Battlefield V was released back in November 2018. For those who didn’t warm up to the game, it’s been quite a wait for the next major entry in the franchise. But after three years of waiting, we finally got Battlefield 2042! While the concept is sound, the execution itself has lot left to be desired, and made us question just what the hell was DICE doing all this time that this took three years to make.
Three Years: No Campaign, and Still Not Enough Time in the Oven
I’m going to kick off this review with my biggest issue with Battlefield 2042, and that’s the fact that it somehow has launched with less content than the previous games in not only maps, but mechanics and features. With three years of development behind the latest Battlefield game, one would expect a great level of polish, as well as a title that could boast as the biggest, content-filled launch for a Battlefield to date. Sadly, that isn’t the case with BF2042.
First off, the map list for the core experience (not counting Battlefield Portal, which we’ll be talking about later) is seven. Comparatively, this is the least amount of maps shipped in a Battlefield game, though fairly not by much as they usually launch with around nine maps. However, unlike previous iterations, Battlefields 2042’s seven maps are only playable across three different modes (again core experience, and not counting Portal,) those being All Out-War (Conquest & Conquest Large,) Breakthrough, and Hazard Zone.
Immediately you can tell that isn’t a whole lot to play with, especially considering past Battlefields have five or more modes to shuffle through on all the maps, including iconic ones like Capture the Flag, TDM, and Rush. The latter two do exist, but that’s within Portal.
All Out-War should be pretty self-explanatory to any Battlefield fan, as it features a combination of both Conquest and Conquest Large (PC and next-gen only) where the goal is to capture as many points as possible, all while depleting the opposition’s tickets (lives).
Breakthrough was a mode featured previously in Battlefield 1, and Battlefield V, and is best described as a combination between Rush and Conquest. Two teams, attackers and defenders are put on a massive map, with defenders holding a majority of points at the start of each match. It’s up to the attackers to push forward and capture these points, while the defenders try to deplete the attackers of all their tickets. The bomb planting from Rush is replaced with Conquest’s base capturing, thus the description of Breakthrough being a mix of the two modes.
Hazard Zone is a completely new game mode introduced in BF2042. It’s essentially Escape from Tarkov Lite — very lite. Each match starts out with the briefing screen where you and your squad each will select one of the unique specialists that DICE has crafted. Unlike the other two modes, specialists are locked in and can only be one per squad, meaning no team is running around with four MacKays and so on.
The ultimate objective of this mode is to deploy and retrieve data drives scattered throughout the map. Some areas are heavily reinforced with bots, while others are not. The former has more data drives to be collected, but a higher risk as there are more opposing forces to deal with.
Eventually you’ll be able to extract, and it’s here that you’ll likely encounter other squads, in which you’ll battle out for survival.
It’s an interesting mode and I give praise to DICE for trying to give players something new, but ultimately I don’t think it’s a mode suited for the Battlefield franchise. Maybe it’s because Escape From Tarkov exists, and does it superiorly better, but personally I don’t see Hazard Zone becoming a series staple. I will say if DICE can up the stakes and create more tension during matches with tweaks and such it can get better, but for now I’m expecting this mode to be the least played out of the three.
So with three modes and seven maps to play them in, it doesn’t take long after playing to realize that you’ve probably experienced all there is to offer from the core Battlefield 2042 experience just a few hours after playing it. Even the gun list is barebones compared to past iterations, but personally I don’t mind that, as it allows weapon balancing to be handled better versus having to deal with a mass amount where the meta is constantly shifting after each update. Plus: content can and will be added over time, which includes maps, modes, and guns.
Regardless whether new content can and will be added at a later time, it’s inexcusable for DICE to be launching a Battlefield game with this light of content. Three years, and no campaign, one would imagine that the studio can fully put all their focus and efforts on refining key features of past Battlefield games; evolving them to near perfection in Battlefield 2042. Well, to be blunt, that’s a big no. For whatever reason, DICE has decided to wipe the board clean, literally, and instead gave us one of the most barebones Battlefield experiences to date. You can fix the lack of content in a game, but adding core missing mechanics isn’t quite as easy to do.
