Previews

Battlefield 2042 Preview and hands-on capture: Ready for Conquest?

A shot... and a miss?

A handful of Battlefield 2042 betas are about to kick off (actually, one has, just this minute)! Ahead of this time, Stevivor’s Luke Lawrie and Steve Wright joined an assortment of Aussie journalists and streamers that were let loose to check out what’s on offer.

Luke’s by far the Battlefield expert, so we’ll let him kick things off.

Luke’s thoughts

While the Battlefield series has had its focus on World War I and II in recent years, DICE’s latest installment in the franchise, Battlefield 2042, is moving into the near future. The mode we had a chance to check out was Conquest, although there is a slight variant on this classic as control points can contain multiple flags in areas that you may need to capture.

The map available to play is called Orbital, a large scale area circulating an imminent rocket launch which can support up to 128 players – as, of course, two teams battle one another and slowly destroy the environment surrounding them. We experienced some dynamic weather changes; at one point rain was pelted down upon, and there’s also a tornado that can come down and wreck havoc (although we never had the chance to see this).

As a Battlefield veteran who has thousands of hours playing these games, including absolutely loving the iterations in Battlefield V and Battlefield 1, I did have a lot of fun moments during the few hours we had to preview. But I have to say there are a couple of concerns that I have which hopefully will be addressed as testing continues.

First of all there are some interesting ideas, like being able to change your weapon mods on the run or use a selection of specialist classes with unique abilities on offer. But it appears a bunch of gameplay mechanics have been removed and not really replaced with anything at all. Instead, the Battlefield experience of recent years has been cutback and changed, possibly to draw in a broader audience.

It’s an area we saw DICE tinker with for updates to Battlefield V, as they attempted to extend the Time to Kill (TTK). The TTK is how long it takes for a player to kill an enemy – basically how much damage they are able to dish out before removing another player from the field. A few years after Battlefield V’s launch, DICE noted that new players were having a bad experience because they were dying too quickly. Naturally, DICE tweaked a bunch of things to extend the TTK, and the community obviously reacted negatively.

This attitude appears to have been brought over to Battlefield 2042; in my experience, there have been moments where the TTK has felt slightly too long. I had fights where I got 5 or 6 hit indicators but the opponent was able to run behind some cover with half their health still remaining. There could be a few factors at play here — the weapons we were given to play with were absolutely garbage tier- the TTK has been extended to give newer players more survivability, or something was wrong with the netcode during our session. Either way, in its current state it feels too long, but hopefully that can be addressed soon.

AI enemies have also been included in Battlefield 2042, though they don’t appear to be too smart and again feel like another way to round out the server and give newer players something easy to shoot at (a trend we’ve seen in other recent multiplayer FPS titles).

Even the in-game scoreboard doesn’t really show a whole lot of information, like it wants everyone to feel like they are having a good time. We weren’t able to see the opposing teams’ player statistics. Worse, we weren’t able to see how well other individual players on our own team were doing;  only your own squad is detailed. Once a game wraps up, there isn’t a showcase to highlight the best squad in the match. The whole experience feels like it is purposefully designed to not hurt your feelings if your team isn’t doing so well.

With vehicles playing a bigger focus in Battlefield 2042, one area which might be concerning at the moment is how players will be able to deal them — especially the high maneuverability vehicles like helicopters. Our squad struggled a bit with how swiftly they were able to move in and out of combat, with the ability to quickly restock up on flares to evade any counterattack. It just seemed like a losing battle any time we attempted to engage with a chopper.

There are a bunch of other systems that have been removed which I think players will miss. Ammo refill stations have been scrapped, the weapon suppression system is gone – which will hurt support players — building fortifications has vanished, and strangely the compass is missing from the HUD unless you’re aiming down sights (but this could be a setting we missed?).

Hopefully there are some tweaks that can be made to make for an overall better experience, but it just seems like there is a lot of design decisions put into Battlefield 2042 to capture more players – while leaving Battlefield veterans looking for that classic experience. Luckily there are other games out there like Hell Let Loose, which has replicated a lot of that feeling.

With the Battlefield 2042 beta running across the next few days, this might give DICE some time to review balance changes that should straighten things out for the full launch later next month.

Steve’s thoughts

There’s a reason Luke’s the expert, eh?

If you’re after a filthy casual look into Battlefield 2042, I can’t say that I have much hope to offer. I’m not one for Call of Duty or Battlefield single-player campaigns, but I always have a good time in multiplayer. Two others in my 2042 squad, Nathan Lawrence and Joab Gilroy, were my wingmen in San Francisco in the before times — though I’m certain they’d both suggest it was the other way around — as we previewed Battlefield 4. While most journalists played with a keyboard and mouse, I stuck to a controller (and held my own, thank you very much). My ability didn’t really matter, ultimately, as I was having fun just causing havok, jumping into tanks or planes and just chatting it up. I’m also good for revives.

Ol’ pal Nate, nor ol’ pal Joab couldn’t save this particular experience; while the banter remained top-notch, it just felt like something was missing.

Battlefield 2042 is competent, but not compelling. Comparing this beta experience to Halo Infinite‘s recent technical test, I know which one I’d rather play. In 343’s offering, there’s banter with friends and what feels like more balanced, approachable and enjoyable gameplay. This isn’t the end Battlefield 2042 experience by far, so I put my trust in DICE that issues the likes of Luke will raise will be addressed before launch.

You can check out approximately 40 minutes of gameplay below — and it’s from Steve’s POV, not Luke’s, so throw “get gud” comments accordingly. A closed beta for pre-orderers starts now, 6.00 pm AEDT on 6 October. That’s followed by an open beta from 6.00 pm AEDT on 8 October. All beta access finishes up at 6.00 pm AEDT on 10 October.

Battlefield 2042 heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4 and PS5 on 19 November. A handful of betas for the game kick off throughout the week.

Battlefield 2042

19 November 2021
PC PS4 PS5 Xbox One Xbox Series S & X
 

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About the author

Luke Lawrie

Writing and producing content about video games for over a decade. Host of Australia's longest running video game podcast The GAP found at TheGAPodcast.com. Find me on Twitter at @lukelawrie

About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.