Shame about that new stuff, though...
The Battlefield series has been one of my main go-to multiplayer games that I fire up when I’m looking to cause some destruction with my friends. We’ve spent hundreds of hours over the years in these war-torn environments, coordinating as a squad — and being remarkably good at it. We’re consistently recognized in-game as the Ace Squad, an end of the game pat on the back that highlights the top squad throughout the match. In Battlefield V, our Medic is in the top 1% globally in heals, playing as a solider on the ground in the Assault class my kill/death ratio is in the top 6%, and as a squad overall we have a win percentage in the top 10%.
I’m not writing this to gloat about my stats in Battlefield; instead, I’m trying to convey how much time I’ve spent playing the franchise over the last decade, and how were successfully able to accomplish the goals set out by the game using the tools we’ve been given. Also, this was specially to try and keep the “filthy casual” remarks out of the comments section. Because this, dear reader, is where I now must spend the next few thousand words talking about DICE’s latest addition to the franchise, Battlefield 2042, and regrettably why it is one of the most disappointing iterations it has released so far.
When Battlefield V launched, I was very sceptical. We just experienced the first World War with Battlefield 1, and by moving to World War II it just didn’t seem like things would evolve too much. I was wrong. One of the great additions was the emphasis on squad-based gameplay incentives that rewarded those who played the objective. Players would earn requisition points that they could use to spend on reinforcements. This included supply drops to give their team ammunition and health, vehicle drops that allowed the squad to jump into a tank, or the ability to call in a devastating V-1 or JB-2 rocket that would decimate an area of your choice. It was way to motivate players to do the things that they needed to do in order to help win the game for their team. Also, it just enabled you to deliver some of those brilliant “Battlefield moments” that you would always see yourself, or hear other people talking about when recalling tales of their in-game war stories.
Requisition points, and the ability to spend them to call in reinforcements, has been jettisoned in Battlefield 2042. No alternative squad-based reward system has replaced this; it’s just gone. This echoes throughout Battlefield 2042, as a number of systems from the last major Battlefield game have up and disappeared. The opportunity to build fortifications which altered the environment and terrain have been removed, players can no longer resupply at ammo stations near control points in Conquest, leaning around cover is gone, the weapon suppression system got fired off into the sun, the server browser on PC has been quietly taken out of the main mode… and the list goes on. What’s left is a stripped-down version of the Battlefield experience.
Battlefield 2042 is split into three different experiences, consisting of All-Out Warfare, Hazard Zone, and Portal. All-Out Warfare contains the classic Battlefield game mode Conquest, where squads of up to 128 people across PC and current generation consoles attempt to capture control points across the map. Doing so will cause the opposing factions’ tickets to bleed out faster — depending on how many points are controlled — eventually whittling away at their reinforcements and determining a winner for the match. One change-up to the formula this time around is that some sectors may require multiple locations to be captured before they are awarded to a team. In my experience, it seemed more productive to go and take the single control points instead because it ended up being less of a hassle trying to keep multiple points capped.
Breakthrough is also featured in All-Out Warfare, a mode returning from previous Battlefield titles. This is where the map is divided into sectors; the attacking side must capture and hold all the control points in that specific sector in order to move onto the next area… and before all of their tickets run out. In our experience during the review event, this mode was woefully unbalanced with the defenders winning every single map that we played on; we never successfully advanced to the last sector. At one point towards the end of the session, defenders were letting the attackers take control points so that we could play on the other half of the map.
Hazard Zone is the second experience offered in Battlefield 2042. This mode has a similar concept to titles like Escape from Tarkov or Hunt: Showdown. Your squad will be inserted into one of the new maps, filled with AI enemies, where you’ll need to work as a team to track down and acquire data drives from crashed satellites that have landed across the environment. During two intervals in the match an extraction point will be placed down — then, your squad will have to attempt an evacuation into a helicopter with all of the drives they have retrieved. While this is happening, there are several other squads trying to do the same thing. Players also have the choice of trying to take down those squads and steal their collection of drives. This can come with some risk, as you’ll not able to respawn back into the game unless your team has found squad redeploy uplinks. If all members of the team are eliminated and unable to respawn then they are removed from the match entirely.
When a match concludes you’ll be rewarded with dark matter credits, which are accumulated by killing enemies; a larger reward is received by extracting with the data drives. Dark matter credits can be used to purchase new weapons and gadgets to take into the match for your character. Every successful extraction streak gives your character discounts at the store, and extra items that they can take along with them to try and help their chances of escape. However, if you die during a match then those items will be lost, your extraction streak will reset, and you’ll need head back into the store to resupply.
