Battlefield 2042 Review – Armed With Potential, But Not Quite There Yet
Battlefield 2042 is the latest in EA and DICE’s first-person shooter series. Unlike previous entries, this iteration focuses solely on the multiplayer side of things. As such, solo activities are limited to multiplayer modes played against AI-controlled opponents. The developer intends to deliver a more robust and dynamic multiplayer experience that does a better job of simulating a large-scale conflict.
Battlefield 2042 offers three multiplayer modes, the first of which is the familiar All-Out Warfare mode, which involves territorial control over the battlefield. Two match types are available here: Breakthrough and Conquest. The latter has been synonymous with Battlefield games, featuring large-scale battles to secure marked territories on the map until one team runs out of reinforcements. Breakthrough involves smaller, more focused battles between two sides, with the attackers trying to capture objectives in a stronghold and make the defenders retreat to the next one. The attacking side wins by successfully capturing all strongholds, while the defending side wins when the attackers run out of reinforcements before being able to accomplish their mission.
While Conquest has its moments, it isn’t particularly satisfying for solo players, and a lot depends on how well your squad works cohesively. This is less of a problem if you’re playing in a group of friends, but playing with random players can feel rather aimless. It doesn’t help that the game currently doesn’t support any in-game means for communication between squad members. Moreover, a typical battle in Conquest mode spans across the entire map, which is rather huge this time around. It suffers from the same annoyances that the mode had in earlier Battlefield games, only the larger maps make things worse. Capture points are far apart from one another and making your way to them on foot gets tedious, even in vehicles. Moreover, getting sniped from a mile away in a game where enemy visibility isn’t so great can break your momentum, especially when you’re unable to respawn near your previous location.
Luckily, Breakthrough is just what the doctor ordered. Given its segmented approach, all the action remains focused within one zone at a time. Your objectives are more approachable and, as the attacker or defender, you’re working towards a clear goal from the get-go. The doubled player count of 128 players on PS5 isn’t instantly apparent in Conquest mode, but it’s a key factor in making Breakthrough’s moment-to-moment skirmishes more engaging. It’s is where the all-out war experience that Battlefield aims to deliver truly shines. That said, the mode needs some refinements. Certain maps have some of their objectives situated at the top of skyscrapers, which is a nightmare for attackers.
There are a total of 7 maps, which is a small number on paper. However, given their sheer size, this is justifiable for launch. Each map is designed to accommodate 128 players on PS5 and features a different layout from its 64-player counterpart on previous-gen consoles. These maps are generally better suited to Breakthrough than they are to the Conquest mode, as the latter exposes some of the odd design choices made concerning their layout. The environments are largely non-destructible and there are no destruction events such as those found in Battlefield 4. Instead, Battlefield 2042 features dynamic events, including those associated with environmental hazards, such as tornados and sandstorms. Unlike in Battlefield 4, however, these events bring no major changes to the map layout, which keeps things competitive and less unpredictable. Though, after having encountered them a couple of times, they feel like a needless hindrance that disturbs the flow of a match.
The second multiplayer mode is Hazard Zone, which involves smaller-scale squad-based combat. Each squad is tasked to collect hard drives scattered across the map. They’re guarded by AI-based enemies who have to be defeated first. While the setup is interesting, the mode feels a chore and doesn’t play to the strengths of the series. The only fun bit in this entire ordeal is the extraction phase. Squads can only win once they’ve successfully been extracted by a helicopter. The catch is that the vehicle only arrives twice, and can only carry a single squad in each shift. Therefore, only two squads can make it out of the Hazard Zone. These extraction zones are revealed a few minutes before the arrival of the helicopter, which only remains on-site for 30 seconds. It’s a race to the finish line, as squads attempt to ambush each other near the extraction point and remove as many hurdles as possible before making their exit.
Battlefield 2042 replaces character class from previous entries with Specialists, each of whom has their unique skill sets and gadgetry that come in handy during a variety of situations. Gadgets range from a grappling hook to make traversal quicker and easier, a deployable turret that can defend important locations, a drone you can use to safely scout the area ahead and mark the location of enemies for your squad, and a syringe to quickly heal your allies. Specialists play a vital role in both Breakthrough and Hazard Zone, but they aren’t nearly as meaningful in the classic Battlefield mode i.e. Conquest, due to the sheer scale and scope of maps and objectives.
It gradually becomes apparent that Battlefield 2042’s systems were primarily built around Breakthrough and Hazard Zone, and the classic Battlefield experience was sidelined in favor of them. This is where Portal, the game’s third mode, comes in. To put it simply, players can define rules and create multiplayer modes of their liking by mixing and mashing elements from not only Battlefield 2042, but also Battlefield 1942, Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3. Don’t like 2042’s Specialists or dynamic events? It’s possible to replace Specialists with character classes featured in these earlier games and disable bad weather simply by modifying some variables. A server browser is missing from All-Out Warfare and Hazard Zone, but it’s present in Portal, allowing you to browse and pick a server with modifiers based on your preference. Portal also comes with a Logic Editor, which is essentially a visual scripting tool that allows you to control and modify different aspects of the game logic to create custom modes of all sorts.
A major disappointment with Battlefield 2042 is its lackluster gunplay. Aiming with a controller feels off, and despite there being a large number of options to tweak controls, it never quite feels right. The aim assist appears to be the primary culprit here in addition to how analog stick acceleration is implemented. Moreover, the audiovisual feedback from weapons is rather limited, resulting in weapon fire not packing a decent enough punch in most cases. Weapon customization is largely redundant, as attachments bring little to no meaningful difference in terms of stats.
Weapon handling is an area that’ll require a major overall, and it’s good to see that DICE has made it a top priority in their list of forthcoming fixes. There are also a few bugs here and there that need to be ironed out, but their occurrence isn’t frequent and there are no game-breaking issues here. Performance is stable for the most part on PS5, as is the netcode. Rubberbanding has been a recurring problem with Battlefield multiplayer, but no instances of it were seen across multiple online sessions in Battlefield 2042 on the PS5.
The ingredients are there for quite possibly the best Battlefield experience to date, but several inconsistent design choices hold Battlefield 2042 back from getting there, at least at launch. As it stands, the Breakthrough mode sticks out as the highlight of the experience. Meanwhile, the all-new Portal mode is packed with potential, but whether the community does something special with it remains to be seen.
Battlefield 2042 Game Information
- Price: $69.99
- Publisher: EA
- Developer: EA DICE
- Platform: PS5 (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher