Battlefield 2042 is finally among us. It has been three years since the last iteration was released — the longest wait between mainline games ever since the franchise made its Xbox debut with Battlefield 2: Modern Combat back in 2005.
To put things into perspective, Call of Duty has released three mainline games since the release of Battlefield V in 2018, not to mention the hugely popular and free-to-play Warzone.
On top of that, Battlefield 2042 is also the first game designed with the new generation of consoles in mind, which naturally raises the expectations of fans of both the franchise and the first-person shooter genre.
Simply put, there is a high bar for Battlefield 2042 to reach. So how does it fare in the end?
Break on through
Battlefield 2042 is a multiplayer-only game — so yes, that means it does not have a single-player campaign, a game mode that has been present on all iterations since Battlefield 3. Instead, DICE decided to put all of its efforts into the game’s online portion, which is split into three sections: All-Out Warfare, Hazard Zone, and Portal.
All-Out Warfare consists of two of the most traditional game modes in the series: Conquest, introduced way back in Battlefield 1942, and Breakthrough, which made its first appearance in Battlefield 1. Both game modes are famous for their large maps, and they are bigger than ever to accommodate up to 128 players for the first time in the franchise.
The problem is that bigger is not always better. Although they share a fair bit of similarities, Battlefield is dramatically different from Call of Duty in the sense that the former requires a more strategic approach. You cannot blindly assault control points expecting to be successful, and when you are playing with 127 other people it is borderline impossible to make sure that everyone keeps that in mind.
The result is a frustrating experience. Most people act as if they are playing team deathmatch, running forward out in the open, which always leads to death by snipers or a vehicle. The gunfight then gets concentrated in a specific part of a giant map, while the rest of it quickly becomes bland and empty.
In summary, the bigger maps turn Battlefield 2042 into a more vehicle-focused game. which is frustrating if you are looking for a nice gunfight — and it gets even more frustrating when there are no vehicles available since, as I said, we are counting on 127 other people knowing how to properly play, forcing you to wander around the map by foot.
Like every competitive game out there, the experience gets better when you are playing with a real squad, but the developers should always keep the casuals in mind if they want to avoid said frustration among a good chunk of the fanbase.
When you get into a nice lobby the experience gets much better, though. There are seven maps available at launch: Hourglass, Discarded, Manifest, Kaleidoscope, Orbital, Breakway, and Renewal. Each one of them brings a different experience to the table, ranging from the Egyptian deserts to a more urban background in South Korea.
The size of the maps also means that each battlefield consists of multiple and varied combat areas, and the extreme weather effects contribute to an even more chaotic warfare thanks to some epic setpieces involving sandstorms and tornadoes. And this is when the game truly shines — 128 players among tanks and helicopters, with snipers up on the roofs while a tornado is approaching. This is a pure Battlefield.
The other high point of the game is Portal…
Portal to the past
Developed by Ripple Effect Studios (formerly known as DICE LA), Battlefield Portal is a community-driven platform within Battlefield 2042. Players can create a custom lobby using maps, weapons, vehicles from different eras of the franchise, including Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3.
Yep, that’s right: Battlefield Portal includes reimagined content from three of the most popular entries in the franchise, including some classic maps: 1942’s Battle of the Bulge and El Alamein, Bad Company 2’s Arica Harbor and Valparaiso, and 3’s Caspian Border and Noshahr Canals.
This is a highly customizable experience that can put players into unique situations, like a World War II-era team against foes with modern weapons, with no HUD or minimap, and with restricted vehicles. There are truly too many custom options to even begin to list them here, and it excites me to think what the community might come up with.
But as with every community-driven feature, Battlefield Portal is a double-edged sword. Since it depends entirely on what the community comes up with, sometimes it may be hard to find a nice lobby. For example, during the first days of early access players started to create XP Farming Servers. And, for obvious reasons, many players started to join those lobbies — only to find out they were the XP, armed with nothing but knives. DICE had to quickly put out a hotfix that impacted the effectiveness of those servers.
Additionally, I was hit with far too many bugs while trying to join lobbies. There was a time in which I tried to join a match and entered a queue that consisted of only me, even though the server was far from being full. I was then stuck in said queue, unable to cancel the matchmaking or to join another server or even another game mode. I had to force quit the game and launch it again, which leads us to…
I might have hinted at it during this review, but I have to outright say it: Battlefield 2042 has the potential to be something special, but at the moment it is simply not it. The developers turned away from a campaign mode to focus solely on the multiplayer — which, according to many, was always the true strength of the franchise.
On top of the extra year of developing, in addition to the aforementioned Ripple Effect Studios, publisher Electronic Arts have also provided DICE the support from EA Gothenburg (formerly known as Ghost Games) and Criterion Games, which resulted in the delay of the new and yet-untitled Need for Speed game.
Originally slated for an October release, Battlefield 2042 was ultimately delayed to November — but its full release leaves us with the feeling that it should have been further delayed, at least to the once-rumored March 2022 date. The many bugs and server issues spoil the whole experience. Far too many times I had to restart the game and wait for the online servers to connect, and some odd UI decisions left me wondering what were they thinking. The game’s Season 1 does not even start until next year, which means there are currently no Battle Passes available.
As exposed before, the expectations were high for Battlefield 2042’s release — longer developing cycle, first game designed for the new generation, a new Call of Duty coming out just a few days before… –, and while it certainly has the potential to turn things around, the result was yet another catastrophic Battlefield launch.
The three years between Battlefield V and Battlefield 2042 have been the longest window without a new mainline game since the franchise’s Xbox debut back in 2005 — and yet, we are left with the feeling that the game needed more time in the oven. It is truly an ambitious game with some insanely epic setpieces, but the frustrating moments have far overshadowed the fun times I had with it.
The lack of a campaign also hurts. Although not a big deal for a decent part of the fanbase, I did love to play through the campaign to get a nice feeling of the game before jumping into the online portion — plus, I cannot help but feel the game has lost a bit of value while also costing $10 more than the last iteration.
Battlefield 2042 has the potential of becoming one the best first-person shooters available on Xbox in six months’ time — but the fact is that, as of today, it is not even among the best shooters being released this Holiday season.