Genre(s): Online, Multiplayer, First-person Shooter
Platform: Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 19/11/21
Price: Various Editions Available
A code was provided for review purposes
When it comes to Battlefield I like to call myself a veteran of the series. My love of large scale combat started off back in 2002 with Battlefield 2 and has grown ever since. I like to say that I’ve seen it all. From the highs of Battlefield: Vietnam, to the lows of Battlefield: Hardline, I’ve been there and – for Battlefield 3 – gotten the t-shirt (RIP Gamestation).
What makes the franchise appealing is that you’re part of something big. Whether you’re raining death from above, ploughing through defenses in a tank, or capturing objectives, there is always something to do that’ll help your team gain the victory. When it comes to Battlefield 2042 this gameplay stays the same, yet everything is different. Long gone are the tried and tested and in their place are new ideas and mechanics. While refreshing the formula is often welcomed, it has to feel right. Unfortunately for Battlefield 2042, where it gets a lot right – it equally gets it wrong.
War Isn’t What It Used To Be…
Decades of global devastation brought about by collapsing economies, global warming, and crumbling alliances has displaced millions of people from all over the globe. With tensions between the remaining global superpowers at an all time high a “Kessler Syndrome” event occurs which results in the destruction of 70% of orbital satellites. The resulting communication blackout sees tensions between the USA and Russia skyrocket towards all out war being declared in 2042. As both sides take up arms against each other, you’ll be on the front line of a few key battles within this new world war.
What makes this narrative different is that it’s drip fed via multiplayer rather then a dedicated single player campaign. While most players don’t play Battlefield for its single player, a little exposition goes a long way. Unless you want to trawl through the drip fed lore, or head over to the Battlefield website, you’re never really told why your host nation is fighting the other. You’re just a cog in the ever turning war machine.
All Along the Watchtower
The core gameplay of Battlefield 2042 consists of two new game modes – ‘Breakthrough’ and ‘Hazard Zone’. As well as that old favorite – ‘Conquest’, and ‘Portal’ – a custom creation tool. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and will offer varied gameplay experiences too. While ‘Breakthrough’ and ‘Hazard Zone’ pay homage to the former game modes ‘Rush’ and ‘Onslaught’, both are totally different.
‘Breakthrough’ is Battlefield 2042 at both its best – and worst. One side is assigned to attack a single objective, while the other needs to defend it. As the attackers claim these objectives the front line moves forward, and as such the defenders get pushed back. Push them all the way back and the attackers win. However defenders can also win via running down the attackers reinforcements (think of it as kills). ‘Breakthrough’ is essentially a chaotic head-to-head war of attrition as each team attempts to destroy the other.
What adds to this carnage is that each team consists of sixty-four players. So that’s one hundred and twenty-eight players all fighting over the same objective. It’s pure chaos, but there’s a sense of poetic beauty here too. You’ll have teams attempting to outflank the defenders, whilst others rumble across the charred environment in tanks, hovercraft, and transport vehicles. You certainly get a grand sense of scale as each player squad pushes toward the wall of defenders. There’s a degree of tension here too as the attackers have to attack. You’re constantly up against the ever diminishing reinforcement ticker, and the margin between victory and defeat is extremely fine.
Conquest is the franchise’s bread and butter. The game mode has appeared in every iteration of Battlefield over its rich history. It’s the ultimate military sandbox where everything goes, and nothing is off limits. Whereas the basic formula has stayed true, DICE have added a little “spice” to the mix for Battlefield 2042. The difference this time is that each team has to capture two points to control each zone. This allows for plenty of fast-frantic to and fro as control points switch and change between each team. The “level-lutions” have thankfully been laid to rest, however there is the odd cinematic effect such as sandstorms – and even a hurricane! Regardless of what map you play, each oozes with style and atmosphere that really shows off just how big these battles are.
To cope with the increased player base, Conquest has also seen its maps increase in size. Each of these maps are particularly well balanced with each offering plenty of scope in how you attack your opponent. There are plenty of great sniping spots, as well as plenty of CQB opportunities too. It’s also in Conquest where Battlefield 2042‘s biggest flaw lies.
New to this installment is the ability to cross-play across consoles and PC. While this means that there will always be team mates to battle with, there’s currently no way to communicate aside from console specific party options, or using 3rd party software (Discord). While this change doesn’t necessarily affect groups of players, it puts a disadvantage on the solo player. As a solo player you’re effectively cut off from any possible tactics, and enemy call outs from your fellow players. It’s certainly frustrating as you’ll often be capturing zones with either another squad’s support, or on your own – which isn’t really what Battlefield is about…
Highway to the Hazard Zone
Where most players will naturally head towards both Conquest and Breakthrough, DICE have also catered towards the close-knit groups. Hazard Zone is a 32-player squad-based survival mode where you have to locate various data drives to then extract them. Players are split into eight four-player squads with each having to secure a group of these drives. To complicate matters you’ll be up against the AI who will naturally shoot first and answer questions later. In-between games you can upgrade your equipment via Dark Market Credits. These are earned via successful extractions and killing enemies. While the system is here to shoe player progression, it’s painfully slow and can be quite a grind.
