Battlefield 2042 Review – Back to the Future

Battlefield 2042 hits on some of its huge potential, misses on the rest.

Posted By | On 17th, Nov. 2021

Battlefield 2042 Review – Back to the Future

More than almost any other first-person shooter franchise, Battlefield knows exactly what it does well. DICE has been tiptoeing around the subject for a few entries and over a decade at this point, but it’s no secret that Battlefield is a multiplayer-first, large-scale experience whose greatest asset is its scope. For the first time in franchise history, Battlefield 2042 jettisons the campaign mode and focuses solely on the multiplayer, and the results are exactly what you’d expect from a multiplayer-only Battlefield game. Despite having only seven maps and two native game modes, there’s enough content to last for hours on end due to the mind-blowing scale and versatility of each map, even before factoring in the theoretically infinite content in Battlefield Portal. However, as is ritual with the launch of a new Battlefield, a slew of issues from bugs to balancing make this feel like a work in progress. While the potential of any given match in Battlefield 2042 is sky high, and Portal is a potential long-term star, the ability to reach that potential is ultimately more up to the mercy of the game than anything else.

With DICE forgoing any single player mode this year, Battlefield 2042 is a much more focused experience, though there’s certainly some context thrown your way. The world is on the verge of collapsing in on itself as climate change and other factors destroy the economy and beget global warfare. As frightening and engaging as that premise seems given that 2042 is just a couple decades away in real-time, the game doesn’t really go anywhere with it. Instead, you’re dropped into a menu with three options for three different multiplayer modes: All-Out Warfare, Hazard Zone, and Battlefield Portal. It’s a much more limited set of options to funnel everyone into the same spots in lieu of trying to appease everyone, which I appreciate given the massive 128-person matches of Conquest or Breakthrough that would start to get sparse if there were many more game modes vying for your attention.

"As is ritual with the launch of a new Battlefield, a slew of issues from bugs to balancing make this feel like a work in progress. While the potential of any given match in Battlefield 2042 is sky high, and Portal is a potential long-term star, the ability to reach that potential is ultimately more up to the mercy of the game than anything else."

The more focused nature of the game entails a much larger scope within each mode, and this comes first and foremost with the new maps. Despite having only seven new ones in 2042, it never feels like you’re retreading familiar ground, particularly due to their sheer size. They all have to accommodate up to 128 players in the largest modes while keeping the traditional slower, more tactical pace of gameplay, so each of them is not only massive but impressively diverse. These are almost entire individual, gorgeous open worlds in themselves, ranging from the greenhouses of Renewal to the icy Antarctic of Breakaway.

But what’s more impressive is the verticality of some maps. Maps like Kaleidoscope and Manifest allow you access to the tops of skyscrapers or large stacks of shipping containers and let you see virtually the entire map. Indeed, these are both the most impressive technical moments in gameplay, showing off some of the most impressive draw distances and long-distance detail I’ve seen on the Xbox Series X, but also the game’s most memorable gameplay moments of climbing to the top, fighting off some enemy attackers, and parachuting off to another area of the map entirely. If the mode allows, the maps can evolve over time, too, with things like massive natural disasters making severe, tangible impacts to the impressively detailed destructible environments that alter the way you play slightly, mostly by making a section of the map effectively off-limits, but simultaneously transforming the look and feel of the match, too. Every bit of the maps is really a showcase of the attention to detail and technical prowess that DICE has been building toward for years with multiple entries, and they lay a wonderful groundwork for the rest of the game to build on.

Gunplay can vary widely between gun types, and some guns take more getting used to than others. I found some immediate comfort in the lower recoil, lower rate of fire assault rifles compared to the much floatier, more inconsistent ones. At the same time, there’s still a much stronger focus on long-range battles, and here I’m much more willing to be patient, use a long-range rifle or sniper, and pick off enemies one by one. It’s not easy, but it is immensely satisfying to get the red hit markers indicating an elimination. Vehicles are as prevalent as they’ve ever been, too. They all feel a little tighter and easier to control with the exception of the attack helicopter, which is inexplicably much more frustrating to handle. With that said, vehicles are the name of the game here, and there’s no better way, nor a more satisfying one to tilt the odds in your favor than bringing a tank to a gun fight and taking an objective for yourself.

Battlefield 2042

"Every bit of the maps is really a showcase of the attention to detail and technical prowess that DICE has been building toward for years with multiple entries, and they lay a wonderful groundwork for the rest of the game to build on."

