The Battlefield franchise is back with some new twists in 2042 and while certain parts fail to hit the mark and a number of core gameplay adjustments diminish what once made the series great, other unique additions push EA’s classic FPS into bold new territory with spectacular results.
What began as a vibrant trip through a fictionalized South Korean cityscape soon turned bleak as sinister clouds flooded overhead and 128 awestruck players all turned their attention to the sky in unison. A monstrous whirlwind started to form as countless particle effects flooded the screen, buildings were left ravaged, vehicles raised from the ground, and before long, entire squads swept away.
From a vantage point atop one of the many skyscrapers littered throughout the Kaleidoscope map, I did what any reasonable person would: jumped right off and soared towards danger with my wingsuit. Angling my flight just right had my Specialist spewed back out of a growing tornado with enough momentum to reach an opposing objective, though not before carefully sniping two unsuspecting foes on my descent.
All of the above happened during just one rapid sequence in my first few hours spent with Battlefield 2042. That electrifying moment of unbelievable gameplay amidst larger-than-life action scenes perfectly encapsulates the revamped multiplayer experience on offer this time around. It’s just not something you’d see in any franchise other than Battlefield.
If you’ve never been a fan of the series before, 2042’s core multiplayer will do little to hold your attention outside of these jaw-dropping, dynamic setpieces. But with Hazard Zone and Portal come two fresh attempts to capture a new audience. While the former is a hardcore twist on the formula that has limited appeal, Portal’s expansive toolset could be more than enough to warrant a purchase now, or anytime in the next few years.
Battlefield 2042– Key details
- Price (Standard Edition): $59.99 (USD) | £49.99 (GBP)
- Developer: EA DICE
- Release date: November 19, 2021
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, & PC
Battlefield 2042 trailer
All-Out Warfare is all-out fun
The Battlefield franchise is best known for its enormous maps that make way for some of the biggest online engagements in the medium. No different from just about every entry before it, 2042 excels in that regard.
Seven new maps are free for you to explore this time around, varying from sand-swept cities under siege to snowy locales that mark some of the largest areas in a Battlefield game to date. All of them are equally stunning and come with their own sights to see, intricate layouts to master, and dynamic events that flip the script at a moment’s notice.
Scope has never been in question when it comes to EA’s popular FPS series and with many of these designs in 2042, the devs have doubled down on what sets Battlefield apart from everything else in the genre. Witnessing over a hundred players fighting tooth and nail either on foot or in a vehicle is always remarkable.
Getting into the nitty-gritty of 2042’s gameplay, however, Specialists have been a big focal point for this release. After an immense wave of backlash from their first impression in the Beta, it’s safe to say these new Operator-esque figures won’t be pleasing the hardcore community anytime soon.
Gone are the days where only certain classes could utilize certain equipment in Battlefield. Instead, 2042’s Specialists are able to drop into any given map with their own custom loadout and it’s purely their unique abilities and traits that vary across the 10 available at launch.
Some are more inspired than others but generally speaking, Specialists do little to stand out amidst the chaos. There’s very little team play happening among squads as a result of 2042’s more fast-paced combat. Rarely will you see different characters come together and help one another with their unique kits. Rather, everyone is typically off going in their own directions and fighting their own battles.
It’s not to say that Specialists outright ruin the new experience, far from it. It’s more just that this unnecessary swap tears down something that was already great and replaces it with something that’s just alright.
2042 is still an absolute blast to play across both Conquest and Breakthrough, and it’s a good thing then, there’s plenty to unlock along the way. A meaty progression system – one that’s thankfully unified across all three pillars for the game – will have you unlocking weapons, gadgets, Specialists, and the usual cosmetics.
Overall account progression is a lengthy grind but honing in on specific challenges and upgrading your gear in a logical way within that system is all genuinely fun. Using a specific gun in a specific way to unlock a desired attachment is a neat method that more FPS titles should employ.
Hazard Zone ramps up the difficulty with mixed results
Hazard Zone is something entirely new with 2042’s release. Standing apart from the traditional Battlefield experience, this component ditches the large-scale warfare in favor of more punishing, tight-knit engagements.
The premise is simple enough. Eight squads of four load into any given map in search of valuable Data Drives. These objectives aren’t marked at first, meaning your team has to manually plot a course, set out a strategy on the fly, and hope to retrieve the objectives with all players still alive and healthy.
If you manage to do just that, there’s an opportunity to extract from the map at two preset intervals. There’s very little room on these extraction vehicles so all remaining players are fighting until the very last moments in order to make it out safely with their Data Drives.
It’s a much slower pace to the usual high octane style of any given Battlefield mode, more reminiscent of Escape from Tarkov’s methodical structure. Without automatic respawns, every action has far greater ramifications for you and your allies. Every Specialist matters that much more and so too does your choice of equipment before even loading in.
For some, this may all sound absolutely thrilling. But for my money, Hazard Zone just didn’t click. It’s not what I look to the Battlefield series for and the pacing just left me twiddling my thumbs more often than not.
Spending a few minutes building the optimal team and selecting a well-balanced arsenal, cautiously plodding to nearby Data Drives for the next 15 minutes, all just to get shot in the back in a matter of seconds and have the effort go to waste, isn’t something I particularly enjoy in multiplayer games. It’s the same reason most battle royales just don’t do it for me.
