If you’ve played or been following the open beta for Battlefield 2042, you’ve no doubt had a number of questions. Why is the Specialist system the way it is? Why are there performance and optimization issues, ranging from frame drops on powerful PCs to pop-in on Xbox Series X/PS5? What happened to Fortifications, classes and the detailed destruction that the series has been known for? What in the world is that UI?
With only one map and Conquest mode to try out, can the beta really achieve much by way of feedback? Or is it simply part of the pre-order incentive package, the never-ending cycle of hype feeding into the desire for early early access while hoping fans enjoy it enough to not cancel? That last one is more rhetorical but you get the idea.
DICE and EA have moved to address concerns regarding the beta’s quality. EA Studios lead community manager Adam Freeman said that it was based off of a build that was already a “few months old.” He also added that, “We polish and enhance it to make sure that it’s representative of the game we’ve built, but naturally we’re making daily improvements, changes, and enhancements all the time.”
DICE GM Oskar Gabrielson also chimed in on Twitter, noting that there had been “amazing progress” made over the past few months. This includes “improvements to the visuals and stability that didn’t quite make it into the Open Beta build….” So the idea seems to be that the beta may not be up to snuff but trust us guys, the full game is going to be great! And roll tide.
In the wake of this, the open beta’s age is up for debate. Insider Tom Henderson has been leaking details on the game even before its official announcement and recently spoke to sources for a report on GamingIntel. This includes an unnamed associate from DICE and a source that revealed the game’s delay to November. Both confirmed that the recent beta is actually from early-mid September. A look at the beta’s files revealed that it’s from September 20th 2021, just one day before it was originally meant to go live. DICE would subsequently delay the beta and the full release but we’ll come back to that.
You would think this means that the open beta is off of a more recent build and not one that’s a few months old. Even if that’s not quite the case, the date in the files indicates that it was delayed by a few weeks and DICE made no changes or improvements before it went live in October.
There are many possible reasons for this. The developer probably took a long look at the current state of the game and decided to delay it to allow for more polish. The beta, whether it’s actually based on a months-old build or not, was placed by the wayside to provide more resources for the full game. After all, early access for the release begins on November 12th for Gold and Ultimate Edition owners, which is one week before its global release. That period will be even more critical since any issues could affect critical and fan reception (and of course, sales) in the long term.
In light of all this, you’d think that something weird is going on behind the scenes with development. Sure, this is the biggest Battlefield ever and it has multiple studios working on it, from DICE and Criterion Games to Ripple Effect (formerly DICE LA). But it’s inherently a DICE-led game and the studio’s last release, Battlefield 5, isn’t universally loved by its community. As it turns out, there have been problems with development.
In the same report by Henderson, the same sources said that management – composed of figures who worked on Star Wars Battlefront 2 – has been less than ideal. “Management is allegedly not committed enough to the project, with creative being simply told to do X, Y, and Z,” Henderson noted. Any concerns usually fell on deaf ears, resulting in problems that could have been fixed early on. It also seems that the Specialists were inspired by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)’s Operators. Other design decisions and how they were inspired by Call of Duty are still unknown but it’s apparently not the title that was the biggest inspiration.
After his report, Henderson would reveal in some recent tweets that Battlefield 2042 actually started out as a battle royale title. It was inspired by Call of Duty but Apex Legends, another EA-published title, was a “BIG” inspiration. Along the way, it morphed into a more “traditional” Battlefield title but when exactly this happened is unknown. It’s a fairly strong statement to make and Henderson claims that he has evidence to support this. We’ll need to wait until such evidence is revealed but certain design choices suddenly start to make more sense.
Why the support for 128 players, even though ex-DICE CEO Patrick Söderlund told GameRant in 2011 that the developer had done “substantial research” into the same and it just wasn’t fun? If the Specialists are indeed inspired by the Operators from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), why do they have unique abilities when the latter didn’t (like a grappling hook that’s akin to Pathfinder’s from Apex Legends)? Why the removal of classes and less restrictions on what different characters can equip? It all seemingly goes back to battle royale though a number of other factors were likely considered as well.
DICE has attempted a battle royale mode before with Battlefield 5’s Firestorm but it was a complete failure. After the success of Apex Legends, perhaps the call was made to focus on a more Battlefield-esque style of game instead. The monetization of skins for Specialists is likely another reason for their implementation since it’s worked so well for a number of multiplayer titles throughout the years.
If we’re being super-cynical, one could also believe that the deviation away from battle royale was in order to sell a “premium” product while also benefiting from excessive monetization. How Battlefield Portal and Hazard Zone fits into this business plan is unknown. Perhaps DICE wanted to provide some fan service to long-time players – if Ripple Effect Studios is essentially re-purposing older assets for Battlefield Portal, then it wouldn’t be a massive drain on resources and could generate some good will.
Hazard Zone could be viewed as trying to cash in on the success of Escape from Tarkov but how that could be monetized in the long run is unclear. Even the lack of a campaign makes sense when you consider the number of multiplayer-centric titles that have been successful without it.
Whether you believe the development troubles are as concerning as Henderson’s sources claim, to the extent that some employees are worried for their jobs, or if the game actually began as a battle royale title or not is ultimately up to you. One thing is very clear though – Battlefield 2042 seems to be lacking in a clear vision. It looks to be abandoning many of the tenets that helped it stand out in the past while leaning into more bombastic elements, like massive weather effects and lots of players. It’s chasing trends but also trying to be “new”, presenting itself as the tried-and-true Battlefield that fans love but without much of what actually made the games so iconic and enjoyable.
Time will tell if this strategy pays off but if the recent beta is any indication, then DICE has a long road ahead, one paved with post-launch fixes and revamps. This is on top of having to add new content for three different modes in the coming years. Whether it succeeds or fizzles out like Battlefield 5 will be revealed years down the line. But given the failure of EA’s non-sports live service titles, you’d think that hindsight would be 20/20 by now.
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