Lacking in maps, modes, and guns is one thing, but lacking in features that helped make the Battlefield experience what it is today is just downtirhgt abysmal. Where did the scoreboard go? Leaderboard? Stats tracker? In-game voice chat? Server browser? I won’t keep listing things as we have talked about that already in our list of missing features in the BF2042 that’s present in past Battlefield games article, and while not everything on that list will be missed, there are some arguably big features missing in this Battlefield.
I can’t even join a match and change to a specific squad anymore, as that has, for whatever reason, been forced to be completely random. If I am in a squad that refuses to play the objective, I’m screwed and will resort to praying to the RNG gods that I get placed in a squad that gives a damn. I’ve also had some matches where my friends would be placed in a different squad than me, unable to play with them in an effective, and efficient way.
It goes completely against the idea of team play or PTFO that players have pushed for since the creation of the franchise. Specialists don’t help push that kind of playstyle either.
I have no problems with the idea of Specialists. I know some out there are disappointed by their inclusion, as it’s seen as riding on the success of Rainbow Six Siege and other shooters that have specific characters (read: heroes), but I don’t necessarily think they’re bad; it’s more so how they’re handled in BF2042 that makes them bad.
Being able to play as any kind of Specialist, and using any gun you want is perhaps one of the smartest design decisions that DICE could make, truth be told. I enjoy playing certain roles in Battlefield games, but have always hated being forced to use specific types of guns. To me it never made sense why I couldn’t play a Support class and use X weapon. With the Specialist system, this is a non-issue.
What isn’t fine, however, is how the system feels classless compared to past Battlefields. You can’t combo certain gadgets. So for example, the Engineer used to be able to carry both the repair tool and rockets, while the Medic can use medkits and the defib. Those pairings are gone, and you are now forced to pick one or the other with those respective specialists. No more being on tank buster duty while repairing a nearby tank. It’s one or the other, never both.
That makes teamplay feel less of a focus as it employs players to be more selfish in their loadouts and gear it towards a lone wolf set-up.
Another issue that Alex and I previously mentioned in our Battlefield 2042 beta preview is how Specialists lack identities. Of course, not being able to mix gadgets so they fit a class accounts to that, but the fact that everyone — that means your team and the enemy — can play as any Specialists just makes the whole battle feel pointless.
DICE has explained the reasoning why both the US and Russia armies are using No-Pat (Non-Patriated) forces, but it feels more like a convenience and an excuse to be able to use the same Specialists for both sides. That’s fine, however they really should have thought of a better way to differentiate the teams instead of using a small glow stick on the uniform. You can keep the Specialists and their voices, but at least give players faction-locked skins. Try playing BF2042 with no HUD and tell me how that goes when you’re unloading a full clip into a teammate.
Maybe that’s nitpicking, but look at it like this: You will never see DICE or EA release a cinematic trailer for upcoming Specialists, or current ones that’ll show them fighting themselves because they obviously know how silly that looks. It’s dumb from a marketing standpoint, so why wouldn’t it be dumb from a gameplay standpoint.
Furthermore, taking a look at the official lore lead up to BF2042 (via EA,) it’s easy to see that this is a pretty serious story that DICE is trying to build on. Food and fuel shortages are at an all-time high, igniting a war between the US and Russia. We all know war is no laughing matter, and while this is a video game, I cannot help but chuckle at the set-up mostly due to the Specialists being all smiley and cheerful post-match. This is one of the line spoken by the specialist Anghel during post match with a smirk, “Don’t be sad, this is just how it works out sometimes.” Who is this even directed at? The player? The starving person they’re trying to save? Who? It feels like something lifted out of Fortnite, which, I mean no disrespect towards since that game is obviously geared as such from the get-go. DICE has spent somewhat a decent amount of time with setting up the lore, yet it’s hard to care about it when you have these extremely cringy one liners all throughout matches.
I’m sure this will be addressed eventually in a future update, but for now we’ll just have to deal with it, which sadly, that seems to be the trend of every Battlefield game that has launched since Battlefield 3 — having to deal with a very buggy, unpolished experience.
