The creators of Battlefield 2042 urge you to give in to the spectacle. With the first-person shooter market more fragmented than ever, DICE has gone all-in on an expressive, expansive multiplayer design. The player count has been increased from 64 to 128 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X customers, and the maps have been developed to an unprecedented scale to suit them.
Every time you are airlifted into one of the seven combat zones, you are constantly confronted with the impact of these advancements.
You’re given a second to gather your breath when you exit from the vehicle before the conquest begins in earnest. It’s actually incredible to see 63 other players rush forward in a wave as armored vehicles rise through infantry ranks and fighter aircraft thunder overhead.
Knowing that another 64 players are undergoing similar awakening hundreds of Klicks away is also comforting. The two sides will meet in minutes, and the unpredictability of the carnage that ensues is what makes Battlefield 2042 so addictive.
There are three different multiplayer modes in Battlefield 2042: Hazard Zone, a lackluster survival mode that can foster more intimate encounters; and Portal, a fantastic creativity tool that will likely keep the community engaged in this live-service ecosystem for years to come.
Battlefield 2042 shines brightest when it comes to breaking through. In a vast, messy war of attrition, one side is allocated as the attacking force and the other as the defensive, with the frontline of combat shifting back and forth between specific regions. These head-to-head clashes have an unquestionably remarkable quality to them. Battlefield 2042 finds a rare moment of focus in Breakthrough, something that cannot be claimed for Conquest.
The magnitude and intensity of combat may be astounding when 128 players are battling for the same objective – with scores of invading squads aggressively pushing for inches of ground against an entrenched defending wall.
Breakthrough supplants Conquest as Battlefield 2042’s primary mode because there’s a desperate tension to map progression and an unshakable satisfaction to be earned in helping your team gain momentum.
Although DICE removed single-player from Battlefield 2042, Breakthrough generates scenarios that would normally be allocated for scripted campaigns. Your squad will automatically form behind armored vehicles to take shelter from entrenched snipers, dashing through dense crossfire to provide medical care to downed allies, and work within the wider coalition to reveal weak points, push flanks, and blow defensive lines wide open. These multiplayer battles have a theatrical feel to them that is energizing.
Conquest is the pinnacle of the Battlefield sandbox, and it’s why it’s been in every game in the series’ 20-year existence. That is still true in 2042, albeit with wider maps and a higher player count, making it more chaotic and unpredictable. Conquest can easily overwhelm solitary players and frustrate less experienced squads due to cross-platform play and the lack of in-game voice chat support at launch.
Conquest has been tweaked slightly in Battlefield 2042 in order to focus the game’s action. Before a sector can be seized, teams must now capture numerous control points within it. However, sectors shift control so quickly that determining your impact on the wider conflict might be difficult.
It’s easy to feel haphazard on the battlefield, especially when it’s difficult to see where you’re being shot from or where to focus your attention, which is especially true here. With the appropriate people surrounding you, Conquest can be a lot of fun, but with so many players moving in and out of sectors from all angles, it’s easy to get frustrated.
Time to kill
As enjoyable as Battlefield’s combat might be when everything falls into place, the game’s formula has problems, many of which will reappear in 2042. Given the wider play spaces, lengthy lines-of-sight, relative lack of cover, and speedy time-to-kill, being murdered by unseen players from genuinely obscene distances is still far too easy; once the first shot registers, you’re as good as dead.
Even while the weapons are fantastic to use, there are only 22 of them available at launch. While there is a learning curve to each weapon’s distinct characteristics and bullet drop, it isn’t as steep as in prior chapters of the series. I believe this has had an impact on the balance of engagements, especially for series veterans who are already used to dealing with the recoil patterns of assault, marksman, and sniper rifles.
Thankfully, Battlefield 2042 gives you options for adapting to natural fluctuations in combat pace. In the midst of combat, the new ‘Plus’ system allows you to modify your primary and secondary weapons on the fly by changing unlocked attachments.
It’s a lot of fun to be able to switch sights as you switch between terrain types, or ammunition and barrels as the danger changes from infantry to vehicle. The adaptability of this system will appeal to resourceful players, making your chosen loadout more feasible in a wider range of situations.
