Battlefield 2042

Battlefield 2042

Advanced warfare.

battlefield 2042

Is this a late review, or one that’s still in progress?  That’s something I’ve been asking myself as I’ve put fingers to keyboard on and off over the 5 weeks since Battlefield 2042’s launch.  The early access period from 12th November wasn’t exactly a shining beacon of stability and stress free gameplay, which you could argue was partly down to an unexpected popularity, though that’s not a consolation to anyone who’d stumped up extra cash and couldn’t get into a game.  Then the main launch on 19th November wasn’t smooth either with a variety of bugs and server issues coming to light as players were fully populating the maps and trying to shoot each other with dodgy hit detection.  With well publicised patches over the last month, and regular playing and streaming with the Codec Moments team, it’s finally the time for a verdict.  Maybe there’s enough work been done that will convince players to take that punt and have a something unique to play over the Xmas break, or entice some of the more jaded ones back in.  The key criteria that this entry in the series needs to meet is whether it’s capable of providing those special Battlefield moments, and yes, it definitely does that.

Whilst Battlefield 2042 is a multiplayer only game, that doesn’t mean there’s a need to jump in with high level players and get your ass handed to you every 10 seconds.  There is an “offline” mode with bots, and for those wanting to experience what the full scale warfare is like in a slightly more forgiving environment, this is the place to do it.  In fact, that’s where the game puts you to teach the basics of Conquest mode and get used to the controls before there’s even a menu screen to flick through – point, shoot, try not to get killed… it’s not complicated.  The AI will put up some resistance, though manage to be inaccurate enough to make it satisfying for new players to pick and blast through in a pretty big slice of a map set in a sand covered Dubai.  It’s a good way of introducing the game and makes the online experience slightly less jarring than it would be diving straight in.  It also serves as a backdrop to introduce the concept of a near future Earth where global economies have collapsed and environmental disasters have rendered sections inhabitable, or incapable of sustaining life.  As “No-Pats” from these regions, you’re in a constant battle for resources across the globe, which sets up the motivation for fighting one-to-one in massive environments.

Fronting the “No-Pats” is Irish – both voice and visage provided by the late Michael Williams – who introduces new recruits into the different modes and systems in play, and is one of the specialists to pick from instead of the usual classes.  This is a bit like the Rainbow Six Siege approach with each of the ten specialists having particular abilities to use in combat, like vehicle hacking skills or grappling hooks.  However, Battlefield 2042 lets players setup weapons classes that sit in the background and can be used by any character.  It allows for some decent flexibility on picking whether you want to place shields at defensive points, or wingsuit from tall buildings to get the drop on enemy forces, and all of them can be changed during the respawn screen depending on what fits the best tactic at a given point during the fight.  There are only two core modes: Conquest and Breakthrough, and depending on your platform you’ll either be up against 64 or 128 players.  The former has teams fighting to own control points, with the side owning the most reducing the respawn count faster for their opponents; and the latter is about attacking or defending sections of the map depending on which side you’re placed.  Pretty standard modes for the series, and you’d think that it’s a bit limited, but that’s not all that’s available.

Supporting the All Out Warfare modes are Hazard Zone and Portal which each have their own unique takes on the action.  Hazard Zone is interesting as it pits 4 man squads of players against each other, and has them entering a map to steal downed satellite data drives and then exfiltrate.  There are multiple points on the map where the dives can be taken from and it works as a risk/reward strategy as stealing more will yield better results at the end, though increases the chances of coming up against the AI guards and being wiped out.  With only one life available, it’s something the squad as a whole needs to be conscious of.  Portal on the other hand is all about reliving the glory years and includes maps and weapons from previous games that can be mixed and matched to make for some interesting encounters and scenarios.  With rotating presets available to jump in and see what’s going on, it’s a concept that adds more longevity to the core game, and brings back Rush mode from the earlier instalments.  However, it can be hit and miss, and it’s worth remembering that everything can be configured from health to movement ability so sometimes it can take a while to figure out what the rules are, let alone how to get one over on the enemy.

Regardless of which mode you find you prefer, all are squad and objective focused, with the tutorials ramming home that’s how Battlefield 2042 should be played.  Lone Wolf’s are very likely to be left high and dry by the rest of the team, and even if you’re in a good squad it’s possible to get out of shape if you’re not playing the objectives.  Each team has four players, and if you’re in a party you’ll be kept together, otherwise empty slots will be filled by whoever’s in the game.  The devs have also mentioned that if there aren’t enough players the gaps will be filled with AI, though I’ve yet to come across that online.  With up to 32 squads in each game, you’d think it would be difficult to follow the action, but after a while you get used to the scrum and start to use the fact your own team is highlighted and easy to stick with.  The most enjoyable games I’ve had are joining a random group who know this is a team game, and start working together, using cover and reviving as and when needed.  The worst games are when you find yourself abandoned and stuck in the middle of nowhere, trudging towards a control point that you know will have been captured by the time you get there, and feeling like you’re alone in what should be an epic firefight.

