The graphics in Secret Weapons are almost exactly the same as in the original game and the first expansion — that is to say, they are quite good when run at the higher settings on a fast machine. I’ve seen one or two minor graphical glitches, but nothing that really distracts from the game. On the lower settings, however, normally transparent gunsights and windshields are a little blurry and cluttered.
New Vehicles and Additions
The boxed version of Secret Weapons comes with a small booklet that briefly describes how to operate all of the new additions, so I’ll just give my impressions here.
The new tanks are interesting to play with. The Sherman Rocket-Launcher operates like a normal Sherman with a two-man crew, but instead of working the machine-gun, the second man operates the T-34 rocket cradle, not unlike an artillery cannon. However, you can only launch a few at a time, you have to wait for the launcher to cool down to fire off the rest. The Sturmtiger, on the other hand, works like a one-man self-propelled artillery; the driver also operates the 320mm mortar, however the mortar has an almost nonexistent horizontal axis, making precise positioning more important. However, since the mortar packs quite a punch, it can be very useful for taking out massed infantry attacks. The “Louisville Slugger” tank the Allies have is an interesting sort, the thing looks like a five-inch turret off of a German destroyer; the barrel is quite long, as is the low, sloped hull, with an armor-protected machine-gun on the roof. The concept of this tank is, of course, to pop other tanks, but it’s a little hard since the gun doesn’t turn much.
There are a few new light vehicles as well; for each side there is a motorcycle with sidecar (BMWs for the Germans, Harleys for the Americans and British), armed with machine-guns. Both bikes handle similarly, they’re sensitive to your steering inputs and quite nimble. You have to be careful though, just as on a real bike you can flip and/or crash; blowing up the bike right along with you if the crash is bad enough. And just as with the two-man tanks, coordination is a must when operating the sidecar-mounted machine-gun while on the move. There are also amphibious vehicles for both sides, a Schwimwagen for the Germans, and an LVT for the Allies. As with the motorcycles, these amphibs behave quite realistically, handling very ungainly in the water just like an overlarge powerboat. But while the Schwimwagen only has one side-mounted MG, the LVT has two forward-facing mounts, with space for another couple of troops to sit and regain health and ammo while a fifth man drives the beast.
New planes include the HO-229 [sic], Armstrong Whitworth Flying Wing, and the Goblin fighter (that was actually supposed to be a parasite/escort for B-36s). While the Goblin has the usual machine guns, the Armstrong-Whitworth uses rockets as its primary weapons, which in addition to its bombs make this plane an excellent close-air support aircraft. That is, if you can maneuver it quickly enough to shoot straight without a) lawn-darting and blowing up, b) flying out-of-bounds and blowing up, or c) flying too low when dropping bombs and blowing up. It is safe to say also that the same dangers apply with the other jets, though the enemy AI bots seem annoyingly expert at killing you with them.
There are a couple of interesting additions that don’t really fall into any one category. The first is the new “mobile spawn point”— a C-47 transport that you can, if you’re feeling in the mood for a scenic tour of the maps that it is available in, fly around for the entire mission. Anyone who spawns in the plane can leave whenever they feel like it, so trying to make a coordinated drop with people (or bots) who have other plans is impossible. On the other hand though, if you spawn in the C-47, you’d better hope the pilot doesn’t do a “bail-out Billy” on you…if so, you and the rest of your “stick” are doomed to a fiery and painful death. The transport also includes a mounted machine-gun that, while not historical, can be useful to those who know how to use it.
Something fun that the Germans get to play with (or the Allies if they capture it) is a guided missile that you control like an airplane. The same problems that I mentioned with the jets applies tenfold with this guided missile though, since it flies at something approaching Warp 1.3. The only thing going for it is that if you crash, you don’t die with it… But I have yet to see what kind of damage it causes, because the bots won’t touch it. The Flakpanzer quad-20mm self-propelled AAA is another nice vehicle that boasts a nice and very handy dual-purpose; aside from being useful for bringing down low-flying aircraft, the four 20mms can be effective vehicle- and tank-busters! If infantry are a problem, the driver has his own machine gun handy.
The last little special gizmo in this neat package is the jet pack, a very useful little device that gives a good boost when you jump. No, it’s not like the jet pack from The Rocketeer (meaning that you can’t fly around like Superman with it on), but it is nonetheless great fun if you’re playing with the right people, and dead useful for getting out of tight spaces (like when a tank is bearing down on you [for an example see the intro movie]).
In addition, many of the maps in Secret Weapons include a couple of things introduced in the Road to Rome expansion and patches, such as the PaK-40 anti-tank guns and the bayonet for the Engineer class.
I only play the Battlefield 1942 games offline, but that is only out of circumstance because I simply lack the technology to play online and still be able to have a machine that hasn’t melted into a useless pile of sludge. Believe me when I say that if I were to win the lottery tomorrow and get myself a new über-machine, I would be non-stop on a good BF’42 server 24/7, because I think I could be of use to some squad or clan out there…I do happen to have a good head for this kind of combined-arms with infantry tactics (if I may toot my own horn here). If you can get online on a fast machine with a good connection and many good friends, then you cannot go wrong with the Battlefield 1942 series of games, and especially with Secret Weapons of World War II. Add on a reliable means of voice-communications, and you’ve got the ingredients for one hell of a good way to waste three, five, or even ten hours!
However, as a solo game, the fun only lasts so long. Certain maps, for instance Essen, are easily overrun by the Allies if you play solo with the Germans. But if you join up with the Allies, it becomes a slow slogging crawl that you’ll probably end up losing. It seems weird that if you play solo on a defending side, the AI tends to overwhelm your checkpoints rather quickly, but if you are on the offensive side on the same map, your bot allies will not always be so aggressive. To put it short, it seems that the AI on your side rely a great deal on your own “virtual leadership” and will almost never do anything on their own. That means that if you choose to just fly around trying to blow up stuff, your side will lose; you have to go out and help take the control points yourself.
All things considered though, if you liked the original Battlefield 1942, then this expansion is a must-have! However, for those who are new to the series, you should get the games for the multiplayer action and vehicles and consider the solo-mode as simply a “live-fire exercise”. If what you desire is simpler, campaign-driven infantry combat, then wait for Medal of Honor: Breakthrough, or better still, Call of Duty.