After a disappointing list of releases, DICE returns to deliver a Battlefield title that is billed as the successor to the hugely popular Battlefield 4. Unfortunately, as Battlefield 2042 seeks to evolve much of the series’ framework, it gives way under the weight. of his noble ambitions. The result is a game that has the potential to be decent across the board, but remains disappointing in its current state.
Battlefield games have always been focused on the all-out war experience that the rival Call of Duty series lacks. Massive open maps with dozens and dozens of soldiers using varying loadouts to complete objective-based modes. It’s all here and more in Battlefield 2042 with its base mode even borrowing the moniker of “All-Out Warfare”. This mode sees classic modes like Conquest and Breakthrough revisit a set of 7 original maps. They are all designed to accommodate two teams of 64 players, a new record for the series.
Not so special
Where previous titles used classes to balance its play systems, Battlefield 2042 now uses specialists. This is a set of 10 unique characters that all have unique gadgets and abilities. Some are based on movement, like Mackay who can use a grappling hook to reach new heights. Others are more team-oriented, like Falck who can heal his teammates from a distance and revive them with larger health pools. The new system has clearly been designed around the new live service which will provide new specialists throughout the seasons.
However, Specialists are a much less satisfying system than the classes that came before them. On the one hand, some of them are much less useful than others. For example, Rao is a specialist who can hack into enemy systems to get information about their positions. However, this forces him to sneak close to an enemy to perform a hack, something you will find to be rather tricky. Its capabilities are therefore surpassed by Casper’s remote-controlled drone which can perform similar functions while letting its pilot stay safe in cover. In addition, not all specialists allow collaboration between squads. Sundance’s glide ability is great for a quick crossing, but offers little in terms of team play. They are antithetical to the DNA of Battlefield.
Specialists are also bringing other new issues to the table. Since they are not team specific, this means enemy teams can appear exactly like yours. It can be quite difficult to determine if the person you’re shooting at is friendly or enemy without looking at the orange dorito dot above their head. Overall, the Specialist system is reductive and sets the game format back several steps.
More than he can chew
Another area where Battlefield 2042 is taking a step back is its map design. Battlefield has always been about full-scale warfare, but it turns out there is something like ‘too big’. Of course, this drastic increase in size is due to the 128 players who now cycle through each match. While this is an impressive spectacle, the result is actually detrimental to the gaming experience.
Due to expanding card sizes to accommodate more players, games never feel more chaotic than with 64 occupant players. So what did we win? Well, expect to run a lot between goals. It is rare for transport vehicles to generate objective points nearby, so the huge distances between objectives seem painfully long without any action. In addition, the massive spaces seem rather bare. Even the interiors of the buildings seem basic and uninhabited. For an extremely pretty game from afar, the details up close are surprisingly ugly. The destruction has also seen a setback, with hardly any walls and buildings collapsing as expected.
Burn baby burn (GPU inferno)
The biggest detriment to Battlefield 2042’s ambition is its performance. No matter what kind of PC you have, Battlefield 2042 performs excruciatingly in its current state. With an i9 processor and an RTX 3080 graphics card (full PC specs are listed at the end of this review), I was barely able to get a consistent 60 fps at 1440p. When the epic weather events happen, things only get worse – and as one suspects, tornadoes are just a sight that only exasperates the gaming experience.
I suspect the poor performance is directly due to the game trying to keep up with 128 players on the server. Lowering the graphics settings from Ultra to Low only sees marginal gains of around 10 fps for an image that looks considerably worse. The Battlefield community has a few fixes that involve modifying game files, but it’s unacceptable that players are required to investigate on their own.
The slow frame rate has a significant impact on the shooter as the guns are heavy and difficult to fire. Battlefield 2042 has an exceptionally long lifespan, which means enemies often feel like bullet sponges absorbing unnecessary damage. There are also a disappointing number of weapons in the base game – barely 22, including handguns. Shooting is the number one activity you go through doing in games like these, so while that isn’t satisfying, it’s hard to remember why you play every game in the first place.
What’s frustrating is that Battlefield Portal, the 2042 side game mode, is a shining example of everything that’s wrong with All-Out Warfare. Portal is DICE’s answer to the custom servers that were the backbone of the community in the days of Battlefield 3 and 4. It allows players to create and host their own custom game modes, and the tools are amazingly extensive. With a collection of remastered classic maps and weapons, I think most players will return to this mode eventually.
