While a single-player campaign option is missing from this year’s Battlefield title, there’s certainly a fair amount of content to keep the diehard fans busy — just not in unique game modes. One issue that has plagued the series thus far is many players’ lack of interest in game modes like Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and more, leading to servers becoming empty astonishingly quick. What draws in the crowds is the series’ awesome, large-scale modes that put 64 players in objective-based combat, and EA Dice looks to have focused its attention on that fact. Battlefield 2042 rocks only three game modes: Conquest, Breakthrough, and Hazard Zone — and Rush, in the Portal mode, but that’s a side thing — and bumped up the player count to 128 for Xbox Series X|S and PC, while also implementing cross-play. What this will hopefully mean for the future of the game is fuller lobbies with an even spread of players throughout each game type… hopefully.
Hazard Zone is one of the newest and certainly the most uncertain modes available at the moment, due to its infancy, and only time will tell if it can find an audience. Personally, I’ve enjoyed part of my time with the mode, with only uncooperative public teammates offering a negative experience. Hazard Zone throws a few squads of players on the same maps as the other game modes (aside from the Portal maps), with a sprinkling of AI teams to mix it up. The squads then fight over Data Drives that are sprawled across the area, with the objective of safely boarding an extraction vehicle and getting the collected drives out of there. The catch, though, is that there is only a couple of extraction vehicles, so expect a gunfight when attempting to haul ass out of there. It’s pretty quickfire, and if the RNG gods bless you with a squad that wants to work together, as opposed to delusional Rambo types that get themselves blown to smithereens nine times out of ten, it can be satisfying. The gameplay is much slower paced when compared to Conquest and Breakthrough, but I also found it to be the most strategically rewarding of the modes. It’s certainly not what you’d expect in a Battlefield title, and even though I’ve quite enjoyed my time within the zone, I’m not sure if there is enough content to keep me away from the other modes — after earning the achievements, of course. It’s also too soon to tell if Hazard Zone will gain traction with the wider community or collapse in on itself like Battlefield V’s Firestorm.
Now, while Battlefield 2042’s main focus is on its Hazard Zone and All Out Warfare (Conquest and Breakthrough) modes, EA Dice did drop in a little nostalgic chaos to remind us of the series’ roots: Portal. Currently, Portal mode houses two maps each from Battlefield 1942 (Conquest), Battlefield Bad Company 2 (Rush), and Battlefield 3 (Conquest). All three games have been lovingly recreated, and the nostalgia I felt when hopping into a game on Battlefield 1942 was pretty great, taking me back to a simpler time when I was a youngster and experiencing the franchise for the first time. Bad Company 2’s Rush mode feels as chaotic as the original, and Battlefield 3’s Conquest maps successfully recreate the series’ greatest moments. I’d like to see the team continue to drop extra content into the Portal mode, which they have confirmed to be doing — maybe we’ll see some additions from Battlefield Vietnam and Battlefield 2142 in the future… that would be cool. There really is a lot of past content that could be brought forward, and if EA Dice plays its cards right, Portal mode really could be the area of the game that gives Battlefield 2042 the edge it needs in the very populated FPS space, and ultimately warrant the game’s current price tag. Do I think it’s worth the investment right now? Yes, for the core fan base, especially those that want to feel a sense of nostalgia. The Portal mode is a fantastic way of seeing some of EA Dice’s previous hitters, and if the base game playlists don’t quite take your fancy, then creating your own could be the next best option.
One of the Portal’s biggest boons is the ability to customise a server to your liking, called an Experience, or join one of the myriad available Experiences from the community. Even now, with the game fresh out of the gate, there is a multitude of different servers to join — on Xbox Series X — from zombie-style modes to the predictable XP farms. I tried my hand at one player’s zombie Experience only to end up as an unarmed “zombie,” which felt like being a walking target for those fortunate enough to have a weapon. Once I switched over to the gun-toting soldier side, though, I could very easily see the appeal and spent quite some time ruining the other player’s evenings. These servers certainly look to be offering a fresh way to play the game if the stresses of objective play have taken their toll on you for the evening, or the various bugs have struck your last nerve — even if it’s for a short reprieve.
My initial first impressions of the game listed a fair number of bugs and server issues, which cropped up everywhere during the early access period. While EA Dice has been putting a lot of effort into fixing the rubber banding and lag problems, there are many issues yet to be fixed. You still can’t revive players that have died too close to a wall, connection errors are still in abundance, weapon reload messages are still randomly sticking to the screen, sometimes button presses don’t register, and you need to disconnect to fix it, etc. The servers definitely feel more stable compared to the first week of the game’s public appearance, though, and I can’t fault the team on their quick response to player concerns. Bugs and server issues are unfortunately a given when picking up a brand-new title, and while Battlefield 2042 certainly has way more than its fair share, I’m pleased to say that the list is slowly being whittled down, although not enough for me not to calculate it into my final score.
