Battlefield™ 2042 is a first-person shooter that marks the return to the iconic all-out warfare of the franchise. In a near-future world transformed by disorder, adapt and overcome dynamically-changing battlegrounds with the help of your squad and a cutting-edge arsenal.
[Originally posted as a Review in Progress on 11/11/2021]
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Reviewed on: PC (Ryzen 5 2600, RTX 2070 Super, 32GB DDR4)
Also available for: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Cast: Michael Kenneth Williams, Adam Wittek, Rebecca Yeo, Devora Wilde, Merta Svetek, Lukaas Larsson
Developers: DICE, EA Gothenburg, Ripple Effect, Criterion
Like all good Battlefield games, there are moments in Battlefield 2042 like none other. Smashing through a battlefield in a tank or tearing through another squad with your teammates backing you up. There’s a scale and warfare here that other games cannot achieve as much as they try. But Battlefield 2042 is very messy at launch, with technical issues, balancing, and even core design choices being somewhat baffling. For the hardcore fanbase, Portal is where you’ll be spending most of your time, but if the pitch for a new Battlefield game is its remade maps of past games, you know there’s probably something wrong.
Battlefield 2042 is made up of a three-game area. The core experience has been stripped back to two modes in All Out Warfare, Hazard Zone looks to offer something new for fans, and Portal lets you replay classic maps of the franchise plus tweak and create your own games and 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 as DICE seem to chase the Hero Shooter audience without hard committing to creating an actual Hero Shooter. For example, Webster Mackay can use a grappling hook, Santiago “Dozer” Espinoza (whose shield has been bugged for a week now) can hold up a ballistic shield, and Emma “Sundance” Rosier carries multiple types of grenades. These specialists also have a passive ability like Dozer’s extra resistance to explosive damage, or my favourite, Sundance’s wingsuit instead of a parachute. The Specialists feel unnecessary in the main game as they’re not deep enough to add any substantial substance to the game or how you play Battlefield; I’ll put a pin in these Specialists for now.
As always, ‘Conquest’ is a great way to experience a little bit of everything 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 and continue pushing or defending objectives. Other than the massive new maps, the main change is that areas of the maps now have multiple capture points before any team holds that area. ‘Breakthrough’ is the only other core Battlefield mode included in Battlefield 2042, and it’s the most hectic of the two as you either attack or defend and the amount of players in the game becomes almost too much.
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 no food, water and a 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.
On Conquest, it’s especially noticeable, but even playing Breakthrough, it’s apparent that the massive maps don’t add much to Battlefield other than a bragging point. Because of the size, it’s hard for players to funnel towards an objective, and I’ve experienced the least amount of teamwork ever in a Battlefield game with Battlefield 2042’s new maps. It doesn’t help that most of the maps are just empty fields or mountainsides with little to no cover. Another big selling point of Battlefield 2042’s new maps was the environmental involvement, as massive tornadoes can tear through a map at any point. It’s cool — the first time. But the weather hazards quickly grow tiresome as they’re not threatening. They don’t change the tides of battle, they don’t permanently affect the battlefield, and they certainly don’t play an unbiased third party in the match. They’re just a thing that happens, and even if they look cool, they don’t add much to the game.
Hazard Zone 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. It’s a risk-reward game mode built on teamwork, and it’s also apparent where the design of Battlefield 2042 started as the Specialists make sense in this model. The loop is simple: collect as many data drives as possible and then extract as early or late as needed. The more data drives you extract with, 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 is both tense and rewarding. Hazard Zone also requires the most player communication I’ve experienced so far in Battlefield 2042, something missing from the rest of the 2042 experience. 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. Hazard Zone has a lot of potential, and probably would have done better if it had been released on its own as free-to-play. 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.
Where the majority of Battlefield faithful will find themselves spending 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 and will enable 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 maps (32 players) feel was special. Similarly, playing Battlefield 3 maps’ Caspian Border’ and ‘Noshahr Canals’ on Conquest reminded me how much I prefer that game’s 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. The guns in these older games also feel better than the guns in Battlefield 2042, which have some crazy weapon spread or weapon bloom. It’s even more noticeable when you’re hopping between the Portal versions of these older games and how their guns handle the newer stuff.
Portal is more than a step back into the classic and beloved maps of Battlefield maps. The creation tools let players create their own 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 I attended, 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 to reload. Both modes had little staying power in my mind but were fun enough for one round. Disappointingly I’ve seen little to no creativity in the early-access week as the servers filled with XP farms. I believe players can do a lot with these tools, and I’m still excited to see what players smarter than I can come up with once the XP farming trend settles down. 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.