Continuing the Tradition of Buggy Launches
Taking the amount of maps, game modes, features, and mechanics that are available day one, I’ve made it clear that there isn’t a whole lot. Yet despite being light, I can’t even claim that this is a very polished experience. Seriously, the amount of bugs that are present is insane for a high profile game such as Battlefield that immensely lacks in what previous entries had. At the very least it would have been great to be able to say this is the most polished Battlefield launch in the history of Battlefield, but we can’t, because it simply isn’t.
On a performance level, at least on PS5, the experience is surprisingly near locked at 60fps with occasional dips during heavy explosive moments. That’s to be expected, because this is such a huge, massive online game that has to account for 128 players. I’m surprised that the frames-per-second in general, at least on the PS5, is as good as it is, definitely better than where it was at in the previous beta.
However, the big issues come in the general lack of polishing in everything else. From crashes, clipping, rubber banding, screen locks, queue locks, to epilepsy inducing graphical bugs, Battlefield 2042 has it all when it comes bugginess. This, coming from one month after the game launched with three major patches already released. Has it gotten better? Yes, but it’s still a buggy experience.
Portal to the Rescue
Perhaps the best part about Battlefield 2042 is Battlefield Portal, a mode dedicated to fans as it allows them to craft unique Battlefield experiences with custom game modes played on classic maps picked from some of the best Battlefield games, Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, and BF1942 amongst the line-up of maps that players can pick from, and wow! Does it feel good revisiting some of these classics.
Now I did mention earlier that I wasn’t counting Portal as part of the Battlefield 2042 experience and that’s because of how vastly different it is. This is mostly due to the fact that, while DICE Sweden handled Battlefield 2042, Ripple Effect, formally known as DICE LA, came in at some point mid-development to create this mode. So essentially it’s a different mode created by an entirely different branch of DICE. And that shows.
To me, Battlefield Portal should have been THE premier game that DICE should have went with. It’s a collectiveness of all the great Battlefield hits, wrapped in one beautifully, well crafted experience. You want classic factions to be able to tell the difference between teams? You got it. What about classes? Yes, that exists. Rush? TDM? Oh yeah, and so much more.
Even the community can get in and create their own mode as we reported previously about a custom made Battle Royale experience and more.
It’s fantastic, and compared to the core experience, Portal is loaded with weapons and maps to experience everything. Again, it is essentially an entirely different game.
This is why I mentioned early that I didn’t “count” Portal as part of the core mode, because they play entirely different. Where 2042 focuses on its estranged Specialist system, Portal offers an experience closer to what many remember Battlefield is with its classic class-based system. Additionally, even the gameplay from said Battlefield is mimicked, though not perfect. What I mean is Battlefield Bad Company 2 in Portal plays closer to the original game than it does to 2042 new movement and such. Same for Battlefield 3, and BFV.
Everything is handled differently, and this even shows on DICE’s side. I started writing this review before DICE had initially dropped any of the recent major updates. One of them introduced Rush to BF 2042 maps. This was a great update, though the kind that should have been there at launch, but great nonetheless. Yet despite adding a beloved mode for the new maps, it was never featured on the core experience outside of the playlist feed, which gets updated to promote newer modes and events.
Dropping into the All-Out-War menu, which is the “core” playlist for Battlefield 2042, Rush is nowhere to be found. If you do see it on the main menu, then it’ll boot you into the Portal Menu rather than take you into matchmaking.
This might be nitpicking to the extreme, but it really does highlight the separation between the modes. Portal even has a server browser to browse all the custom games and lobbies whereas core 2042 relies solely on a matchmaking system.
I am sure DICE and Co. will streamline this better in future updates, but in its current state Portal and core 2042 feel like two games forcibly lumped together with no real consistency. Even the promised experience of XP being earned in everything you do isn’t as good as it should be, though that is thanks to the unsurprising XP farming lobbies.
