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Battlefield 2042
Battlefield 2042

Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date:
22nd October 2021
Battlefield 2042 Review
Review By @ 02:03pm 19/11/21
PC

Since writing my epic 6,000-ish word review impressions about my Battlefield 2042 experiences during the controlled review event, I’ve clocked up another 20-plus hours of play time. And while I’ve been exposed to the lacklustre progression system, tapped into some occasional specialist Synergy, and spent more time with the maps, my initial thoughts haven’t changed.

Battlefield 2042 - Review in Progress Excerpt



You might reasonably call me a Battlefield apologist; where some have tinnitus, my ears ring with the Battlefield theme. Battlefield Hardline and Battlefield 2142 aside, I’ve sunk countless hours into Battlefield games, from the Wake Island demo for Battlefield 1942 -- a begrudging console-only detour with the original Bad Company -- to the many thousands of hours from Bad Company 2 onwards.

There’ve been times that I’ve walked away. Sometimes for a new Battlefield game or for a couple of Battlefront detours. Or other times temporarily because of a prevalence of cheaters, technical issues or time-to-kill (TTK) shenanigans.

But, I’ve always come back.

All of the above is to contextualise how utterly disappointed I was by the Battlefield 2042 beta, and not because of the bugs I assumed would be (and mostly have been) fixed for launch, but because of a combination of odd anti-Battlefield design logic (no classes; WTF?) and the dreaded return of the seemingly baked-in repair systems and wealth of countermeasures for contemporary war vehicles.

All-Out Snore-Fare




Unfortunately the whole upping the player count on PC and next-gen consoles, from 64 to 128 players, hasn’t added anything to Conquest. Plus, it feels painfully unbalanced in Breakthrough. In Conquest, having that many players never feels like you're battling more players than previous Battlefields. The sheer increase in map-size is a factor, making it hard to get around as an infantry main, not to mention the overall look being a mix of bland and sterile art direction. Vehicles are more important than ever, but trying to call one in fails more than it works. This leads to long stretches of sprinting between points and, likely, getting cleaned up by roaming hovercrafts.


Unfortunately the whole upping the player count on PC and next-gen consoles, from 64 to 128 players, hasn’t added anything to Conquest. Plus, it feels painfully unbalanced in Breakthrough.



Battlefield 2042 - Review in Progress Excerpt



New Battlefield modes are a novelty but, at least in Oceania, Conquest is the mode that truly delivers the multi-frontline, frantic back-capping, for real all-out war experience. Breakthrough falls apart immediately by separating teams into attackers and defenders with a single defined frontline. Sectors are captured when the attacking team controls up to three points, but they have to control them simultaneously as defenders can recap. On paper, recapping isn’t bad, but considering how woefully balanced Breakthrough is in favour of defenders, the worst place to start in Battlefield 2042 is as an attacker in this mode.

Vehicles are overpowered, which is heightened by the arduous loading speed of the only AT launcher in the game. The hovercraft is chief among those. Coupled with physics exploits that let hovercraft drivers literally blitz up the side of a building as well as questionable hit registration with explosives (hell, with every weapon), and fighting vehicles is more of a chore than something fun. Admittedly, the focus on hovercrafts is intermittently fun while on-board, but it’s also outright weird.


There’s a counter, but having a dedicated anti-vehicle or anti-air squad feels incredibly cheesy, especially when you’re holding the enemy’s closest cap point to their default spawn and annihilating vehicles. It’s satisfying in all of the wrong ways; it’s less ‘only in Battlefield moments’ and more a group of friends going out of their way to make their own fun. Conquest used to be the pinnacle of emergent storytelling in shooters and that’s simply not the case here.


Vehicles are overpowered, which is heightened by the arduous loading speed of the only AT launcher in the game. Again, the hovercraft is chief among those. Coupled with physics exploits that let hovercraft drivers literally blitz up the side of a building ... fighting vehicles is more of a chore than fun.



Battlefield 2042 - Review in Progress Excerpt



The class system is no more. That once-honed thing that went from too many to almost the right amount—Recon is still entirely optional in a series that’s pushed deeper and deeper into rewarding not just playing the objective, but playing on the objective—four classes made sense for a four-stack squad (stay out of it, Battlefield 1). That’s not to say that you needed to have one player per class, but you could, especially when Recon had a more defined team-supporting role to play in Battlefield V.

Instead of classes, you now have Specialists, each of whom has a unique active ability and a passive ability. DICE calls this an evolution of class-based gameplay, but removing a core component of the teamwork pillar of the series feels like a massive misstep.

