Battlefield 2042 review: Has the future of warfare arrived?

by Ben Kirby
2 comments

Battlefield 2042 came out in November, and let’s be honest, it wasn’t a smooth start for DICE. A lot of online disappointment followed on from a pretty nice marketing campaign that led us up to the launch which focused on the classic “Battlefield experience”.

This experience is something I have countless hours of fond memories of. Playing all the Battlefield games from the Xbox 360 onwards, I’ve had plenty of exposure to some incredible games (let’s not talk about Battlefield V….). So when I was offered the chance to review the newest game in the series, Battlefield 2042, I jumped at the chance.

Excited, filled with nostalgia, marketing hype and post-release cynicism, I think I went in with just the right level of expectation. Hopeful but cautious optimism, especially after seeing patch notes and plans to fix a lot of the initial release issues.

Battlefield 2042

Getting started

Set in 2042, the world has basically fallen over and the last two remaining superpowers Russia and the US are left fighting for resources across the globe.  More exposition to the world than I’d expected if I’m being honest! Usually, a Battlefield game is set in or around real conflicts, so this was a surprise, being set in the future, and being multiplayer only.  It’s odd, but I was pleased to have a bit of context I suppose.

Short clip over, you get put into a game of Conquest (Battlefield standard game type) with bots and you’re essentially left to it.  It’s a really hollow start, massive open map, crap AI on both sides, and if it’s supposed to help you feel the intensity and scope of Battlefield games, it falls flat on its face.

Suddenly very worried that the game was going to be like this terrible intro/tutorial mission, I decided it was time to just get on with it. It’s time to look at the meat of the game. Multiplayer, Portal and Hazard Zone.

Battlefield 2042 satelite screenshot

Gametypes

Battlefield 2042 is made-up of three gameplay pillars.  I really like this approach, and the idea of having some variety really appeals to me.

All-out Warfare is here, with nice massive new maps and 128 players in any match! Lovely.  Classic Conquest on this scale is exactly what I came for.  Hit and miss (See below), but when it works, it sings.  Other game modes like Rush and Breakthrough are great fun and help you approach maps from different perspectives, and make the combat feel a bit tighter and more squad-based.

Hazard Zone is the biggest disappointment in Battlefield 2042.  A squad-based objective mode.  Starting rounds with credits al-la Counter-Strike, you buy your loadout in conjunction with your squad (assuming some people can get in with their friends….).  Two teams battle it out to collect data drives, kill AI and extract the data drives.

This could be a tense, tight and high-intensity game, but it feels loose and having to play with randoms really lessened the experience.  I see what they’re going for with Hazard Zone, but it’s just not hitting it.  Perhaps with some in-game chat (where is it?!) and some refinement on the loadouts etc, it could come into its own.  Right now, the new mode isn’t the fun in Battlefield 2042.

If we want to talk fun, and 128 players in conquest isn’t your thing (honestly, it’s mint!)……then perhaps Battlefield Portal will be your thing.  If you’re a fan of other Battlefield games, I think you might be quite comfortable here!

Portal is a place for people to create crazy mish-mashes of previous Battlefields. Game modes, maps, weapons, classes.  You can go to town making weird and wonderful game types.  Better still (the crazy stuff isn’t that exciting to me), you can play some pre-built modes on classic maps like you used to.   Battlefield Bad Company 2 maps and matches? Yes please! How about some 1942 classic action? Sign me up!

There’s a lot to unpack with Portal, and I feel like that will grow into something really special as Battlefield 2042 spreads its wings.

All-out Warfare and Portal are when the fun is at.  Hazard Zone is a fair effort, but largely quite dull and needs some work.

Regardless, you have a lot on offer here, and plenty to choose from when you just fancy some Battlefield action.  Does it justify the full-game cost? I’d argue not, especially with the misfire that is Hazard Zone, in lieu of a campaign or something more substantial.

Battlefield 2042 map screenshot

Online play

I put a good ten hours in solo before I got anyone else to play with me, and never once experienced a drop-out.  Then, low and behold, the moment I’m with a friend, we can’t join any games.

Showing a multitude of error codes, we couldn’t see any good reason to not get into any Battlefield 2042 games.  Dropping into “Portal” we had more success.  I’m not sure if that was due to the 128 player count struggling to matchmake groups, or if it was something else, but it showed Battlefield 2042 in a pretty negative light.

I’ve played plenty of the Battlefield 2042 maps and game modes since, too.  No issues.  Relatively quick matchmaking times, stable games, no issues.  So why can’t I play with friends? Especially this long after release.

To its credit, Portal is the Battlefield we know and love and enjoyed playing that together. Especially on some classic maps with those classic classes etc.  But we should have to rely on one pillar of Battlefield 2042 to get some gameplay out of it.

I can’t overstate how disappointing this is.  Battlefield 2042 is a tough sell to my friends, fans of the series or not.  A full price, multiplayer-only game? Rocky launch aside, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Compounding that with not being able to play the massive maps and new classes are beyond disappointing.  I can’t see anyone else wanting to jump online with me after that, even using the EA Play 10 hour free trial.

When I have played solo, I’ve had a great time and it’s been relatively stable.  Menus seem to cause more frame-drop than having 128 all going at it in a match.  But it’s bearable, assuming it’s going to get patched and improved.  My moment-to-moment gameplay wasn’t impacted.

