The future of warfare has always been a fascinating idea for the first-person shooter genre, as developers grapple with the different ways in which players can engage in exciting combat. For DICE and EA, Battlefield 2042 represents the latest attempt in their long history to capture the magic of the future, but it is its refinement of the past that is truly magical.
The idea of bigger is always better can be seen throughout Battlefield 2042, and it is to be expected when the franchise has been built on inviting players into a spectacle involving them and around them. This new entry doubles the multiplayer player count from 64 to 128, with gigantic maps littered with opportunities to cause mayhem and join the circus.
As a multiplayer-only affair, it is undoubtedly awesome to see yourself and 63 other teammates rushing the battlefield, knowing that on the other side, the opposition is equally eager to send you to the grave. Add in the signature vehicles of war, and therein lies all the supposed ingredients of success.
However, the three multiplayer experiences do see varying degrees of success once you get past the initial excitement of swelling PvP numbers and cross-play, cross-progression support.
Housed under the umbrella of All-Out Warfare, players are able to engage in the large-scale conflict they know and love in either Breakthrough or Conquest modes. The former is perhaps the best of the bunch, challenging defenders and attackers in a non-stop tussle to the end as sectors become the new frontlines.
With areas designed for large numbers, as well as strategic and flanking approaches, it is exactly what one would want from a Battlefield experience. Every inch of progress is hard-fought, and when you have 128 players all funnelled into a space, it is breathtaking stuff.
With the amount of action that goes on with the fights for every sector, Breakthrough feels like a campaign-lite in Battlefield 2042, organically putting players in situations that feel right at home in a cinematic campaign. That suicidal gambit to exploit a weak link in the enemy’s defences or a last-minute save with a vehicular charge into enemy territory may have been campaign staples, but that control is now in your hands instead.
On the other hand, we have Conquest, the iconic sandbox mode that has been in Battlefield games from the start. If a destructive sandbox is what you are seeking, then this mode was tailor-made for you, albeit with some caveats this time around.
The expanded scale of everything has only increased the mayhem, and with cross-platform play now a reality, the lack of in-game voice chat is unbelievable. If you are jumping in alone or even with your squad, not having the coordination or even the avenue of discussing plans with your side is a recipe for disaster.
Conquest also changes up how sectors are captured, with multiple controls points holding the key. That lack of communications could easily see your hairy victory at one end be nullified by losses everywhere else, the battle may be won, but the war is certainly far from over. Unless you are just searching for that combat high in short bursts and not that winning feeling, Battlefield 2042’s Conquest mode may not necessarily be up to the task at the moment.
For a first-person shooter, the battle royale mechanic is always going to be the elephant in the room, and DICE has done their part to iterate on that formula with Hazard Zone. While it may be different, it sure does not make it better for players looking to jump in.
Pitting a total of 32 players in squads of four against each other as well as AI, Hazard Zone is all about survival and capturing/extracting Data Drives. Instead of huge battles playing out, every encounter is deliberately more slow-paced, which is crazy when the mode repurposes certain maps from All-Out Warfare that are meant for bigger things.
Add to that a progression system that is barely there, with Dark Market Credits being the only way of refining your loadout after every match and nothing seemingly permanent, Hazard Zone is everything the Battlefield series is not. Until DICE can figure out how to improve the mode further, there is every chance this will be the last we see of Hazard Zone.
What the community will likely hope to stay is the wonderful Battlefield Portal mode, simply one of the best ideas that have ever graced the shooter series. Providing players with a comprehensive suite of editing and creation tools, it opens up the floodgates to original content built by the community for the community.
Even better, you have the keys to not just Battlefield 2042, but also Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 3, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, all enhanced by the cutting-edge tech that powers the latest entry. Now this is a proper way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a seminal first-person shooter.
Of course, quality will vary, but the power of the tools are not to be scoffed at. It is robust and technically strong, allowing for those invested or committed enough to bring new ideas to life, or even remaster old content and present them in impressive 4K visuals.
There is no doubt that the community will only grow, and similar to other games that boast creation tools, Portal could be what sustains Battlefield 2042 for the future. Nostalgia is powerful, but when it is enhanced to an AAA level, then a foundation for success is well laid.
For all the bells and whistles, or innovative additions like Portal, at its core, Battlefield 2042 is still going to be judged for its moment-to-moment gameplay. On that front, it largely succeeds in its trademark areas, mainly the gigantic battlefields and vehicle combat. It is on foot where the game kind of stumbles.
Players not familiar or seasoned enough to navigate these huge maps are going to die, a lot, from plenty of angles and distances. That may be realistic, but it is also frustrating and not fun. Moreover, the chaos that ensues is going to make it difficult to identify where the damage is coming from, so the task of survival becomes harder.
Having a squad with you will make things easier, but Battlefield 2042 has also chosen somewhat unwisely to play with customisation, which is both good and bad. It is great when you get to modify the various firearms to suit whatever situation you are in with the Plus system, although it may feel like a trade-off thanks to the less distinct differences in the arsenal of weapons.
Yet, the new Specialists are hardly doing what their title suggests. You may have Specialists that bring unique gadgets and traits to the proceedings, but the fact is that equipment is no longer restricted to certain roles. When you have Assault specialists running around with sniper rifles or Support specialists unable to actually support the team, it becomes a massive problem.
Squad synergy gets thrown out the window, and players will find it hard-pressed to understand just what is needed to turn the tide when so many different soldiers are streaming in from every direction. A grappling hook or wingsuit may lead to a personal highlight reel, but it does not contribute much to the heart of Battlefield 2042.
At this stage, Battlefield 2042 is a rough product that has certain elements that are primed for success. The general gameplay of All-Out Warfare is solid, and Portal represents longevity that could change how annual shooters like this are rolled out. It is clear that EA and DICE are positioning this to be a live-service title, but a good start would have made things a lot easier.
Solo players are not going to find it easy to enjoy Battlefield 2042, and even teams may have trouble thanks to the baffling omission of voice chat and a general lack of focus in gameplay design. However, if you are looking to strap in for war that is impressive both in scale and mayhem, then Battlefield 2042 may have what you are looking for, just be sure to bite through the growing pains.
Battlefield 2042 is available on Origin for $69.90.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
A blending of the past, present and future, Battlefield 2042 lacks a clear identity at the moment for a live-service game.
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Story - 6/10
Presentation - 8/10
Value - 7/10