Hazard Zone has the seeds planted for a mode that can be a bunch of fun to play, but unfortunately in its current state that just isn’t the case, and some more balance work needs to be done. Vehicles are very overpowered with a lot of them having mounted weapons on their roof. On top of that, in order to deal with vehicles you’re squad has to have brought in gadgets like a Recoilless M5 rocket to counter them – which generally takes around three to four projectile hits. This uses up your only gadget space, and seems like a necessity in the current state of the mode. On top of that someone in your team requires to use their gadget slot for the data drive scanner, so that you can locate where the drives are on the map. All of a sudden your gadget slots have been filled for every match and there’s really no experimentation or variety to be had.
One other concern I had is the amount of enemy AI forces spread throughout the match. It seemed like there were an abundance of them, and our team was constantly running low on ammo trying to deal with these nuisances – because they take so many hits to kill. We would have fights started by AI from 200 meters away and only after getting a kill or two would we realise that they weren’t other players, but at that stage we had already wasted a few clips of ammunition. And this seemed to be a repeating factor with every engagement. Thankfully Hazard Zone has resupply stations spread throughout the map – something that has been completely removed in All-Out Warfare. But it can still be frustrating having to go out of your way in the very limited time you already have to go on a search for more ammo.
A hero shooter
A major change in Battlefield 2042 that affects both All-Out Warfare and Hazard Zone, is the removal of the tradition class based roles. In their place are Specialists, an array of characters each with their own unique trait and specialty. Webster Mackay, for example, is able to move quicker while aiming down sights and has a grappling hook that can be attached to surfaces to pull the player up to its anchor point. Maria Falck is a medic that can revive people to full health and fire off a syringe at friendly team members to heal them. Or Ji-Soo Paik, who basically has a wallhack on a thirty second cooldown that allows her to make enemies highlighted within range – even behind thick walls.
Despite teams in Battlefield 2042 being split into the United States versus Russia, each specialist looks exactly the same regardless of which faction you’re on – though you are able to apply cosmetics. But at a quick glance it can be difficult to determine if the person running into your sightline is a Webster Mackay on your side, or a Webster Mackay on the opposing enemy team. Previously, Battlefield titles had characters on opposite teams that were in the same roles look different by having alternate clothing items which made enemies easier to distinguish.
Specialists aren’t locked to any weapon or gadgets, so everyone can use whatever gear they want to take into the fight with them. All of the loadouts can now be customized directly in the match instead of the main menu, which is a nice change. Added to this, the new plus system allows players to switch their weapons attachments on the fly while in combat.
Fans might be a bit displeased at the selection of weapons available. For comparison, 2013’s Battlefield 4 had around 10 assault rifles to choose from, while Battlefield 2042 has 4. The total arsenal of 22 weapons is a bit shy from their last outing in Battlefield V which saw a choice of 30 at launch.
Personally I’m not enjoying the new direction of the gunplay DICE has decided to take the Battlefield series in. The studio has been fairly open in recent years after the release of Battlefield V, where it attempted, multiple times, to modify the Time to Kill (TTK) in order to make it longer. Despite pushback from seasoned players, it appears DICE is committed to this new direction. Players in Battlefield 2042 can take quite a decent amount damage before they drop to the ground – even more so now that armour has been added. I saw enemies taking two shots to the head while being sprayed with bullets, and still walk away to survive the fight.
For me the ARs don’t feel powerful at close range, and once you get to medium ranged fights the damage just seems to drop off considerably. One of the four assault rifles, the AK24, appeared to be broken in the review session with its recoil being quite unmanageable once you pulled the trigger – although we never got clarification if this was indeed a bug or working as designed.
Regardless, I saw my own share of bugs while playing across the 9 or so hours. At one stage we were asked to stop using Dozer, who is one of the Specialists, because their shield was making them completely invincible and players weren’t able to kill those who used him. On occasions friendly team members couldn’t be revived, despite the animation playing out. I had UI issues where I was constantly being told to reload my weapon, despite not needing to. Weapons would not reload properly and refill the entire magazine. I thought I was going crazy. I would get into a fight and the gun would stop firing a few rounds in. It wasn’t until I went back and watched video that I managed to see that the weapon wasn’t reloading any ammo after the animation played out.
Aside from the bugs, the performance for Battlefield 2042 — on PC at least — is disappointing. My computer is above the recommended specs and although my framerate was quite high, the game itself felt sluggish. This was an issue that was reiterated by many others attending this event – so I don’t believe this was an isolated instance.