Higher stakes certainly add another layer of intensity to the typical Battlefield formula, gunfights all feel that little bit more exciting. But if you’re not winning round after round, Hazard Zone can be a lackluster affair more often than not due to its slower pacing.
Rather than an ordinary progression system, Hazard Zone comes with its own unique form of currency which you earn by extracting Data Drives, not one that can be purchased with real money.
So if you’re doing well, you can use this currency to buy boosts for your next round. Whether it’s a stronger weapon, more armor, or even redeploys for your fallen teammates. The more consecutive rounds you do well in, the more this system opens up to you. The rich get richer while those that can’t quite find their footing are left with scraps.
At launch, this likely won’t be a huge issue. But a few weeks down the line, Hazard Zone could be an absolute nightmare for newcomers trying to get in on the fun. Experienced players that have stacked up mountains of this unique currency will be running rampant with their top-tier loadouts in every round, leaving little to no room for fresh players to make any headway.
I’m sure the new component will find a small, dedicated player base that enjoys this flavor of FPS action over all else. But with its limited appeal, Hazard Zone is tough to recommend and doesn’t entirely come across as a third core pillar in a premium release.
Portal emerges as Battlefield’s new top draw
By and large, the biggest selling point of 2042 is Battlefield Portal. The potential for this new community toolset could be enough to see it thriving for years to come.
With Portal, EA provides Battlefield fans an extensive list of options to craft their own unique modes through a new web-based app. On the surface level, simpler settings and easily digestible sliders can have anyone building their ideal playlists in just a few clicks. Whether you want to test how 2042’s Specialists hold up in a clash against Bad Company 2’s classes, or you want to set out a dogfight with planes and jets from all theaters of war, Portal effortlessly supports these ideas and then some.
Diving deeper into the creative tools reveals a much greater power just waiting to be exploited. With a full scripting system in place, it genuinely seems as if the possibilities are near limitless.
Restricting certain weapons, changing projectile speeds, forcing players to jump in order to reload, whatever wacky ideas you can think up, Portal provides a slick coding system to make it all happen. Hundreds of unique inputs and variables will be at the fingertips of the community’s most savvy creators and it’s only a matter of time before we see just how crazy things can get.
But perhaps the best part of Portal, is that this unrivaled freedom to create is backed up by one of the most extensive libraries of content in the FPS genre. At launch, Portal mixes unique assets from Battlefield 1942, Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, and of course, 2042’s new additions as well.
All this classic content has been meticulously recreated to meet modern graphical and performance standards. Many of the best maps from previous entries look absolutely stunning once again, classic weapons, classes, and vehicles are all a treat to revisit, and you can even experience these old gems in all their glory with original control schemes and balancing if you so choose.
That’s dozens of features across four massive titles for you to run wild with on day one. Though it’s barely scratching the surface of how Portal could be leveraged in the months and even years to come.
Dating back to 2002, the Battlefield series has 11 full-fledged titles to siphon from. As seasonal updates come and go with 2042, Portal has the opportunity to keep fans engaged for the long run. Over time, it could become the ultimate platform for the entire franchise, letting players dive into just about any experience new or old.
As a result, it’s tough to overstate the potential here with Portal. Not only is it likely that we’ll see hardcore Battlefield players buy into 2042 just to relive some classic memories through this creative toolset, but entirely new experiences can be whipped up in mere minutes to keep your party engaged for hours at a time.
Portal already comes across as the biggest win for the Battlefield franchise in recent years and it wouldn’t be surprising if we see it branch out into its own platform that sticks around over the next decade.
Performance issues still need to be ironed out
Before we wrap things up, it’s worth mentioning that 2042 at launch is an extremely rough experience. If you happened to play the Beta, you’re well aware of how poorly optimized that build was. While improvements have certainly been made in time for the full release, the game is still in poor shape at the time of writing.
Even with various players running the early access build on low settings with their 3080 GPUs, a solid frame rate was fairly hard to come by. Glitches are paramount, server issues are still frustrating, and hitreg is inexcusably bad for a premium release of this magnitude.
Despite no early access to console versions of the game, testing over launch weekend revealed how 2042 surprisingly holds up better on PlayStation 5 than it does on PC. Overall, it’s a confusingly poor state of affairs given DICE’s track record.
While the latest Battlefield clearly has its fair share of issues at launch, questionable changes betray the core community, and some new additions fail to meet the mark, the game still manages to be extraordinarily fun in spite of all that. When 2042 works as intended, it provides some of the most enjoyable times I’ve had with a Battlefield game since Bad Company 2.
As seasonal updates come through, things are sure to be improved in all regards. From balancing to performance, it can only go up from here. Therefore, jumping into 2042 a few months after launch could be the best way to avoid early issues and enjoy a more well-rounded experience.
For the launch of a premium release, however, there are too many glaring mistakes and painful setbacks to make it a necessary purchase on day one.
If you’re a longtime Battlefield fan or just seeking a new FPS to get lost in, there’s a great deal of fun to be had here. But in its current state, 2042 falls just short of being one of the best multiplayer titles in recent years.
Reviewed on PC & PlayStation 5.