Battlefield 2042 Beta first impressions: EA should strongly consider another delay - Dexerto
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Battlefield 2042 Beta first impressions: EA should strongly consider another delay

Published: 6/Oct/2021 8:00 Updated: 6/Oct/2021 9:35

by Brad Norton

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Before the Battlefield 2042 Beta went live on October 6, Dexerto was invited to an early gameplay session. Although we dropped in for the first time beaming with excitement to finally sink our teeth into the revamped BF experience, we left feeling flat and concerned that another delay might be necessary.

Four months on from the reveal of Battlefield 2042 and the Beta is finally upon us. After a surprise delay that staggered both the full release and this early playtest, those with preorders are now able to jump in, with public access following in just 48 hours.

A few days out from this initial hands-on access, we got an early glimpse at the Beta build, spending just under three hours in Conquest on the Orbital map. With 128 players dropping into the match (a mix of actual humans alongside DICE’s new AI bots), it was a sight to behold.

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The bombastic spectacle quickly wore out, however, as bugs began to pile up, major issues bogged down the experience, and concern began to seep in.

The Battlefield 2042 Beta is rough around the edges

Right out of the gate, it was hard not to be impressed by the scope of 2042. Trailers don’t really do justice to the absurd degree of action at any given moment when 128 characters are taking turns launching jets and firing rockets at one another.

From a technical standpoint, the lobby sizes alone are an extraordinary feat. But it’s everything around this neat selling point that came into question during our early session.

Performance issues are perhaps the biggest concern in the 2042 Beta. While I was playing on a middle-of-the-road PC rig, others in my squad were running the preview build with their 3080’s installed. All of us noted severe FPS dips and graphical problems throughout the session, even after tweaking the settings multiple times.

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With some of the best hardware money can buy still struggling to keep up, it speaks to the current state of optimization in 2042. Console players may fare differently once the Beta launches across Sony and Microsoft platforms.

Battlefield 2042 gameplay
Electronic Arts
While the game looks stunning when all goes well, the Beta felt poorly optimized on PC.

Visually, the game was a bit of a nightmare. Even with settings cranked up, draw distance feels extremely off in the Beta, making it a challenge to spot targets more than a few meters away. As you might expect, this issue is only compounded when hopping inside a vehicle and traveling through the map much faster than on-foot.

Numerous texture bugs were also prevalent though these were the least dramatic of the glitches and errors we encountered. Undeniably the most frustrating issue came with your equipment in the Beta.

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EA provides a handful of preset classes that can be customized along the way. This means you’re able to level up, unlock new gear, and swap it all out during the brief test period. However, in doing so, you might run into the same brick walls we did.

With each new round, our classes were reset, attachments were stripped back, and we had to rebuild our ideal loadouts. Obviously, this is far from the end of the world and presumably an easy fix, but over time it became a huge annoyance, especially when the issue struck between respawns as well.

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For a AAA title that’s doing away with any form of story-driven modes this year, exclusively providing multiplayer content instead, you’d think custom classes would be one of the first staples to lock in place.

Battlefield 2042 gameplay
Electronic Arts
Classes reset between maps and sometimes between deaths in the early Battlefield 2042 session.

Audio was another big concern coming out of this initial playtest. Every player I spoke with after the session echoed the same sentiment: “Could you hear anything other than vehicles?”

Footstep sounds are essentially non-existent, making it near-impossible to detect enemies nearby. The exact whereabouts of particular audio cues are also tough to distinguish, adding to the difficulty of trying to spot enemy groups.

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While out in the open with dozens of players going about their own destructive goals, that’s one thing. But to still not hear anyone, even when indoors with barely a few others around, is concerning.

Battlefield 2042 Beta gameplay
Electronic Arts
There’s… a lot going on with Battlefield 2042’s HUD.

Outside of the fixable bugs, many game design elements themselves also proved problematic.

Namely, the HUD was a particular sticking point during our session. Not only is it challenging trying to navigate menus, alter your equipment, select your specialist, and even spot grenades near your feet, most significantly, it was near impossible to distinguish allies from enemies.

Tiny blue markers appear over nearby teammates and that’s it. This easily missable indicator had me jumping at teammates nearly every spawn. And I wasn’t alone in that regard. I had teammates shooting at me dozens of times each game as well. Everyone was confused.

Clearly, something needs to be done to alleviate the headaches here, be it unique character models for various factions, or even a slight outline around friendly targets. 

Battlefield 2042 gameplay
Electronic Arts
These tiny blue dots are all that helps you tell friend from foe.

Battlefield 2042 still brings that classic Battlefield fun

That’s not to say the entire session was diminished by these negative aspects. There were still plenty of over-the-top moments and hilarious encounters that you’d only see in a Battlefield game.

Orbital is a fairly large map in terms of both square footage and verticality. One of the taller buildings sits aside a unique dynamic feature, a rocket ship preparing for launch. While you can engage with this rocket, either assisting its takeoff or blowing it up by any means necessary, I spent some time scaling the neighboring building instead.

After a few minutes of rushing up the staircase, hopping in elevators, and grappling my way to the very top, I had one of those ‘aha’ moments. Pulling out the vehicle call-in device, I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way they’d let me spawn a tank up here… right?’

Lo and behold, the game let me spawn a tank at the tallest point of the map.

Battlefield 2042 gameplay
Electronic Arts
Being able to call in a vehicle from anywhere on the map adds another pinch of chaos the explosive Battlefield recipe.

Thanks to the handy new gadget, a Tank quickly landed in front of me so I could rain down fire from above. It was gleeful fun, before a jet swooped in and put a stop to the chaos.

It’s moments like this that make Battlefield what it is. The franchise is beloved for its most ridiculous antics and it’s safe to say there won’t be any shortage of those once 2042 launches in a few weeks.

Should Battlefield 2042 cop another delay?

Speaking of the game’s full release, despite these occasional highlights, the aforementioned bugs and gripes continued to add up over our three-hour preview with the Beta.

As a result, it was impossible not to be concerned about the game’s current state. While it obviously still functions and the public Beta build is supposedly a few months old, the signs are a tad worrying nonetheless both from a technical and gameplay standpoint.

For starters, the Beta only has one map, four specialists, and just a handful of weapons good to go. The fact this full game was originally set to launch on October 22, yet still such a considerable amount of content remains under wraps, doesn’t instill much confidence. The public test will get dry rather quickly with just one location to destroy over and over.

We’re still yet to hear on Hazard Zone and six of the upcoming specialists are shrouded in mystery too. Combined with the unpolished state of the current Beta, it doesn’t exactly bode well with launch fast approaching.

Though with all that said, bugs can obviously be excused in a Beta, and to play devil’s advocate, EA may be stacking its bigger reveals for the launch window as a last hurrah to drive up preorders. For all we know, the current build might be in a stable condition and all these concerns may already be outdated.

But if that is the case, it begs the question of why EA would knowingly launch a particularly messy build right before the full release, risking cancellations and backlash across social media. 

For now, we’ll just have to wait and see how the final weeks unfold in the lead-up to 2042’s November 19 release. Though if the current dev build is close to what the Beta presents, another delay could very well be in EA’s best interests.

We all want the new Battlefield to stick the landing and perhaps another few weeks or even months in the oven could help it do just that.