Not the Size That Counts, But How You Use It
As excited as I was to see DICE up the player count in Battlefield 2042, after putting in countless hours I’ve come to the realization that more isn’t always the best answer. That’s a bit contradictory to me saying that BF2042 lacks content, but in this case going for the numbers most definitely played a role in making Battlefield 2042 feel less of a Battlefield game.
While 128-player matches sounds good — honestly, it probably would be if it meant that it matched the original experience — it isn’t, and the players have been outspoken about it. So much so that the studio themselves have permanently added 64-player playlists. Why the dislike for 128 players? Well, because despite being a big number, the maps feel empty with little to no action.
They’re too big with objectives spaced too far a part from one another. On the 128 map variants you will find it very common to be walking in empty spaces and in long stretches just to be killed as you approach an objective. And it’s not that I’m bad at BF2042 (I’m not the best either,) but there is something severely off about the designs of these maps. There isn’t a whole lot of in between cover compared to past Batlefield maps. And I’m all for variety, but every new map in BF2042 plays in a similar fashion. I can’t say there’s a map that plays like Operation Metro where everything is tightly packed for intense close quarters. No Seine Crossing, no Strike at Karkland, Operation Locker. Heck, looking at the Portal maps, core BF2042 doesn’t even capture what those offered. The BF2042 maps are designed to be played with 128 players, and even that it doesn’t feel it.
The 128 mentality also made the maps suffer in its destruction element. Look, I won’t deny the fact that Battlefield has been on a downward with its destruction since Bad Company 2, but it is severely lacking in 2042. Look at the sandstorm or the twister that happen during random matches. Yeah they’re cool to look at, but that novelty wears off fast as they literally offer nothing on a gameplay level other than an annoyance. Battlefield 4 had levelution, which would have been great to pair with the weather events. Instead you are given a very untouched map after a massive twister rips right through it. It’s unsatisfying to say the least.
That’s not to say that there isn’t any destruction as some structures can be nearly obliterated, but even still it just feels lacking. I can’t get over the fact that buildings can almost be demolished, yet roofs for them are untouched of any kind of damage. This results in enemies camping on them with no way for ground players to be able to reach them unless they waste the time finding a high enough location to jump from. I get that they don’t want a building to be completely destroy, but at least give an alternative like a ladder to reach them or some climbable containers. To me it doesn’t make sense why the only means to get to some locations is to jump to them from say a helicopter. I’ve had matches where there would always be one enemy on top of a capture point because Of the building having a roof that was in accessible from the ground. It’s just poor design.
Best to Wait The Year, or Till Season 1 Starts
While Battlefield 2042 has a lot of upside with Battlefield Portal, it’s hard to deny how much of a disappointment it in its current state. When you factor in that it took three years to develop, and no single-player campaign to even think of, well, it just makes it worse than it is.
The upside to all this is, DICE can continually push out patches in order to stomp out bugs, add in features, and so on. This is a live service game, so expect more content to be doled out as the game’s lifecyle continues. However, will players still be there when the game finally realizes its potential? We can’t say for certain. As it is right now, one can’t help but feel disappointed at BF2042. It should have beent he big one that made people forget about the sour taste BFV left in everyone’s mouth. But sadly, BF2042 seems to show that DICE has not learned from their past mistakes, and have even created new ones that shouldn’t have been issues at all.
The best we can hope for right now is to wait for Season 1, or the succeeding seasons to see if DICE has fixed enough issues, added in enough standard quality of life improvements, and of course, content, to warrant a purchase or to give the game enough game time. Until then, this is one war you might want to think twice before signing up for.
- Battlefield Portal has a lot of potential
- Classes being able to use all guns is a step in the right direction
- 64 player variation shows promise
- Lack of content (guns, maps, etc.) will mean players will experience everything the game has to offer really quick
- Bugs, bugs, and more bugs
- Missing standard features like all chat, a scoreboard, settings and more
- The lore and specialists contradicting one another in tone.
- New maps in general aren’t that well designed.
- Destruction is lacking, especially in weather events.
Battlefield 2042 review code was provided by the publisher. Game played and reviewed based on latest patch (Dec. 9 Title Update). You can read SP1st and MP1st’s review and scoring policy right here.