It’s easy to see where DICE are going with Hazard Zone. These small scale battles offer a different pace to that seen within other game modes, and with a little squad communication things can get very tactical. However its flaws are in both its progression, and maps. With Hazard Zone, you’ll be playing on the same maps as the other modes. While these are tailored towards large-scale engagements, they don’t work when things get scaled back. While on paper Hazard Zone also sounds pretty good, as of writing it’s a bit lacklustre and lacks that punch that it could have been.
Rounding this menagerie off is arguably 2042‘s greatest mode – Portal. It’s essentially a custom game creator with quite an indepth suite of options to choose from. You’re pretty much given free reign over what you create and share to the wider Battlefield 2042 community. The editor allows you to call on aspects of Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, and Battlefield 1942, with all the enhancements of 2042. If you have a pretty robust imagination this is the mode you’ll use the most.
To create your masterpiece, you do need to use the web base editor. The editor is pretty easy to use and it allows for quite the range of customisable assets. There’s already a wealth of “updated” classic maps, and game modes available to play, which certainly adds a spin to 2042‘s core gameplay. There’s even a fairly competent battle royale too, if that’s your thing. Much like other editors, Portal is going to evolve over time as players learn more – and push its limits further.
Aside from new game modes the single biggest change is the inclusion of Specialists. Traditional Battlefield has always been class-based, with each player essentially performing a role during each round. This was defined further with class specific loadouts which allowed for greater team play, and squad balancing. The inclusion of Specialists completely changes this dynamic. Every weapon and equipment is now up for grabs. Fancy being the recon specialist but want to use an assault rifle? Or how about being the assault specialist but you want to use a sniper rifle, yet keep your rocket launcher? These are typical scenarios that appear in nearly every match. While it makes Battlefield 2042 more accessible, it adds a lot of uncoordinated carnage.
It’s now incredibly difficult to ascertain who you’re fighting as it’s just as easy for a sniper to whip out a blast shield, or for a LMG wielding soldier to utilise a recon drone. It completely messes with the group dynamic which, when added to the non-existence of a way to communicate to your team, severely penalises a solo player. If anything these Specialists have taken away the option to kit yourself out for your team’s needs. Now it boils down to creating loadouts based on weapon preference rather than squad/team needs.
Tools of the Trade
A big part of Battlefield life is learning how each weapon behaves, and when’s the best time to switch things about. Thankfully Battlefield 2042 is no different in this regard. Weapons still suffer from bullet drop and full-auto fire isn’t going to damage any barns. With weapons the more you spend with a particular one, the more efficient you will become with it. This is primarily measured by your own kills, and in turn what attachments you unlock.
As each battle adapts, you’re also able to customise your weapon on the fly. This is all preformed via an onscreen system that allows you to cycle through various attachments and ammo types. While these options do have to be assigned before the match starts, they do offer a lot of variation to each situation. It’s great fun being able to adapt to each scenario, and setting yourself up right helps mitigate any missed synergy within your current squad.
When it comes to presentation, everything is pretty spot on. Each location feels pretty lived in, with towering skyscrapers, half buried football stadiums, and vast agricultural facilities being the highlights. The game runs off of an unnamed version of the Frostbite engine and as such visuals have a great degree of weight behind them. Draw distance is also strong and you’ll see the glint of sniper scopes, gunfire, and explosions from quite the distance. Certain levels also feature an environmental hazard such as a hurricane or sandstorm. Again, these are pretty impressive and add beauty to the conflict.
As of writing, Battlefield 2042 does have a few performance issues. The game often suffers from lag spikes, and there are plenty of rubber banding issues too. While DICE have released patches to compensate, the situation is still present. There are also instances where you’ll be unable to respawn, which is remedied by quitting out of the match – not ideal if you’re doing well!
However, Battlefield 2042 is being treated in the same style as a ‘live service’ title. Come 2022 and DICE will be adding the games first season pass, as well as another title update. Just quite how the developer will develop these overtime is up for debate. While Battlefield 2042 is far from perfect, it sets a solid foundation to build upon.
All in all, playing Battlefield 2042 will give you various emotions. Playing with friends offers a huge military sandbox for you to battle one hundred and twenty-eight other players. Maps are large in scale, with each offering plenty of choice in how to engage the enemies, and generally having fun. Yet for a solo player, things can get frustrating very quickly. The lack of team chat hampers this further and can make the conflict feel very lonely.
Apart from this the game’s presentation is comparable to a Hollywood action movie. There are plenty of small details on each map such as advertising boards, and massive spanning neon signs. 2042 is a stunning representation of what the current next-gen hardware can achieve.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
Battlefield 2042 is available now and can be purchased via the Microsoft Store by clicking here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.