The UI itself is an eyesore. The scoreboard has been broken down and lists just a few of the top teams from each side, and you can only see the detailed information of kills, deaths, and assists for your own individual team members. This means you no longer have any easily identifiable way of knowing if a specific player might be cheating because you can’t see their score anymore.
The end of match Ace Squad recognition is gone because we don’t dare hurt anyone’s feelings. Instead, you’ll be shown a list of players who performed well throughout the match. Jumping into the options menu and making changes is like completing a puzzle in itself as you try and figure out if that toggle you just pressed turned something on or off.
Wide open nothing
Although Battlefield 2042 has increased their player count to 128 people, the maps themselves can at times feel empty and sparse. There will be these large open areas with absolutely nothing going on, or any cover to use if you do find yourself in an engagement. In Battlefield V, Hamada was set amongst rocky mountains along the North African coast. Battlefield 1 saw teams clash in a deep valley between gigantic mountains in the Italian alps of Monte Grappa. Nothing quite comes close to this level, as a lot of the maps are flat with not much elevation to their natural geography.
There are random weather events that can pop up on some of the maps, including a tornado that will leave a path of destruction in its way as it sucks up players and vehicles towards the sky. Just as rare, a dust storm might sweep in and impair your vision for a few moments. While these look cool, I don’t think they add a whole lot to the game in any meaningful way. Battlefield 4′s “Levolution” had giant structures that would collapse and change the scope of the terrain. Battlefield 1 introduced behemoth’s like the Zeppelin L30 – a giant airship that would rain down destruction for the losing team in order to try and get them back into the match. In Battlefield V you can call in a V-1 rocket to obliterate a teams stronghold as a massive explosion reaches for the sky. Weather events in Battlefield 2042 just don’t quite hit those highs from what I’ve played so far.
There is an easy way to see just how much the ball has been dropped with Battlefield 2042, and it is with their own third experience alongside of All-Out Warfare and Hazard Zone. Portal allows players to jump in and play classic Battlefield titles like Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3 inside of the Battlefield 2042 engine. This is probably the most interested aspect of Battlefield 2042 as a whole experience – but also shows just how uninspiring the main game actually is. You’ll see classic maps with a bunch of variety to their topography. Weapons feel great to use and seem reliable. And overall it was just a blast to play – actually, it was the most fun I had during the entire review session.
One of the other neat factors about Portal is that it allows you to create your own custom modes using all of those past games – including Battlefield 2042. This is all done through a website which is accessible to everyone where you can use programming logic, change around numbers, or just flick a few switches that other people can play just by using a share code.
We jumped into some EA created modes including protect the VIP with Battlefield 2042 vs Battlefield 1942 – and as expected the future war weapons wiped the floor with the World War II guns. There was a mode with knifes and rocket launchers only – where jumping five times would give you another rocket to fire. And also a free for all mode that had dozens of players fighting in a smaller vicinity. It’s a great way to show off very basic things of what is possible inside of Portal, and it will be extremely interesting to see what type of ideas the community ultimately come up with once the game does launch.
Despite Portal being a glimmering beacon of joy, the main new experiences in Battlefield 2042 — All-Out Warfare and Hazard Zone — are a mess. Everywhere you look, you can find problems’ gunplay is shoddy, performance issues hinder your experience, bugs are frustrating, the maps are bland while lack a lot of cover and the uninspiring gameplay is a skeleton of the previous Battlefield titles. Battlefield 2042 has lost its sense of scale, despite being the biggest player count the series has seen. So many things have been stripped away and the game is frankly in a state that is clearly not ready for release. It is hard to recommend Battlefield 2042 when there are other titles out there — like Hell Let Loose, as an example — that have built their foundation on the backs of the Battlefield series – and are now doing it better than DICE.
In a world where developers are getting used to working from home and games are being pushed back due to the global pandemic, EA decided that Battlefield 2042 was ready for this year. It’s not. More time is needed to fix a lot of the problems, but even then that might not be enough to save it from being one of the most lacklustre Battlefield titles yet.
Battlefield 2042 was reviewed at a controlled online review event hosted by EA. This took place across 3 nights where we were given about 9 hours total hands on with the game – which included time with Conquest / Breakthrough (4 hours), Hazard Zone (80 minutes), and Portal (3.5 hours). All the weapons and gadgets were already unlocked for us to use and didn’t require any progression to do so. A Battlefield 2042 promotional code was also supplied on Windows PC via Origin, and via Xbox Series X (not tested at the time of publication), both as provided by the publisher.
19 November 2021
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