New modes, nostalgic experiences, and predictably dodgy issues aside, EA Dice has poured its best work into the ultimate Battlefield 2042 experience: All Out Warfare. This is the game’s main focus and contains the Conquest and Breakthrough game modes on the new maps, alongside a host of features that, for the most part, represent Battlefield’s return to form. Conquest needs no introduction and has returned as the classic experience that pits two teams in a fight for map domination. Map size is currently an issue, though, and almost make the increased 128-player count pointless The maps in Battlefield 2042 are insanely large when compared to every other title in the series, presumably for the higher player count. The problem with this is that many of the maps have wide, open areas between each objective, leading to a hard slog across cover-less spaces to try and get yourself to the next objective. When the battles click just right, though, the chaos that ensues is almost exactly how you’d want a Battlefield game to play out. Everything feels unpredictable, maybe a tank will roll up and start turning the place into an explosive wasteland, or a helicopter will hover overhead, laying waste to everything beneath it, or maybe a ridiculously overpowered hovercraft will take your head off… yeah, they need nerfing. It’s in the team collisions and squad camaraderie that gives Battlefield 2042 a feeling of nuance, but also that return to form that we’ve been waiting for. The hectic conflicts are rare in this mode, but, and it is a big but, Conquest offers you a more relaxed experience when compared to the ridiculously chaotic gameplay of Breakthrough, so there are certainly some perks to the less combat-heavy mode, if you’d like a more objective-based experience.
Breakthrough is insane and offers the same attack and defend principles as the series’ Rush mode, but without the ability to sneak in and plant a bomb. No, Breakthrough is a game of attrition, and to take the objectives your team needs more bodies than your rivals in the objective area. The gameplay dynamic of this is the defending team doing everything they can to hunker down in defensible positions, while they’re being absolutely bombarded with everything the attacking team has to throw at them. It’s a constant fight for ground, and due to the objective zone nature of the gameplay the maps feel a little more condensed — more infantry-focused maps wouldn’t go amiss in the future, though, with additional internal battles to give the game balance. I found Breakthrough to be the best place to experience each of the new features that have been added this time around due to its constant ability to have you fighting for your life and the dynamically changing frontlines.
The first big change — and one that I personally don’t like — is the addition of Call of Duty-style Specialists. Gone are the classic classes (although the class structure is kind of still there), and instead we have characters with various gadgets like sentry guns and abilities that give them bonuses. I do not like the Specialists, at all. I think I’ve made that clear enough, but I do like the fresh gameplay mechanics that they offer. I think it’s the fact that they’re individual people and not generic soldiers that I find most off-putting. Battlefield has always had an air of realism to it that has allowed it to stand out from the other arcade shooters — as realistic as jumping out of a jet with a bazooka can be… but you get my point. Having a squad made up of four identical characters is not the natural feeling military unit the series has been about (Hazard Zone is the exception and requires four unique Specialists) — well, I guess you technically could have a squad of quadruplets… squadruplets? No. I do like the additional traits and gadgets that they bring to the game, but would like to have seen them implemented as another loadout option so the characters would continue looking like normal soldiers.
Loadouts have completely changed in Battlefield 2042, now offering a completely customisable experience that doesn’t lock you behind the four base classes. While the game already offers you pre-created classes for Assault, Medic, Engineer, and Sniper, you can actually put your own class together with any Primary weapon, Secondary weapon, Gadget (Mit Kit, Ammo Crate, etc), and throwable. The personalised way of the loadouts gives you the ability to rock a sniper rifle with a rocket launcher, or create an LMG-wielding medic — the choice is yours, and everything is available to use. I think the game benefits from it in all the best ways, especially once you’ve mixed in the ability and buffs from your chosen Specialist, meaning you can have a Battlefield class that truly plays how you want. Being a fan of medium-to-short-range marksman encounters, the new loadout system has helped me play that role in all the best ways. Sure, weapons are on the scarce side, but the sheer number of attachments and that awesome in-game quick-slot system is exactly the kind of ingenuity I’d hope to see the team adding to this new multiplayer-only title.
One formula that hasn’t been touched and offers a familiar experience is the game’s achievements. Even though we’re not seeing a single-player outing this time around, Battlefield 2042 offers up the usual list of cumulative achievements. Earning in-game medals, capturing Conquest objectives, and pulling off the odd “challenging” manoeuvre, all make an appearance, and it looks to be a reasonably simple affair for the most part. Two people on TA have already unlocked every achievement in the game, but, EA Dice is slowly patching out the Solo/Co-op methods, so crashing through the achievements easily doesn’t look like a long-term deal, inevitably leaving only the multiplayer modes as the place to grind out the Tier 1 medals… good luck. Well, if the team continues fixing the problems associated with the game then it won’t actually feel like much of a grind at all, because the gameplay is great, it’s just overshadowed by a myriad of problems.
Right now, Battlefield 2042 is offering plenty of new features and gameplay elements that will benefit the series’ veteran players, although I’m not sure if there is enough there to hold the attention of players that don’t already have a vested interest in it, at least while they wait for the various problems to be fixed. That really is a shame because even though the persistent issues are frustrating, unnecessary, and annoying, underneath it all is a game that is brimming with potential, and one that I’m enjoying much of my time with — combat is tense, challenging, and unpredictable, and it offers the very best Battlefield experience in recent years… when it hits right.
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