The rumours claim these Specialists were inspired by Call of Duty, but it feels more like they were inspired by Rainbow Six Siege. Siege’s current thrust away from realistic Operators notwithstanding, the trick that DICE has missed with its Specialists is that Siege Operators are built on core gameplay roles. For instance, there are multiple options for hard breachers and entry fraggers just as there are multiple choices for anchors and roamers. Battlefield 2042’s Specialists feel best when they conform to the core roles of the series: Assault, Medic, Support and Recon.

At launch, there are 10 Specialists in Battlefield 2042, and the better ones are those that logically fit into these roles.

By the way, coordinated teamplay only works if you’re playing with a squad of people you know and are able to voice chat via Discord because there’s no VOIP in the game. Apparently it’s coming, but considering crossplay is the best way to quickly find games in a mode that doesn’t have server browsers, being unable to communicate with an ad hoc squad further detracts from teamplay that is already marred by a Specialist system that devolves the class system of old.

The Imbalanced Zone




While the word is that VOIP will be in the game in December, it may not be soon enough to save Hazard Zone. The new mode where your squad of four heads into the Battlefield 2042 maps with up to seven other squads of enemy players (32 players total; 24 for last-gen) in pursuit of fallen satellites with intel-stuffed hard drives. The complete lack of meaningful communication is a real problem. The commo rose is worse than it’s ever been so unless you’re partied up with PC players (you can type, but it’s not practical in a firefight) or playing with mates, it means Hazard Zone shouldn’t be played by anything other than a Discord-chatting four-stack of similar skill levels.


While the word is that VOIP will be in the game in December, it may not be soon enough to save Hazard Zone. The complete lack of meaningful communication is a real problem.



Battlefield 2042 - Review in Progress Excerpt



The final two launch Specialists also don’t have a defined Battlefield class role to play, but they do painfully tease at new infantry mobility options that would be better served as permanent inclusions to the Battlefield 2042 gameplay loop. Mackay has a grappling hook which, when it works, equally boosts vertical movement, horizontal escapability and classy frag clip-sharing potential. Sundance has a wingsuit, which should also be a permanent fixture, and it ditches the need to use a parachute entirely. It also comes into its own in one of those rare instances when the map is torn up by a tornado (you can travel pretty much anywhere from the top of those).

Paradoxically, DICE has ditched the two-gadget logic of recent Battlefield games and relegated the second gadget to your Specialist ability. In practical terms, this means DICE has decided that a repair tool is just as important as a rocket launcher or, more importantly, that you either have to specialise in anti-air or anti-armour just as much as you have to choose between dropping a med crate or ammo. Health regenerates fast enough and the prevalence of Falck players somewhat nullifies the need for a med crate, but even if you take one for the team and run with an ammo crate, you’ll be disappointed. You’re quite literally better off redeploying when you’re out of explosives to come back with full ammo rather than waiting to painfully get a single rocket back after a slow cooldown.


I managed to find some matches with random players where we worked together, but it all falls apart with the lack of callouts. It never felt like we were able to properly coordinate with a bare-bolts ping system and text chat. One particular match made this abundantly clear when I was killed by the last survivor of an enemy team who was camping behind a door, who then went on to kill the other two players in my squad because I couldn’t relay the enemy position fast enough.

While the gunplay generally feels more consistent in Hazard Zone than All-Out Warfare, there are still moments where hit rego is broken, which punishes weapon diversity outside of the default AR (which costs no in-game currency to use in Hazard Zone) or the meta SMGs. It’s damning that SMGs feel better than ARs, even in mid-range fights, as is the hit-marker-heavy DM7 DMR vs the way-too-powerful SVK.

Hazard Zone may have potential, but it won’t be found in its current form. I fear it’ll be effectively dead in Oceania by the time VOIP makes it to the game: either because no-one is playing or only the sweatiest of fans are leftstalking this game mode.

Fix It In Post




Speaking of gunplay, it’s at its best in the mostly excellent Portal mode. This is where I’ve had the most fun, even if Oceania servers pre-launch were mostly those attempting to boost XP or hardcore versions of Battlefield 2042’s Conquest maps. DICE deserves kudos for including Portal, but it could be part of any Battlefield game and it makes All-Out Warfare and Hazard Zone look worse by its inclusion.


It’s damningThe fact that SMGs feel better than ARs, even in mid-range fights, is damning, as is the hit-marker-heavy DM7 DMR vs the way-too-powerful SVK.



Still, the best of Portal is surely yet to come, not just as DICE refines and expands its content inclusions but when more of the community start working their magic with custom modes. Hopefully, the better instances result in heavily populated servers; for my time at least, the experience was more consistent and stable than All-Out Warfare and Hazard Zone.