It’s something the series is renowned for, and the size of the maps and scale of the combat is truly impressive in Battlefield 2042.  Yes, it’s easy to get lost early on, though depending on the mode it’s possible to simply follow the team and see that emergent group behaviour happen.  Breakthrough is great for this because each of the 63 others on your team are aiming for the same objective, and everyone simply knows what they should be doing.  If you’ve a few free thinkers in there prepared to send out a message or two to everyone then it’s possible to set up a decent offensive (or defensive) move, though the times it just naturally happens and you get caught up in the group response is pretty special.  Conquest feels more like a free-for-all, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t strategic and there are plenty of opportunities to work as a team and exploit weaknesses in defence and attack.  It’s here that the different specialists and classes come into play, and where being in a party can help because you’re able to co-ordinate.  Well, if you’re on the same platform and in a voice chat… Battlefield 2042 currently has no in-game chat, so you’ll not be speaking to anyone unless you’ve got them in a party chat.  Head into the wild west of cross-platform play and that situation just gets worse.

At least the vehicles give a squad something tangible to get behind, or in to, and these are just as fun and frustrating as in previous instalments.  Helicopters are finnicky, tanks are huge damage dealers, and the new hovercrafts have had to be nerfed because they were so durable and nimble.  Being a passenger and using a turret is something everyone will experience quite quickly, but getting to be the driver depends on whoever hits the icon the fastest, which can be frustrating when you want to have a go (not that you’ll be any good at piloting without lots of practice).  Being on the receiving end of good players in vehicles can be the bane of the game, with the small heli’s the hardest to counteract.  AA rockets will do the job, though each aircraft has chaff that seems to work for ages, and cools down faster than you can reload, so a couple of players will need launchers to take them on.  It’s the same with tanks and the recoilless rifle that doesn’t quite do enough damage.  There’s a balance to be struck between it being worth it to jump in a vehicle and use its superiority against the other team, yet not having it be dominating for a lot of the round, and there’s still some work needed doing there.

Another new element in Battlefield 2042 that needs some work is the weapon mods that can be swapped out on the fly.  It’s a great idea for changing scopes, barrels and ammo with the press of a couple of buttons, though the ranking up nature that unlocks these pieces is based on how many kills you’ll get with that particular weapon.  Because the game is more focussed around the objective play, kills are secondary in the XP stakes, and so ranking up allows access to new equipment and grenades rather than mods – and it makes sense that it’s structured like that – it’s just that it’s so slow with the kills method because real life players are not keen on being easy targets.  There’s no pay to win mechanics involved, or shortcut unlock options, and this is part and parcel of the grind of the game, but those with limited gaming time will soon find themselves up against players that have far superior weapons and that can be disheartening.  Of course, those who have long range scopes and more stable crosshairs have earned them fairly, it just means the usual difficulty curve for new players is as steep as ever.  Top tip though – the solo/co-op bots mode might cap the XP and player level that can be earned, though not the weapon kills, so it’s worth heading there and using it for some quicker unlocks, as well as flying and driving practice.

There are lots of things that Battlefield 2042 does differently to previous entries, but none more so than the introduction of weather to change up the gameplay.  Most notably it seems to be hurricanes that make their way onto the map and disrupt electronics, communication and ultimately players who venture a bit too close.  It was highlighted as one of the more innovative features this time around, and it does have a dramatic impact on the battles as they sweep into the maps, forcing everyone to avoid certain areas.  They seem to follow different routes each time too and add a level of environmental jeopardy that you don’t expect.  Dice also appear to have worked on a less is more principle and are using them quite sparingly, so don’t expect to be pulled up into the eye of a tornado every round.  If they were there all the time it would make them just another object to be aware of, and would detract from what are quite simply stunningly realised worlds that you’ll go fighting in.  There’s a very nice blend of scenery across each of the 7 core maps that are designed for the increased scale of the game, and every one has choke points, sniping opportunities, defensive areas and multiple ways to thwart your opponents.  Ranging from deserts to Arctic tundra and grabbing some greenery in between, the Frostbite engine does make them look good, and keeps the framerate up too.  At least it does on the PS5 version that I’ve been playing, and after the latest patches.  Let’s just say initially there were some ropey looking textures that the team will be glad to see the back of.

What I’ve come away thinking after my time so far with Battlefield 2042 is that it’s a work in progress.  The launch was rough, there’s no doubting that, and is likely down to it needing to ship with no further delays allowed.  It’s not taken long for some of the more obvious issues to be sorted out (like actually getting into a game), and the current state seems to be very stable and does what you’d expect.  Portal mode is being used to showcase some of the more outlandish ideas, and there’s a Santas vs Elves option on there leading up to Christmas, which from some news reports will probably drive the hardcore players nuts due to its lack of realism.  Could I recommend it though?  That, even despite some of the early issues, is an easy one – yes.  The series has always been a considered shooter where teamwork and aiming for the task at hand win out over a kill death ratio any day of the week.  There’s not even a leaderboard in this latest instalment, showing how little Dice consider the top killer’s importance to be.  Squads are ranked though, and that’s what’s more likely to drive the coherent behaviour and getting the job done.  Casual fans of the series, which is where I’d place myself, are going to really enjoy this, and even if it’s a bit overwhelming for new players, that soon passes.  It’s the unscripted moments that make Battlefield what it is, and with 128 players running around you’re going to find plenty of those to talk about, no matter your skill level.

A PS5 review copy of Battlefield 2042 was provided by EA’s PR team, and the game is out now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Series X|S for around £60, depending on store and platform.

The Verdict

8Great

The Good: Size and scale | Battlefield moments | Each match is different

The Bad: Some confusing menus | Tweak on balancing still to come

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Matt

Co-founder & Editor at Codec Moments

Gamer, F1 fanatic, amateur DJ (out of practice), MGS obsessed, tech geek.

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