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Battlefield 2042 Review
DICE's futuristic FPS looks to the past to find success.
As all long-running FPS franchises have, Battlefield has covered basically every time period possible. From humble WWII beginnings to futuristic frontlines to the jungles of Vietnam, Battlefield has seen it all. Battlefield 2042 returns the series to a futuristic setting, and while it’s not as far off as Battlefield 2142, it’s still far enough to allow for plenty of unique gear to bolster players’ loadouts. While 2042 looks forward with its tech and equipment, it looks back to its roots to create one of the most compelling Battlefield experiences to date. It’s not without its faults though, and a shortage of content at launch hurts the experience overall. Still, 2042 feels like a game specifically made for Battlefield fans, and DICE’s love for the series shines throughout each of its three core pillars.
Multiplayer is the centerpiece of any Battlefield game, and this is especially true this time around since 2042 is lacking a single-player campaign entirely. Thankfully, 2042’s multiplayer offering is stellar and the single-player campaign will not be missed. Battlefield 1 and Battlefield 5 felt like they were taking the series in a different direction, but Battlefield 2042 feels like a return to form for the franchise, hearkening back to the fan-favorite Battlefield 3 and 4. That classic Battlefield chaos is back.
Planes flying overhead, vehicles exploding in the distance, squads storming buildings, it feels like an active warzone when things get heated and the fighting centralizes on one point. The maximum player count has been doubled from 64 to 128 as well (on next-gen consoles and PC), which further contributes to the action. Maps are bigger than ever and now feature dynamic weather, including a massive tornado that can appear on most of the maps and sweep up players and vehicles alike. There’s always something going on, which helps keep matches exciting.
Battlefield 2042 forgoes classes in favor of Specialists, unique characters with special abilities. Anyone can equip healing items, ammo boxes, or any support items in the game regardless of who you choose to play as. At first, this seemed like a strange decision, but it opens up a new layer of strategy when it comes to squad composition. You and your allies can play more fluid roles instead of being locked into one of four archetypes, and nobody is forced to play a class they don’t enjoy just because the team needs one.
The Specialists themselves are also surprisingly useful. Each of their unique abilities brings something interesting to the table. Irish can place down deployable shields, protecting players from enemy fire while traversing wide-open areas. Maria can heal allies from afar with a ranged healing syringe. Dozer has a riot shield that can help your team breach buildings and push forward toward objectives. Some Specialists are better than others, but the seemingly useless characters can turn out to be essential squadmates in other modes like Hazard Zone (more on that later).
Conquest and Breakthrough are the two main modes in multiplayer, and you can play each of them across 7 maps. Conquest is the classic Battlefield mode, but there are some major changes this time around. Since 2042’s maps are so large, traditional flags are replaced by Sectors, which are comprised of multiple flags. To control a sector, you must control all of the flags in the area. This creates multiple hotspots in each map, essentially making them feel like a bunch of smaller multiplayer maps smashed together. DICE calls this design philosophy “clustering,” and that’s an apt description.
There are only 7 maps in multiplayer though, so things can start to feel repetitive once you’ve spent a few hours familiarizing yourself with them. There’s only so much that size can do to alleviate repetition. The overall weapon pool is quite small too. You’ll be killed over and over by the same assault rifle, the same SMG, and the same sniper rifle. There aren’t that many attachments, either, so there’s little in the way of weapon customization.
The game makes up for its small weapon and attachment pool with a new feature called the Plus System, which allows players to dynamically adjust weapon attachments on the fly. You can swap to a long-range scope and high-powered ammo to take down an enemy from afar and then change to a red dot sight and an extended magazine as you charge into a building. At first, the Plus System seems like a novelty, but its strengths become more apparent as you spend more time with the game and really start to engage with it.
Very rarely can you just stick with one preset loadout. The maps are large and dynamic enough that you’ll get caught by surprise quite often, so swapping attachments is a must. Plus, each attachment has drawbacks, so you’ll have to swap back and forth depending on the situation. A muzzle brake will reduce horizontal recoil but increase vertical recoil, for example, making long-range shots harder to hit. You could swap to a compensator, but that has the opposite effect on recoil. Every attachment swap is a cost-benefit analysis, and it goes a long way in keeping you engaged as you move from firefight to firefight.
Battlefield 2042’s multiplayer offering feels great to play. The weapons are satisfying to shoot, the maps are beautiful, and there’s nonstop action until the score limit is reached. The small map pool is a bit disappointing though, especially since some of them aren’t as great as the rest, and it’s a shame that the overall arsenal is so limited given the game’s futuristic setting. Still, Battlefield 2042 makes up for this in its other two modes, which offer a substantial amount of content on top of the traditional multiplayer modes.
Hazard Zone is one of the flagship features for Battlefield 2042. It’s a high-stakes mode where squads of four drop into a multiplayer map tasked with securing data drives from fallen satellites. After collecting the drives, players must extract from the area at one of two preset extraction points. These come at set times during the match, and each extraction point can only be used by one squad. On top of all that, you only have one life.
