our craft rammed into the beach at full speed.

We missed the obstacles on the beach and landed an astonishing three-metres in land. I couldn't believe we were still in one piece, but while I gathered my wits, the driver of our craft was sprinting up the hill that flanked the coast. Our intel had reported that there would be a jeep waiting for us on the road at the top, presumably what our over-enthusiastic ally was aiming for. Before I, or indeed most of the team that had been with me on the landing craft could reach the top I heard an engine splutter into life. It sounded like it was moving. Sprinting as hard as I could in the searing heat, my leather boots sinking with every step in the sand, I clambered onto the road above. Our boat-driver had commandeered the jeep and was speeding towards our first objective. On his own.

A race to the first objective ensued.

A soldier with a name stitched into his uniform that seemed to bare some resemblance to Tom ran past me. I was now hunched over, panting heavily. He began to sprint after the jeep in a mad daze. What was he trying to do? Bullets ripped through the air and I hit the deck. Unfortunately my boots must have got so hot from the sun that I could not go completely prone – I just couldn't do it. Nonetheless, I was crouching as close to the ground as possible to avoid getting hit. To my surprise, it was Tom creating the racket, firing after the jeep. He appeared to get a few good shots on the rear end of the vehicle, with sparks flying off into the lush grass beside it. I saw him reach for the RPG in his rucksack, before thinking better of it and jogging towards to the objective. I remember wondering if perhaps I had joined up with the wrong company. The actions of my fellow soldiers so far had been nothing short of insane.

Jogging under the palm trees cleared my head somewhat as we moved towards our first objective. Gunfire and explosions could be heard echoing in the distance. Sparing a thought for our comrades in the centre of the horseshoe, I wondered if they would be heading in our direction to meet up at the second objective, or if they had met our friend in the jeep yet. As we entered the small collection of wooden shacks that encircled the first base of Wake Island that question was answered. Embedded in the side of one of the buildings was a US Jeep, smoke pouring from the bonnet and splintered wood draped over the top of the vehicle. The driver was nowhere to be seen; I assumed he must have continued on foot. I reached for my spanner and began repairing the vehicle. The US flag had been raised to the top of the flag pole; quite how our rogue driver had done this so quickly before we arrived was admittedly impressive. We were using the oddly un-covert signal of an American flag to tell our allies where we were and what objectives had been made safe. The admirals were earning their pay as usual.

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