As it stands, there are a few curated experiences that put players into classic game modes from Battlefield history. There’s one that simulates classic Conquest in 1942, another with Rush from Bad Company 2, and finally one that recreates Conquest from Battlefield 3. All of these experiments modernize those classic games while retaining some of that inherited nuance. For example, the ability to fold was removed in Bad Company 2 mode, just like you couldn’t come back in the day.
All classes have been kept, although everything has been unlocked from the start. While this is probably mandatory for the sandbox nature of the mode, it is disappointing from a progression standpoint. XP earned in Portal doesn’t currently contribute to your overall account level either, so be aware that you’re primarily here for the raw fun aspect rather than a goal to work towards.
Pomegranates aren’t the only undercooked thing
However, outside of DICE’s organized modes, there isn’t much to enjoy in Portal. At least if there are any, it’s almost impossible to find decent matches. The curation experience is downright horrible. Right now, the server browser is currently inundated with XP farm servers that contain ridiculous rule sets against AI bots. If you’re looking for servers with really decent settings, you need to dig into the server’s browser filters, and even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll earn gold. Portal sorely lacks some kind of community positive voting system that removes this spam and highlights the best.
The worst thing about Battlefield Portal is that it exposes a lot of issues with the Total War mode of 2042. Base maps can be used to create custom content and, oddly enough, they perform miles better when not. not 128 players running. Additionally, the remastered classic maps emphasize that the Battlefield formula still works as well, if not better, with 64 players on tighter maps. It’s frustrating to have a tangible demonstration of how good Battlefield is while being offered something that so drastically misses the mark.
Who is here?
I wish I could end there with the issues that Battlefield 2042 presents, but the list unfortunately goes on. Audio is generally one area where DICE excels, presenting a soundscape that is indistinguishable from something in a war documentary. The quality of the sound effects isn’t necessarily an issue here – whistling bullets, explosions, and buzzing vehicles are all recorded in exquisite detail. However, positional audio is currently broken beyond belief. It seems like you can hear just about anything within a 50m radius, and it’s almost impossible to tell where it’s coming from. It is also with the audio setting changed for 3D audio headphones. Footsteps in a container 30m east of you may seem like they’re basically in your pocket. It is an incredibly confusing experience.
What’s also confusing is the UI design. The neon teal color scheme makes it hard to tell if the options are on or off. If they are difficult for an able-bodied person to understand, then the game is a terribly poor sight for accessibility. Colorblind options and linkable controls are present, but the decision to make menus stylistic rather than functional is a huge misstep.
Beyond design flaws, Battlefield 2042 also lacks many features. In a game designed around community and teamwork, there is no VoIP integration. This forces players to gear up with friends in Discord or rely on text chat while playing random. A ping system is present, but it’s nowhere near as extensive as something like Apex Legends.
Additionally, there is currently no working dashboard in the game – you can only see your team’s contribution. All of this seems to contribute to DICE’s efforts to cultivate an inclusive community, but it is a lukewarm way to achieve its ends. This goal can be achieved through good moderation of the game, and not by removing basic functionality altogether.
Hazard what now?
The lack of voice chat is particularly noticeable in Hazard Zone, the third mast of the Battlefield 2042 experience. This mode sees several squads infiltrate one of the new multiplayer maps in search of data readers located in fallen satellites. Squads work against each other to collect as many data discs as possible before extracting them. Successful extractions will earn you credits which will then allow you to replay with better equipment.
Clearly this mode is what the Specialists were intended for, with each team only allowing one of each character. While this is an interesting twist on a Battle Royale formula, it’s not one that I can see sticking around for long. The rewards players earn are just not worth the high risk stakes you enter when playing Hazard Zone, and the feeling of losing progress is overwhelming when you don’t bring home anything.
Is Battlefield 2042 Worth Your Time?
After spending time with each of Battlefield 2042’s three modes, none of them are worth buying the game in its current state. All-Out Warfare loses focus on what makes Battlefield games fun and feels sluggish to play. Hazard Zone looks like an afterthought that is simply included as a box-checking exercise. Portal is the most promising, but mostly serves as a bittersweet reminder of the quality of the series.
There is a silver lining that Battlefield 2042 could be slightly redeemed by its live service. But as it stands, DICE’s latest offering is a huge disappointment after being billed as one of the most anticipated games of the year. You’d better turn to some of the other shooters this year, or even go back to Battlefield 3 and 4. These are way more “Battlefield” than 2042 ever will be.
The code has been sent to GameByte by EA PR for review.
Tested on a PC including:
Intel i9 10900K processor
Corsair Vengeance 16 GB 3600 MHz RAM
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card
[Featured Image Credit: Activision]
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