Battlefield has always been the biggest, loudest multiplayer experience in the business. It’s the Texas video game equivalent, and its bombast cannot be overstated. Battlefield 2042 offers a multitude of ways to participate in simulated wars of the near future. Whether you prefer to fight over land or sky, you can experience dizzying on-screen explosions, thrilling firefights, and more vehicles than teammates who know how to drive them. Unfortunately, Battlefield 2042 is full of almost as many bugs as bad pilots pulling down an otherwise solid online shooter.
If nothing else, Battlefield 2042 is familiar. It continues the trend of the series of providing multiplayer maps with the largest possible number of players and a range of reliable character archetypes that have become standard in first person shooters. The latest addition to Battlefield’s long-standing formula is a weather system that lets you drive deadly tornadoes alongside the vehicles and debris they map out as they route. These storms are a nice touch and add a sense of panic to already tense battles, but their inclusion feels inconsequential in the grand scheme. The 128-player matches and big maps guarantee dramatic moments, but there’s a thin line between spectacle and chaos, and 2042 often blends into the latter.
There has never been a Battlefield game without Conquest, the signature mode, in which two opposing teams have the task of conquering and defending target areas on the map. Each side has a limited number of reinforcements that will slowly deflate depending on how many sectors the team controls. The popular format is alive and well in 2042, but unfortunately it’s my least popular style of play. For the first time, Battlefield is hosting too many Players in every game. Without the presence of commanders to take over the attacks, Conquest sometimes feels disorganized and disjointed, as there is no good way for all of the 64 players on each team to communicate and focus their attacks. Plus, respawns often put you in the middle of a contested area, only to be instantly killed by an enemy from somewhere off-screen.
Even if the bigger picture is occasionally out of focus, the gameplay loop is fun from moment to moment. Gunplay is solid, although hits don’t always seem to register when they should, and the wide range of vehicles is just as entertaining for the pilot when running on foot becomes tiresome. I was disappointed with the lack of naval warfare, which is remarkable given its importance in the series and the fact that multiple maps are surrounded by large bodies of water.
Breakthrough is the second mode in the game’s multiplayer suite and offers more focused wagers by breaking maps into multiple segments, each containing two control points. If the attacking team successfully captures all targets in a zone, it can force the defending team to retreat to the next area. While the breakthrough is still enoughDue to the excessive number of players, this is without a doubt the best way to get part of a traditional Battlefield experience.
Hazard Zone, a brand new multiplayer format introduced in 2042, pit eight teams of four against each other and task them with retrieving data drives located at satellite crash sites dotted across the map. Each location is guarded by opposing AI forces that attack your team on sight. Hazard Zone has no respawn unless your teammates have a Reploy uplink. The only way to win these games is to win a highly competitive helicarrier who only visits the map twice during the game. If you miss the flight or die before you make it on board, it is game over and you will lose the credits you spent in the ammo shop before the game. However, if you extract successfully, you will be rewarded with Dark Market Credits, a meta-currency that persists between games that you can spend to buy better gear before your next game. Hazard Zone is tight and strategic, and the firefights at the end of each game make it my favorite way of playing Battlefield 2042.
Another novelty in the series is Battlefield Portal, a community-operated platform that allows players to create custom games or play other strange creations. For example, there is a free-for-all missile-only mode where the only way to reload your launcher is to jump five times. Seeing rockets flying across the screen in such a ridiculous scenario is hilarious, but like most games in Portal, the fun fades after a game or two.
In theory, Portal gives players the ability to create inventive twists on Battlefield, especially since the Battlefield Builder is easy to understand and access through a web browser. Portal allows you to customize game mode, map rotation, arsenal constraints, and program advanced rule sets with visual scripts in the logic editor. However, the latter is less accessible to beginners. As a fan of previous creative suites like Halo Forge and Fortnite Creative, I am not forced to interact with Portal’s tools as they are intended to modify existing game settings and do not allow you to design your own original levels.
Portal also has reworked versions of classic cards, and you can expand their rule sets or play them in their original form in a playlist presented by developers. I love this inclusion and I am delighted to have a convenient way to return to popular places like Valparaiso, the Caspian border or the Battle of the Bulge. These are effectively remastered versions of the best cards in the series, and I’m excited to see which DICE adds next.
Whether you’re fighting over the competition like Spider-Man, flying through a deadly tornado in a wingsuit, or shooting enemies behind mobile barricades, every Battlefield Specialist offers a unique way to take part in the battle. The title was started with ten specialists, each of whom falls into one of four classes: attack, engineer, support, and reconnaissance. There are tons of ways to refine these characters (including the ability to use any weapon). My favorite customization feature, however, is the option to swap weapon attachments in the middle of a battle without having to reappear. My preferred sniper lens is the 6X rifle scope, but I found it handy to be able to switch to a different optic in the blink of an eye with the push of a button. This new feature significantly improves the multiplayer experience and should be adopted from other first-person shooters.
Battlefield 2042 starts with seven maps. Hourglass is an isolated city that has been reclaimed from the neighboring desert, Discarded is home to huge shipyards along the west coast of India, and Breakaway is nestled in the icy mountains of Antarctica. The other cards – Manifest, Kaleidoscope, Orbital, and Renewal – are standard fares but still offer landscapes worth exploring. Every map is hit by violent weather systems that are exciting to navigate, but I wish more maps included unique elements like Orbital’s rocket launch and Breakaway’s explosive silos that permanently expand the map in the middle of the game. Regardless, there are no bad cards, and I like to play any of them.
Unfortunately, right now, Battlefield 2042 feels undervalued due to an abundance of bugs. While most of the mistakes I have encountered are minor, each one dilutes the fun I have while playing. For example, the grappling hook’s zipline cuts through the front of the device while it is animated, or on a map like Hourglass it cannot request air support due to an issue with the navmesh of the sand. More serious glitches can negatively affect gameplay, such as sniper scopes losing magnification after interacting with devices such as the Mobile Barricades of Ireland. While playing on PC, the game crashed once on my desktop during a week that the game was played. One of my friends wasn’t that lucky and experienced multiple crashes in one of our gaming sessions. These falls put me at a particular disadvantage in the danger zone.
Don’t get me wrong: Battlefield 2042 is playable, packed with content, and often great fun. The title’s seven maps are different from one another, the many customization options make it easy to play at will, and I love the extreme weather systems and quick weapon equipping feature. Portal has not yet reached its full potential, but it does offer a convenient way to access six popular experiences from Battlefield 3, Battlefield 1942, and Bad Company 2. Battlefield 2042 is an easy recommendation for existing fans or gamers looking for a modern war game, but I struggle to fully support it as it lacks polish right now. As long as DICE continues to release hotfixes and patches, Battlefield 2042 could become an online shooter at some point, but it’s a shame it was released that way.
Battlefield 2042 was verified on PC using a code provided by the publisher for verification purposes.