Digital Illusions' 2002 award-winning game Battlefield 1942 is a remarkable game for many reasons. It's a first-person shooter set in World War II, featuring lots of weapons and usable vehicles modeled after their real-world counterparts, and it's also great fun to play. Battlefield 1942's unique combination of fast-paced run-and-gun gameplay and easy-to-pilot vehicles (including tanks, planes, and battleships, among others) is so enjoyable in multiplayer games that early adopters of Battlefield 1942 were willing to look past the game's technical shortcomings, such as online lag and hardware compatibility issues, at the time of release. The game's popularity has only grown since then, and the Road to Rome expansion pack adds a total of six new maps and a number of new vehicles to the already excellent game. And while The Road to Rome isn't the most ambitious expansion pack ever made, it makes a great game even better.
The Road to Rome adds new maps and new vehicles to Battlefield 1942.
The Road to Rome adds a total of six different maps to Battlefield 1942, each of which is densely populated with varying terrain features and some combination of the game's nine new vehicles. However, the expansion doesn't add any new play modes to the original game--the main modes are still deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and conquest, although conquest, in which players on opposing teams attempt to capture and hold control points on the map, remains the most popular mode in multiplayer play. Battlefield 1942 is all about multiplayer and so is The Road to Rome--though you certainly can play the game offline with computer-controlled players, it just isn't the same as tearing across a battlefield online with up to 63 other players at once.
The Road to Rome's new features improve on some of the inherent imbalances in the original game. For instance, the new maps are quite large, but they're a bit more balanced with respect to on-foot and vehicle battles. One of the most exciting and enjoyable aspects of the original Battlefield 1942 is jumping into a vehicle and driving or flying into battle, but in many cases, such as on the popular Wake Island map (in which both opposing teams have access to fighter planes and other vehicles), if your teammates and enemies grab all the nearest vehicles, you're basically out of luck, forced to hoof it to the next base or to try bumming a ride from a teammate. The Road to Rome's large maps are clearly laid out to encourage both vehicular and infantry skirmishes, since they feature many open areas for vehicles to travel across, as well as many smaller, somewhat enclosed areas for battles on foot, and they also have plenty of stationary machine-gun nests and antiair guns so that if you get caught on foot, you won't always be at a great disadvantage against an enemy in an armored vehicle.
The Road to Rome's excellent new vehicles also promote better teamplay. Specifically, in the original game, many two-man vehicles can be piloted by a single player, though they also have a mounted gun on top that can be manned by a second player--but most vehicles offer hardly any protection for this gunner position, so any player who decides to try being a secondary gunner usually dies a quick and grisly death. The Road to Rome's new armored tanks and artillery trucks provide good protection for both the driver and gunner positions, and they're most effective with two players, since most of them can't be driven and made to fire by a single player, though you can still switch positions quickly while moving if you prefer to go it alone.
The Road to Rome doesn't try terribly hard to improve on the technical aspects of the original game, though it does ship with the version 1.25 patch, and since the most recent 1.3 patch is now freely available, The Road to Rome runs much better than Battlefield 1942 did at launch. The original game had an annoying sound problem that would cause all the game's audio to drop into static with some sound cards; this problem has been fixed, and Road to Rome's hard-hitting sound effects for its various weapons and vehicles, plus its full audio speech, fit perfectly with Battlefield 1942's already-great audio, just without the technical problems. In addition, the game's online performance has improved during the past months, though it's still subject to occasional periods of lag, depending on what server you choose to play on. Battlefield 1942 is best played on a high-speed connection (broadband or better), and the same is true of The Road to Rome.
The impressive view from the top of Monte Cassino.
While some objects in The Road to Rome, such as a fallen soldier's equipment pack or some scenery elements, can look blocky and ugly when you pause to look very closely at them, you'll very rarely pause at all while playing this fast-paced expansion pack. In fact, you may be too busy taking in the sights of panoramic stretches of green hills and arid deserts while soaring through the air in a German BF-110 bomber, or sending your enemies (or their corpses, anyway) flying with a satisfying blast from behind the wheel of an allied M3 Grant. Battlefield 1942 looked great when it came out last year, and its graphics hold up well in The Road to Rome.
If you were, for some reason, hell-bent on finding something terribly wrong with The Road to Rome, you might consider how much value it offers for the money. The Road to Rome carries a very modest retail price of $20, and though it adds only six new maps and nine new vehicles, these additions definitely justify the purchase price. The Road to Rome adds even more great gameplay in the form of more-balanced maps and more-balanced vehicles to an already enjoyable game. If you're a fan of Battlefield 1942, you owe it to yourself to get The Road to Rome as well.