DICE’s Battlefield 2042 releases on October 22nd for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5 and PC, costing $70 for current-gen platforms and $60 on PC and previous-gen. It’s already ruffled quite a few feathers with its lack of a campaign mode and previous to current gen console upgrades being tied to the Gold and Ultimate Editions. Fans could reason that the lack of a campaign is inconsequential – after all, Battlefield’s most popular and defining feature has always been its multiplayer. Battlefield 2042 seems to be a return to the over-the-top action and destruction that fans have been wanting for years.
But as with the game’s pricing and monetization, there’s plenty to be concerned about when it comes to the gameplay and multiplayer. Let’s take a look at five worrying things here.
Specialists are perhaps the biggest new addition to the series’ multiplayer formula. These are pre-defined characters with their own unique specialties and traits, and there will be 10 available at launch with a new one added each season. Thus far, we’ve seen Webster Mackay who uses a Grappling Hook and has increased agility while aiming down sights and using zip-lines; Maria Falck’s S21 Syrette Pistol which can be used to heal allies along with her ability to revive downed allies to full health; and Pyotr “Boris” Guskovsky who can deploy a sentry turret which gains increased accuracy when he stands near it. Specialists tie into the whole segregation of players of Squads (with more than one Specialist possible for each).
Despite being based on the series’ original four classes, they can freely customize their load-outs without any restrictions. Right away, this creates concerns for balancing – certain weapons that are performing above and beyond expectations could be even more potent in the hands of powerful Specialists, ruining the overall balance and skewing the meta. The system also trends away from the beloved classes and their specific weapons that helped define Battlefield over the years. While creating those “hero” moments will no doubt attract a wider range of players, one has to wonder if it will dilute the overall gameplay. As it stands, Specialists are a way to mix up the gameplay formula while sticking to the standard Battlefield framework – whether this can be called a bold move or not remains to be seen.
Balancing for a game with heroes is tough enough as is, especially when those changes will reverberate into other modes and game types. The addition of new mechanics like Wingsuits and Rangers (the “robot dogs” seen in the trailers), changes to Conquest with Clustering and Sectors, and much more is also something that will take time, effort and lots of testing to get right. And no, a closed technical preview for a small percentage of players in controlled settings, followed by a beta just a few weeks before launch isn’t quite enough.
However, balance in itself is an issue that DICE has numerous controversies with. Battlefield 5 players will remember the title’s TTK updates which made weapons like rifles less powerful over long-range than pistols (which had some hilariously bad ramifications for Firestorm when factoring in armor). To say that the changes were disastrous for the game’s balance would be an understatement, but even worse, they were repeated even after significant backlash from players. Again, different game, benefit of the doubt, so on and so forth but suffice to say that balance will be a major issue, one way or another, in Battlefield 2042.
Another new addition to multiplayer in Battlefield 2042 are AI Soldiers or bots. These are meant for the All-Out Warfare scenarios in Conquest and Breakthrough which see 128 players battling it out on map (64 players on previous gen consoles). If the entire lobby hasn’t been filled, then the AI Soldiers will occupy empty slots to ensure the match can start, reducing matchmaking times in theory. They’ll also replace any players that leave, thus ensuring that matches stay balanced.
It all sounds fine on the surface but AI Soldiers have their fair share of limitations. On top of not being able to use Wingsuits, they can’t function as Specialists (so you’ll be at a significant disadvantage against Squads that have more). Sure, they’ll prioritize objectives, reviving downed teammates and supporting in fire fights but it all comes down to how good the AI really is, and DICE hasn’t exactly been renowned for the same, that too in its campaigns. Also, those looking to play solo offline with AI Soldiers won’t be able to do so – it’s online or bust.
Overtime, as the general population declines and matchmaking times are extended, will the quality of matches suffer as a result of more AI Soldiers? Will AI Soldiers be available in the rumored Hazard Zone, whether it turns out to be a bust or players simply prefer traditional multiplayer? These are questions that won’t properly be answered until the game is out but we’re not getting the same positive vibes as Halo Infinite’s bots.
Cheating has always been an issue in multiplayer games but it’s been particularly egregious over the past several years. This is due to the rise of free to play games like Call of Duty: Warzone, Fortnite and Apex Legends but that doesn’t mean they’ve been absent in premium titles, and Battlefield 2042 is no exception. Hacks like aimbots and radar tools are already in the wild before the game’s launch. Insider Tom Henderson recently spoke to a hacker about the same and noted that website traffic and sign-ups were 400 percent higher with a “large amount of that coming from Battlefield 2042 searches.”
Based on reports from its technical preview, the game apparently uses Easy Anticheat like Apex Legends. It isn’t perfect, obviously, but the general consensus seems to be that it’s better than Call of Duty: Warzone. Time will ultimately tell how DICE handles it, especially across multiple game modes, but it’s something to be cautious of in the meantime.
After launch, Battlefield 2042 will take a seasonal approach with its content updates. Which will be okay with some players and not okay for others but it’s happening regardless. Electronic Arts and DICE have already clarified that all maps, Specialists, weapons and so on will be available for all players, even those who don’t purchase the passes. Instead, the premium tracks will offer cosmetics in the form of new Specialist outfits and weapon skins. It’s all well and good but the main concern is how DICE will actually manage to deliver on the actual post-launch content.
Battlefield 5 fans will be able to recount how long it took certain updates to roll out, whether it was the latest campaign chapter or Firestorm (and it didn’t help that the latter couldn’t overcome its initial launch woes). The base content was already lacking, something which Battlefield 2042 looks to be getting ahead of with its multiplayer, Portal and Hazard Zone. But even with multiple studios, adding all of this content – whether it’s custom game types and updated maps from previous games for Portal, balancing and map changes in Hazard Zone, new maps/weapons/Specialists in multiplayer, new cosmetics, new features and quality of life changes – will be tricky.
This is the biggest Battlefield title that EA and DICE have ever released in terms of its multiplayer scale but considering how the previous game was handled, it’s anyone’s guess how the new content will shape up. Going bigger and having more studios on board doesn’t magically mean the game becomes better.
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