This is a repost of our initial Review in Progress for a review that has been updated to a full review. We keep this for prosperity, transparency, and if we ever need to look back on anything.
Over three nights earlier this week, I’ve gotten hands-on with the PC build of Battlefield 2042 as part of a review event. In total, I’ve spent ten hours with the game, which isn’t quite enough to give a final review, and as such, this will be a review in progress. I need the ability to see how the game performs on public servers and what creations players tinker with within the ‘Portal.’ There’s still very much a lot to see over the coming weekend and into the week’s and months ahead. DICE plan to support the game with regular updates and unlocks in the form of a free and paid battle pass throughout the in-game seasons.
Battlefield 2042 is broken up into three sections this year. ‘All-Out Warfare’ features the game modes Conquest and Breakthrough; ‘Hazard Zone’ is an attempt from DICE at the Escape From Tarkov/Hunt: The Showdown formula. ‘Portal’ lets players experience classic maps from the series past and tweak details down to the minute details to create their unique game modes.
Playing either Conquest or Breakthrough on the most extensive maps in Battlefield history with 128 players and the potential of a sandstorm or tornado tearing through the map is exhilarating. These modes are where most players will cut their teeth and learn the ropes of each new map and how the Specialists work in conjunction with the rest of your squad. There are ten at launch, and each has a unique ability that pushes them into a particular class or play style. Although you can play a medic as a glass cannon attacker if you wish, Battlefield 2042 hasn’t switched entirely to a hero-based game just yet.
Conquest is, as always, a great way to experience a little bit of evening a Battlefield game has on offer. Moving around the massive maps to take and hold objectives, you’re encouraged to work with your squad to stay alive and so that any downed members on your team can respawn on top of you. Breakthrough is, at least in my experience, pre-release, very hard to win. My team didn’t win a single game of Breakthrough as we pushed the defending team back from one objective to the next, unable to hit the nail on the head the final time before losing, nearly every time at the final objective. Even with the losses, this mode is the easiest to jump into and shoot people. It also requires less teamwork than Conquest as everyone has the same objective line their pushing towards.
Each of the new maps in Battlefield 2042 is run-down empty fields, deserts or cities. It’s within these maps that you’ll remember DICE laid out a story as you began the game, but it’s not that important. Sometime in the near future, there’s food, water and refugee crisis, and you’re playing as part of the “Non-Patriated”, aka “Nomads” to fight back against oppressive governments. Amongst the maps, you’ll see signs of the environmental crisis as a sports stadium is covered in sand, or most prominently on ‘Renewal’ where a wall separates synthetic crops from the barren wasteland on the other side. The little messages about saving our planet aren’t exactly hidden. However, still, it’s certainly not spoken about as the journal logs necessary to extrapolate on the narrative and world-building can only be found online.
The first of two new areas of Battlefield 2042 is Hazard Zone, which I don’t feel I’ve played enough of yet. Put simply: this is DICE trying to do a Hunt: The Showdown style game mode and where the specialists and teamwork are critical and not a choice. Eight teams of four drop into a map to collect data drives. The catch is that you’ll be fighting both AI enemies and potentially other players attempting to claim these drives. What’s more, there’s no free respawns, and if you’re killed, one of your teammates will need to survive and find a reinforcement uplink to call you back into the battle. Collect as many or as few data drives as you can and then extract as early or late as needed. The more data drives you extract, the more player experience you earn, and Dark Mark Credits you unlock to be used in the next match to equip better guns and gear.
Dropping into a match of Hazard Zone and being wiped out at the first data drive you find sucks. However, fighting through AI and real players to successfully extract on the very last plane as the timer ticks down to zero tense and rewarding and the highest point of player communication I’ve experienced so far in Battlefield 2042. Every little choice you make in this mode matters as you’ll need someone able to search out the location of the data drives, a healer, someone who can replenish ammo and a defensive specialist with a shield or turrent. Still, you can play as offensive as you like. I just don’t think you’ll get very far with nothing but snipers and drones.
Hazard Zone has lots of potential, but it’s neither hardcore enough to attract the audience of the games that inspired it nor accessible enough to attract those scared off by “one-life” game modes. There’s also not enough intermedium objectives around the map to encourage different ways of playing. You can find uplinks to call in downed players or a vehicle, but Hazard Zone feels like it would be perfect for randomised high tier loot drops to fight for or anything that encourages choosing alternative objectives as a legitimate way to play Hazard Zone.
Where the majority of Battlefield faithful will find themselves spending most of their time inside the Battlefield 2042 package is Portal. A mode that allows players to play classic Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 maps in 4K and allows them to tweak and play around with nearly the entire Battlefield 2042 package.
Jumping into the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 maps ‘Arica Harbor’ and ‘Valparaiso’ playing Rush, I instantly reminisced of the many late nights I had playing the game ten years ago. Remembering the location of anti-air guns, just how intense and a pain in the ass helicopters are, and how intense these smaller (32 players) feel was special. Similarly, playing Battlefield 3 maps ‘Caspian Border’ and ‘Noshahr Canals’ on Conquest reminded me how much I prefer that games class system and how the guns feel to the new Battlefield 2042 experience.
Even classic Battlefield 1942 maps ‘Battle of the Bulge’ and ‘El Alamein’ felt so good to play with intense Conquest battles that featured a more significant focus on vehicles with Engineers and Anti-Tank classes a necessity to push on any objective.
All of the maps are remade with love and care and look fantastic running on the latest version of the Frostbite engine, but the classic details and features that long-time fans remember are still present. You can’t go prone in Bad Company 2, the grenades all feature that classic logo, and in Battlefield 3, the medics revive tool is ultra-fast to use.
Portal is more than a step back into the classic and beloved maps of Battlefield maps. Players can create their game modes through a web page and adjust everything from the speed characters run to only allowing a specific weapon type. In the review event, DICE led us through both an ultra-aggressive Free-For-All mode and a creation where players only spawned with a rocket launcher with one rocket, and to get ammo, you had to jump five times. Both modes had little staying power in my mind but were fun enough for one round. Just how good the tools within Portal are will be up to the player base to decide once everyone gets hands up, and then it’ll be interesting to see how and what modes are pushed to the top of the Portal feed. There also doesn’t appear to be a way to combine multiple player creations into a rotating event, which would be the best way to play fun gimmick modes.
A review event isn’t the best place to understand how a game will perform when live, but during the three-day event, I did run into several technical issues. The game crashed a couple of times for my squad-mates, and server issues led to hit registration for many players. There was also an odd audio bug only while playing during Portal at one point where footsteps sound were ultra-loud and made it sound like you had people all around you, even if they were on the other side of the map. I’ve also been unable to hit a solid 60 frames on the new maps with 128 players, and I’m not sure if it’s a technical issue or a netcode one. An issue I hope to narrow in on in the coming days. On Hazard Zone and Portal maps, no problem, 2K resolution, Medium-High settings and 60-70fps average. Hopefully, these issues aren’t a problem over launch weekend and have been ironed out.
Battlefield 2042 has a lot going on inside its three play zones. I’m excited to keep playing the hectic new maps with weather events, head back into the Hazard Zone with the specialists to try and make it out with some loot, and put my nostalgia goggles back on when I play some more of my favourite Battlefield maps in Portal. Stay tuned for my full review in the coming week.