The introduction of Specialists is where 2042 stumbles the most out of all the alterations to the fundamental Battlefield concept. Battlefield has always employed classes as a means of balancing action and teamwork, with weapons and gadgets limited to specific roles, forcing squads to balance together.
Ammunition boxes, repair tools, and medkits are no longer tied to the Assault class, and rocket launchers and C4 are no longer related to the Recon class; all players can freely equip ammunition boxes, repair tools, and medkits, and the same goes for rocket launchers and C4. It results in a clumsier, less focused battlefield.
Battlefield 2042 often feels as if the series’ focus on specialization has been sacrificed. It’s difficult to see what roles different players are playing or whether the forces forming up around objective locations are well-equipped to deal with new threats.
It’s also worth noting that while each of the ten Specialists has their own distinctive gadgets and features, only a handful of them are actually useful; Mackay and Rosier stand out, as their Grappling Hook and Wingsuit equipment have a direct effect on traversal.
It’s regrettable that DICE has pushed away clear and communicable squad compositions at a time when Battlefield needed to match its expanded scale with improvements to visibility.
There’s never been a greater need for a steady supply of ammo boxes and medkits than now, with 128 players running amok. However, such support appears to be tougher to get by given that players can create loadouts based on weapon classes rather than role requirements.
Expanding one’s horizons
In Battlefield 2042, most players will settle toward All-Out War, with groups of friends leaning toward the carnage of Conquest and everyone else gravitating toward the magnificent rhythms of Breakthrough.
DICE has also included two new methods to play, one of which is far more powerful than the other. Hazard Zone is a 32-player squad-based survival game that sets eight four-person teams against each other and roving gangs of AI warriors in order to seize and extract Data Drives.
Hazard Zone appears to be the polar opposite of what the Battlefield 2042 package is attempting to achieve. The combat takes place on maps repurposed from All-Out War, which are far too huge to support these smaller-scale entanglements, so the pacing is unnecessarily slow.
Dark Market Credits (earned for successfully removing data drives and killing foes) are used for little more than rebuilding your loadout from scratch between matches, making progression even more difficult.
Hazard Zone is barely more than a side attraction in Battlefield 2042, with the sandbox pared down to its minimal essentials. While it’s objective that DICE will enhance the pacing, objectives, and permeance between rounds in the future, it’s difficult to advocate playing this game style without a close squad of friends.
Then there’s Battlefield Portal, which is easily one of the most enjoyable aspects of the entire 2042 bundle. It’s a comprehensive set of editing and sharing tools that will allow you to build and share your own Battlefield experiences with the rest of the community. It feels like a fantastic way to celebrate the series’ 20th anniversary and the players who have stuck with it along the way by letting you doodle on the maps, weapons, and classes of Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 3, and Bad Company 2 – all of which are underpinned by the technology of 2042.
The web-based editor is powerful, with a surprising amount of flexibility. You can effectively construct new-gen remasters of your favorite maps and modes from Battlefield’s history by combining elements from all of the games. Portal has allowed me to view what Rush would be like with 128 players on Bad Company 2’s Arica Harbor or Valparaiso maps, as well as how its carnival of destruction would appear in 4K – which is spectacular.
It’s amazing that Battlefield 2042’s technology can be used to breathe new life into the series’ past in this way. While the quality of the creations varies greatly, there’s a lot of fun to be had in revisiting old maps and modes, especially when they’ve been given an audio, visual, and performance boost. Portal is a mode that the entire community will spend months, if not years, pushing to its limits.
The launch of Battlefield 2042 takes place on firm ground. DICE intends to gradually boost its FPS, effectively treating it as a live service. We don’t yet know what it will look like, how the studio will handle a regular cadence of material releases, or how the combat pass will go, but we’ll find out in due time.
For the time being, Battlefield 2042 is a fun game that gets much better with buddies. Those of you coming in without a squad or straight from the battle royales of the world may struggle to get a footing in the carnage in its current state, but if you can settle into the rhythms of Battlefield 2042’s All-Out War, you won’t be able to play anything else on new-gen systems quite like it.