Data drives and successful extractions reward you with a special currency called Dark Market Credits, which can be spent on weapons and equipment in the following match. If you don’t have any Credits, you’ll have to go in with a basic free weapon without any attachments and you won’t be able to buy upgrades or gear. Spending Credits will get you better gear, increasing your chances of making it out alive, but there’s also the possibility that you’ll splurge on expensive equipment only to die before extracting.
The map is also populated by AI enemies called Occupying Forces. Despite being bots, they actually put up quite a fight. They’re a real threat. They patrol in large groups and can actually use vehicles and equipment against you. Fighting with them also gives away your position, painting a giant target on your squad. However, they can feel a bit unfair every now and then since their aim can be a little too good at times. Still, fighting the Occupying Forces is never frustrating. The bots seem like a throwaway feature on paper, but they do a lot to make Hazard Zone feel livelier.
It’s very clearly inspired by games like Escape From Tarkov, but Hazard Zone is a much faster-paced and more casual take on the genre. There’s really not a lot of risk though, and that’s the mode’s biggest weakness. You’re totally fine with the basic free loadout, and purchasable weapons and equipment are not expensive in the slightest. After just a few rounds of Hazard Zone, you’ll basically never have to worry about Dark Market Credits ever again. The economy is crucial in a mode like this, and unless DICE increases prices and makes people really think twice about buying those armor plates or that sniper rifle, Hazard Zone doesn’t have any stakes.
It’s a shame because the mode is incredibly exciting to play. Coordinating with your squad, picking the right Specialists, and battling it out with other squads at the extraction point is exhilarating, but the thrill quickly wears off once you realize that there’s no significant penalty to losing. That can be seen as a plus to some, but there are plenty of other objective-based modes without stakes in Battlefield 2042 that you can play that are more enjoyable. The stakes are what make Hazard Zone unique. The stakes also diminish very quickly.
Battlefield Portal is 2042’s third pillar, and it’s a mixed bag. Portal unlocks the toolbox and places it in the hands of the community. People can create custom game modes using all of the assets from not just Battlefield 2042, but also Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3. This can result in outlandish situations like a team of WWII soldiers facing off against a team equipped with 2042’s futuristic weaponry or a match of knives versus defibrillators.
On paper, this is an exciting prospect. In practice, these modes feel like glorified custom games. Portal’s toolset doesn’t seem to be all that extensive at the moment. It’s hard to judge a mode like this at launch, but there have been other modes that afford players much more control. Fortnite Creative and Halo’s Forge mode come to mind. Portal is an evolving game mode, however, so more content and tools will be added as time goes on. Hopefully, a map editor or something comes sometime down the line.
While the custom game modes aren’t all that exciting, Portal does have something else to offer. Not only can players use assets from other Battlefield games, but they can also play those other games exactly as they were within 2042. There are six classic maps rebuilt from the ground up. Two come from Battlefield 1942, two come from Bad Company 2, and two come from Battlefield 3. Weapons, movement, and destruction are all exactly as they were in the original games. It’s the closest thing we’re going to get to Bad Company 2 Remastered for a while.
For example, you can run Rush on Valparaiso from Bad Company 2 with all the original settings. Prone is disabled, you can’t strafe, and destruction is cranked up to the max. You’re restricted to the original four classes, complete with their original looks, and weapon handling feels just like it did back in 2010. The same goes for the Battlefield 3 and 1942 maps. It feels like a portal to the past, which is probably where the name comes from.
Unfortunately, these maps are not in the standard multiplayer rotation, so you can only play them in Portal. Progression will thankfully still carry over, but there’s a hard divide between classic maps and the 2042 maps. Since Portal will grow as time goes on, it’d be great to see more maps from these three games added in the coming months. Maybe we could even get content from Battlefield 1, 4, or 5.
Portal has massive potential to become a Master Chief Collection style hub for the Battlefield series, but DICE is going to have to regularly add new maps to reach a similar status. With only two maps from each game, it currently feels more like a novelty than a fully-fledged feature. If enough maps are added, though, Portal could eventually become a replacement for remasters. It’s that faithful to the originals.
All in all, Battlefield 2042 feels a little spread too thin. It’s clear that a ton of time went into multiplayer, Hazard Zone, and Portal, but that time may have been better spent really honing one or two of those pillars instead of all three. Of course, Battlefield 2042 is a live service and its content can only grow in the months to come, but as it stands right now, Hazard Zone and Portal feel a tad underwhelming. Still, Battlefield 2042 feels like a game made specifically for Battlefield fans. Multiplayer is fast-paced and chaotic, and while new modes like Hazard Zone and Portal are a mixed bag, they provide an excellent foundation for the game to build on going forward.
- Score: 4 / 5
- Available On: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
- Published By: Electronic Arts
- Developed By: DICE
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- US Release Date:
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "Battlefield 2042 feels like a game made specifically for Battlefield fans. Multiplayer is fast-paced and chaotic, and while new modes like Hazard Zone and Portal are a mixed bag, they provide an excellent foundation for the game to build on going forward."