One thing I’m hesitant to mention because I’m always more likely to blame myself……is the poor hit registration.  I’ve had the drop on many an enemy and piled shots into them, only for them to turn around and flatten me.  Battlefield 2042 seems to have some really inconsistent shot hit registration.  It’s infuriating and can really take away from the fun.

Inconsistency is the biggest issue here.  I’ve had some matches that are an absolute blast.  Playing smoothly, shots registering and the give/take of a match of conquest really gave it a tug of war flow.  Absolutely wonderful.  Taking that down with poor hit registration or having to open a menu and getting bogged down in low frames, is really frustrating.

It’s all there, but Battlefield 2042 isn’t delivering consistently.

Battlefield 2042 gameplay in sandy dessert

Looks and sounds

Nobody can take this away from Battlefield 2042. It looks and sounds excellent.  It’s a massive credit to the sound designers that I’m able to identify where a shot is coming from, even over the thrum of tanks and hovercrafts when 128 people are battling it out!

Weapons sound great, environmental sounds like footsteps and explosions are excellent, and everything just works really well.  I’ve had no audio glitches or weirdness at all and Battlefield 2042 owes a lot to the sound team here.

Of course, massive 128-people maps could be huge empty spaces, just a mass of land to fill with chaos, but that wasn’t enough for DICE.  All of the new maps look fantastic.  Sure, some people may have issues with layouts etc, but the environments themselves look fantastic.  Snow, sand, hurricanes, storms.  Battlefield 2042 looks fantastic, and when it’s firing on all cylinders, it’s honestly a sight to behold.

Draw distances and a sense of scale are at play here, and when you look across a map through a scope, you truly feel like you going to have to book it to get to your next objective.  Grab a vehicle, or hope to jump out of someone’s chopper, because you could have a long way to go.

Sure, the environments are sometimes sparse in small areas as you travel through to the next objective, but a glacial shelf or desert, are empty spaces.  It’s contextual and it works.

Combined with the sounds going on all around you, you’re living through an experience and that’s not hyperbole, that’s just fact.

Battlefield 2042 looks and sounds incredible, and it deserves praise for that at the very least. 

Battlefield 2042 gameplay tornado

Modern classic or nostalgic disaster?

Halo Infinite multiplayer has come out, free-to-play, and battle pass/progression aside.  It’s the modern take on classic Halo that we all wanted.  Not perfect, but excellent.  It captures the essence of Halo and brings it into the modern-day.

Battlefield 2042 is an odd one, it isn’t hitting that same sweet spot, but it is scratching my Battlefield itch. I’m not getting that hit of modern nostalgia.  I thought that was what I wanted.  After years of Battlefield games, countless hours online, I know what Battlefield is to me.

Fast-paced, large maps, big teams, good fun.  That’s the core of Battlefield, and it’s what I’m getting here, in spades.  Sure, I didn’t start playing on day one, and I’m aware of some decent patches imposed just before I got into it, but I can’t speak to that.  As it stands now, Battlefield 2042 is a solid game.

Assuming that DICE invest significant post-release support over the next few months and even years, I genuinely believe that we have another great Battlefield game on our hands.  Rough around the edges, particularly with performance, weirdly in menus more than during a game.

Battlefield 2042 looks excellent, even on my mid-tier PC rig. It sounds great, and I’ve been in awe of everything going on around me.

Levelling works fine, map choices are good, and game types are fine.  I love a bit of Conquest, and that’s always bringing me back for more.  The Portal stuff is a great addition and a fantastic way to harken back to some of the “good old days”, but  Hazard Zone feels redundant and will hopefully see some reworking.

I would say Battlefield 2042 is a great modern Battlefield game. Pick it up in a month when further issues have been ironed-out and perhaps once the price has dropped a touch.  

Without a single-player component, it’s always a hard sell to give full pricing for multiplayer-only games.  You’ll get hours and hours out of Battlefield 2042, but there’s no story-driven, solo experience to be had. 

Battlefield 2042 skydive

A special mention

It’s easy to get carried away with what’s bad, and what isn’t working. And that is really important, because we can’t all just gush over the shiny stuff.

What does get lost a lot though, is the work put into accessibility options. More and more prevalent in gaming these days, DICE weren’t slouching here. The options for colour-blindness (important to me!) particularly stood out. Along with text size, graphical tweaks and audio tuning. There’s something to be said for how excellent these options are.

Hats off to DICE for this, it really seems like they put a good amount of effort into making Battlefield 2042 as accessible as possible to the masses.

To be continued……

Battlefield 2042 is a living, breathing online game right now, and I want to see it improve and become the experience that I know it has under some of the janks. Maybe I’m being too kind, or letting nostalgia play on my mind, but those rose-tinted glasses will probably wear off quickly.

I’ll be coming back to it in 6 months with my critical hat, to see how it’s changed (if it has!). I have plenty more hours left in me before I drop-off it for a bit, because at the core of it, when I play solo I’m having good fun, and that’s all I want.

Check back in here at fullsync.co.uk in a few months time to see how it goes! In the meantime, I’m working on ninjarefinery.com and here to give as much as I can to anyone that will read my words. Plenty of reviews on tech, games and even coffee. I love doing this, so come keep me company!

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2 comments

Codvie December 18, 2021 - 7:00 pm

“Bigger isn’t always better” what I’ve been saying since battlefront 2 and BF5. The maps are legit empty. Battlefield 1 killed it with the size on the maps, was never wandering for ages looking for enemies to kill.
Amazing review. Thanks

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Ninja Refinery's Best of 2021 - December 29, 2021 - 4:41 pm

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