There’s a good chance of people finding matches in Portal, though, because it at least has a server browser, unlike the matchmaking-only of the other two modes, neither of which offer an indication of wait times and both of which frequently put you in the same map over and over again.


Speaking of stability, here’s a list of just some of the bugs I encountered in Battlefield 2042, none of which were explicitly mentioned as being addressed in the day-one patch:
  • Can’t spawn in Conquest

  • Choppers at start spawn off the map (so you can’t spawn in them)

  • Invisible enemies who can’t be killed with bullets

  • No marker for select friendly players

  • Death that leads to no way to be revived or redeploy

  • Joining squad of in-game friend loads map but then chucks you back to main menu

  • No loadout showing, which leads to no active gadget slot and a default weapon

  • Bullets go through enemies without registering a hit

  • Enemy killed by headshot sound but no kill confirmation

  • Killed after reaching cover (the tick rate feels bad)

  • No walking/running animation for enemies at range

  • No visible countermeasures when tracking aircraft (or just no lock-on)

  • Grenades that won’t throw

  • Grenade slot won’t update from smoke grens

  • Can’t revive players who have part of their character stuck in an object

  • Server rubber banding and crashes

  • Stuck running on the spot during helicopter rocket barrage

  • Keyboard input sporadically doesn’t register, especially when selecting weapons/gear

  • Sporadic input lag when aiming

  • Fake exclusive fullscreen

You get the idea.

And while DICE will likely fix most or all of the above with upcoming patches, it doesn’t change the reality that the core offering feels off. With the previous contentious launches of Battlefield games, the potential and ambition of the gameplay loop outweighed the detractors of bugs and other issues. That’s not the case here.

Give It a Year




You should not play Battlefield 2042 solo, unless you’re grinding a weapon, or maining a vehicle. There’s fun to be had when playing with friends in Discord, particularly in Portal, but I had to go out of my way to have fun rather than feeling like emergent moments were potentially around every corner.


And while DICE will likely fix most or all of the above with upcoming patches, it doesn’t change the reality that the core offering feels off. With the previous contentious launches of Battlefield games, the potential and ambition of the gameplay loop outweighed the detractors of bugs and other issues. That’s not the case here.



The launch has been something of a mess all around, from the removal of one of the Specialist’s abilities (an impossible-to-take-out shield) through to a gadget that caused server issues like rubber-banding. Both of these are back in the game, yet the shield can still fully absorb the imposing force of a tank shell. For a series that has always been about fostering a refined sandbox with clear objectives creating some truly spectacular moments, the tank shell sending the shielded player flying makes more sense (the physicality of Battlefield V would have allowed for such a trick). I could list a dozen more examples and ‘what if’ scenarios, but it ultimately circles back to one singular point. Battlefield 2042 is a heartbreaking disappointment.

Keep your Battlefield itch-scratcher installed: Battlefield 4 for modern tastes, Battlefield 1 for something completely different or Battlefield V for the most honed of the bunch. Live service models always have a chance of turning things around; just look at Rainbow Six Siege. But saving a game in that kind of way should never be the model. The real lesson here is to stop releasing unfinished games, whether that’s server woes, optimisation issues, immersion-shattering bugs or, as is additionally the case with Battlefield 2042, an undercooked core gameplay offering that would have benefited from at least another year in the oven.
What we liked
  • Vaulting feels great, fast and responsive
  • Tank turning speed is pro infantry flank
  • Grappling hook and wingsuit rock
  • Multiple sectors per zone in Conquest
  • Portal mode is mostly excellent
  • The Plus system is a plus
What we didn't like
  • Gunplay inconsistencies across modes
  • Lack of viable squad communication at launch
  • Missed opportunities for permanent enhanced mobility
  • All-Out War optimisation is woeful
  • Specialists aren’t viable class replacements
  • Hit rego inconsistencies
  • Hovercraft collision and OP-ness
  • Limited arsenal makes progression feel bland
  • One gadget slot only
  • Bugs, bugs and more bugs
  • All-out abandonment of Battlefield V’s better inclusions
  • Open, flat maps
  • Sterile art design in All-Out War maps
  • Terrible scoreboard replacement
  • The sound design is woeful (positional accuracy of footsteps most of all)
  • The new theme suuuuucks
More
We gave it:
4.0
OUT OF 10
Latest Comments
Hunter
Posted 10:23am 23/11/21
Sounds like it needed another 12 months before release
nachosjustice
Posted 02:51pm 25/11/21
Absolutely, Hunter!
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