That’s it: after months of relentless teasing, Battlefield 2042 is finally in the bins. After having had a wobbly first taste, but not devoid of interest during the closed beta, we have now been able to tackle the release version with the long-awaited day one patch. Will total war with futuristic sauce keep all its promises? Here is our opinion.
Battlefield, it’s a game apart in the video game landscape. Very few titles are able to offer phases of multiplayer action on such a large scale and generate so many epic sequences, moreover called Battlefield moments by the community; no wonder the franchise has gathered a cohort of full-length fans who await the next installment like the messiah. And this new episode is no exception to the rule, especially since DICE has raised the hype for several months with an extremely dense promotional campaign.
So here we are propelled right in the middle of this futuristic battlefield, with three different modes. The first, Total War, brings together two game modes that are part of the franchise’s DNA: Conquest and Breakthrough. At this point, early players already know what to expect and will quickly find their bearings, despite some small changes to the sector system.
New fun modes full of promise
To find new features in game modes, you have to start by looking at Hazard Zone. This is a brand new concept based on a clash between three factions: two squads of players compete to collect different objectives scattered around the map. The whole turned out to be a bit chaotic during our tests; but the situation could change with a much more coordinated group of players. We feel a very interesting tactical dimension in this Hazard Zone mode, and if players are receptive, it could well become one of the future standards of Battlefield.
But the most interesting novelty is certainly the Portal mode, which pushes the “sandbox” component of Battlefield at an unprecedented level. The concept is simple: thanks to a fairly comprehensive tool, players can create any game mode that they can think of. a team deathmatch 1942 vs 2042? Serve yourself. VIP extraction with only handguns? It’s possible. A completely arcade mode where only explosives are allowed and where soldiers sprint like Usain Bolt? Treat yourself. You will understand: from the most serious to the most zany, everyone can create their own experience. Battlefield tailor-made. Add to that new maps, new vehicles, loads of customization possibilities, and you’ve got a pretty compelling buffet that makes you want to taste it all.
Visually fairly average maps …
But let’s not beat around the bush: the second the plate arrives at the table, we can’t help but be a little disappointed. Orbital, the first map presented at the beginning of October, had nevertheless made a strong impression on us; but the more one traverses its green hills, the more the initial magic fades. Visually speaking, the whole is far from hideous, but sorely lacking in detail outside of the famous “clusters”. And this review concerns the majority of the maps, with a special mention to the Hourglass map, rather poor visually. There are obviously exceptions, but the whole is quite ordinary and not exactly at the level one would expect from a blockbuster of this caliber.
Unfortunately, it’s not just about the quality of the textures and the light; overall, DICE’s level design bias works quite poorly. The developer has thus integrated many less dense and very open areas, which were supposed to be areas under high tension. In theory, this should have generated many skirmishes to punctuate the major clashes; in practice, we end up with sections without interest and systematically deserted. Their only impact is to unnecessarily lengthen travel times between hotspots and feed the snipers.
… and a very uneven level design
And this questionable philosophy is found again on all the cards, with a few exceptions. Result: in practice, the maps are subdivided into a few bastions separated by endless no man’s land. We lose many close combat sequences, and the pace of the clashes suffers greatly; much of the characteristic intensity of the franchise is therefore lost.
We must also talk about the ubiquitous verticality. In 2042, it is clearly accentuated by the map design and the return of the famous grapple. Each overhang is now a potential sniper nest, and each seemingly insignificant ledge can shelter an ambushed enemy. Interesting in theory and in certain situations, but on such open maps, this verticality entirely changes the way you approach combat. Special mention to the completely bugged hovercraft, which is able to climb walls in addition to being much too powerful …
We also regret the fact that these cards ultimately contain few destructible elements. Certainly, some of them are quite spectacular, like the explosion of the rocket on Orbital; but most of them are completely anecdotal and influence the course of the game very little. At this level, 2042 is hard to see compared to other opus like Battlefield 3, however released in… 2011. At the end of the day, we end up with very disappointing maps overall. Really a shame, because some maps like Orbital and Renewal are full of interesting ideas, poorly implemented.
Each for himself and come what may
The other concern with these maps is that their current layouts tend to encourage deathmatch large-scale rather than cooperation. This last criticism is also directed at the specialist system. Originally, these ten complementary characters were each to represent an archetype of gameplay with its own role. But this complementarity is entirely ruined by another questionable design choice; contrary to what their name suggests, specialists can all use any equipment regardless of their “class”.
Result: everyone rushes to the same equipment. Support gadgets like ammunition kits are very often abandoned in favor of more dynamic and less cooperative alternatives; we can already say that you will come across more grappling hooks or turrets than care kits in Battlefield 2042, especially in Conquest mode. And if the homogenization of roles was not sufficient to kill the feeling of belonging to a group, it is the scoring system which is responsible for driving the last nail into the coffin; now, shooting the enemy is almost the only way to score points, which inevitably undermines teamplay. A fairly clear change in philosophy that may satisfy some players, but probably unfortunate for those looking for a “real” battlefield simulation.
And it’s not just the segmentation of roles that will piss off the old guys. This brings us to the last, most important point of our review. This Battlefield only futuristic in name; in terms of gameplay, it is unfortunately a clear and sharp regression in many ways. Once the excitement of the discovery has subsided, there are a staggering number of yet important mechanics that have evolved in the wrong direction, even purely and simply disappeared. It starts with travel. Finished, the lean way Rainbow Six, squatting, swimming underwater or even building barricades; so many elements that would have been of great help on these extremely open maps.
The same goes for the gunplay; DICE has moved away from the formula of Battlefield v, For better and for worse. A curious decision insofar as the latter began to approach the ideal golden mean. We go from a relatively nuanced gunplay to much more “arcade” mechanics, with a time-to-kill which seemed to us much more important than in the previous episodes.
It’s hard to tell if the enemies are just more resilient, or if it’s the fault of the bursts which seem much more random than before. But overall, the finding is the same: the fights seem less precise and visceral. Unlike some players who really enjoyed this development, we found it to be a great detriment to immersion.
These (subjective) regressions in team play and weapon handling are just the tip of a gigantic iceberg of missing features. Did DICE make the assumed choice to get rid of it to modernize its concept, or is this another aspect of the game that has not been finished and will return later? Hard to say. In any case, if you want a full (and extremely long) list of all the missing items, you can always check out this Reddit topic eloquent enough. Not everything is tossed in Battlefield 2042, and it is still possible to achieve some memorable “Battlefield Moments”, but in the end, it lacks too much flavor to want to take a plaster.