Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Battlefield 2042 is an ambitious title that steps away from the last few historical titles and takes us to a future where we see plenty of those massive scale battles filled with epic Battlefield moments. That being said, there are some changes to the normal formula that may frustrate purists and there are some launch issues that are holding the release back from its full potential.
The focus here is on the massive scale battles that can support up to 128 players. That is just a mind boggling number, and it can make the most active points of the battlefield a chaotic joy to dive into. My personal style tends to be of the low kill / low death rate of a sniper who skirts the fringes of the active areas using a drone to scout the area and tag enemies for your teammates to see. Anyone who has read my other reviews of various shooters know that I prefer this ranged, strategic style of gameplay. Battlefield titles tend to do this far better than the more claustrophobic shooters like Call of Duty where you might have a map or two or a mode or two that sets snipers up for success, but the majority of the environments tend to be very sniper unfriendly. That is not the case here.
The use of vehicles makes traversing the large maps faster / easier to do – if you can access one at the time. I would say one of the biggest drawbacks to these massive maps in Battlefield 2042 however, is that there are times when you spawn at the wrong place or there’s just no one near the action to spawn to and you’re stuck hoofing it across a large stretch of land to get to the action. It’s slightly mitigated for me personally due to my aforementioned primary sniper class, but for those who enjoy the closer ranged combat, I imagine that those long treks are dull.
There are two design choices that are likely to be most controversial to veterans of the series. The first is that there is no single player campaign mode. The focus here is on the multiplayer (though you can do single player with bots as well), and while there’s a loose narrative around who the two teams were and the backdrop for their conflicts, that’s clearly not the priority here. That being said, if you’re hoping for a gripping story with one of those short-lived but bombastic storylines… you’ll be disappointed. I almost always play these campaign modes, but I have plenty of friends who never touch them and just jump right into the multiplayer component.
The other design choice likely to raise eyebrows is that the class system that has been such a major part of the Battlefield’s DNA for so many years now has been swapped out with a slightly more Call of Duty-esque specialist system. Instead of picking a class that has a particular skillset that creates a slightly more cohesive sense of balance to the matches, the new specialist system lets you mix and match to your heart’s content. I can see a case for either, but as someone who likes to customize things, I like the new system personally. You pick a specialist persona who has a particular skill (like operating drones or a bodysuit that allows for fast, directed gliding versus parachuting or setting up remote turrets. After picking your person, you then pick your primary and secondary weapons, their attachments, your gadgets and cosmetics. That said, these tie in rather nicely with an addictive progression system that sees you constantly unlocking things, especially in the early going.
In terms of the actual modes, the two major modes of Conquest and Breakthrough remain. I tend to gravitate towards Conquest myself, with its strategic take on capturing zones to more quickly bleed off enemy reinforcements. One of the more interesting aspects of the game are the major storms that can show up and wreak havoc on certain maps (reminding me of the storms from Battlefield 4 that I still remember so fondly to this day) – especially in Hazard Zone. There is a mode with far fewer players (32) where the squads attempt to collect as many drives from crashed satellites. There are a couple of extraction moments in each of these matches, and you don’t want to miss those as you are trying to collect as much as you can… while still getting away.
One of the modes I think will really help give Battlefield 2042 long life is the Portal, which is a very deep game editing tool. It provides some cool callbacks to prior games such as Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 1942 (which was my introduction to the series, so I really enjoyed seeing that inclusion). It’s not the easiest thing to dive into, there’s a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of its toolbox, but the potential for awesome community content here is strong.
It’s worth calling out that there are some graphical oddities. I’ve seen clipping through the bottoms of maps on kill cams, weird flickering / lighting effects gone wild and some of the destructible environments behaving weirdly (such as taller structures falling oddly when they start to topple). They are particularly jarring because this is very clearly a AAA title with graphics that lend themselves to some jaw-dropping moments and excellent audio design. I imagine these will get ironed out sooner than later – the Battlefield games have something of a recent track record of releasing with issues like this and seeing them get smoothed out over the next month or two.
These quibbles aside, Battlefield 2042 is still a great deal of fun. Purists may not love the specialist system or the lack of a single player story, but those who want huge environments with loads of players should find the chaos of Battlefield 2042 quite enjoyable. Portal is going to give this game even greater life than usual and something I’ve enjoyed sinking my time into so far.Score: 7.75 / 10