Compared to many of its contemporaries, Battlefield has always had a much stronger focus on squad and team efforts, and 2042 leans somewhat into that. Of course, you can spawn in on squadmates and communicate by pinging an objective, but DICE has given some more credence to team-playing through the new specialists. Rather than having you choose one of four generic classes, each of the ten specialists fall into one of those categories but have their own special skills and traits, so while it’s best for your team to cover all of its bases, it’s a bit deeper this time around. I prefer an Assault class, so I played primarily as Mackay, who has an immensely fun grapple gun that allows you to get around more nimbly. Other specialists provide benefits to their primary class, like a Recon sniper scanning for distant enemies or an Engineer that can deploy portable cover. But while the specialists can be very helpful for your team if you coordinate them, it’s more common that you choose the special skill you like and your play style independently, since the specialist’s primary class doesn’t limit your loadout options. It’s great to have the freedom to play how you want with whichever specialist you like best, but for the sake of teamwork, I felt like my teammates rarely had the fortitude to stick to their specialist’s strengths rather than play with their favorite guns regardless.

The native game modes come in one of two flavors. The first, All-Out Warfare, is broken into Conquest, the classic objective-capturing soiree, and Breakthrough, a Rush-esque battle of attackers pushing to take a series of sectors from defenders. This is where the meat of the new gameplay happens and where the maps are really able to show off. If you’ve played any multiplayer FPS, you’ll know what you’re getting from the game modes, except on a much larger scale. However, the scale does come at a cost here, as single matches are more than ever obnoxiously long. I appreciate that the matches can let you feel like there are ebbs and flows in the score and momentum, but by the end, somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour later, I could rarely tell you if my team won or lost without looking at the scoreboard, even if I was playing the objective the entire time, because everything seems to average out in the end, especially in Conquest. It means that not only are games exhausting, but you also rarely jump into a game that isn’t already in progress, so your wins and losses are often determined by the matchmaking. The other native mode, Hazard Zone, is less substantial and much less fun than All-Out Warfare. It’s a squad-based match where your squad of up to 4 faces against up to 7 other squads to capture data points before exfiltrating, though there is permadeath if you can’t revive your teammates in time or use a respawn skill. I didn’t find this mode nearly as engaging as All-Out Warfare, primarily because it doesn’t use the game’s strengths of scale, instead opting for smaller, stealthier objectives. It’s more of a breather than anything, and I often found myself trying it and moving right back into the rest of the game.

What’s likely to give Battlefield 2042 a bit more staying power is Battlefield Portal. You can choose to play any of the curated modes that DICE has put front and center and will be rotating as time goes on or browse the community list with custom lobbies that allow you to play everything from a normal game of Conquest with double damage to a game with only bots who carry defibrillators. Frustratingly, you can only create your own lobby on EA’s website rather than in-game, but if you can filter through the XP farming and bot-slaying lobbies, you’ll find a nearly infinite amount of new content without having to make it yourself, most of which is still incredibly fun and will keep me coming back to see what new things the community has cooked up.

Battlefield 2042

"Regardless of the modes, one thing that consistently holds this game back, is its general lack of polish and balance at launch."

Regardless of the modes, one thing that consistently holds this game back, is its general lack of polish and balance at launch. Of course, it’s expected that you’ll find a few bugs here and there, and most of them are harmless or even humorous character model issues or menu disappearances that sort themselves out quickly. Others, though, like ones that forced me out of matches, are harder to forgive, and I seemed to run into them unexpectedly often. On the balance side, things can get trickier, especially when the game loses itself trying to manage having over 100 total players. It’s not uncommon to spawn directly into an enemy’s line of fire or into an already-burning vehicle, killing you almost instantly. It’s also not unheard of to be killed by an enemy who you’ve already pumped seemingly a full clip into. It’s moments like these that test my patience with the experience, where you feel less in control of your own destiny than you are at the mercy of the game’s decisions, and the moments where everything falls correctly into place are almost reliefs rather than central experiences, though I hope over time these issues can be ironed out.

There’s a lot of potential with Battlefield 2042 on the ground level. The maps portray an unprecedentedly large scope for a multiplayer shooter and somehow seem to nail it, especially when they utilize the types of verticality and evolution that Battlefield has been promising for over a decade. Battlefield Portal, too, might be the type of living community experience that keeps this game alive alongside the history of the games it brings along. But the bugs, balancing, and matchmaking bring the experience back down to earth by taking too much control out of your hands, especially when the scope becomes too much for the game to handle. What Battlefield 2042 does well, it does really well, but it sometimes can’t help but be held down under the weight of its own scale.

This game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.


THE GOOD

Gorgeous and technically marvelous maps; Diverse ecosystems; Huge matches of Conquest; Battlefield Portal’s potential for the future.

THE BAD

Forgettable Hazard Zone; Inconsistent matchmaking; Lack of overall balance; Lots of smaller bugs.

Final Verdict:
GOOD
When Battlefield 2042 hits the mark with its enormous, gorgeous, destructible maps in All-Out Warfare, it’s good, but it sometimes tends to crack under the weight of its own massive scale.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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