Battlefield 2042 Review: Bigger Isn’t Better

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Battlefield 2042 has brought me to my breaking point with troublesome live-service multiplayer releases. Over the past few years, there have been a plethora of multiplayer titles that seem to launch in a rough state with the promise of getting better over time. While some of those games have indeed become much improved in due time, this trend as a whole is one that I’m growing sick of. Battlefield 2042, the latest entry in the long-running shooter franchise, clearly wasn’t ready to launch at the end of 2021 but publisher Electronic Arts felt for one reason or another that it needed to hit store shelves right at this moment. As such, the game’s current quality absolutely leaves something to be desired. But even beyond these promises to improve, it’s the core of Battlefield 2042 that is fundamentally just not good.

To get this out of the way up front, the process of playing Battlefield 2042 in recent weeks has been a slog. When it launched via early access, I practically found the game unplayable in my first few days with it. It was difficult for me to get into matches, and even when I would find a game, I was constantly met with stuttering or drastic slowdown that made it feel as if I was moving through molasses. Some of these problems have continued to linger since then, but the game has become a bit more stable in my own experience following a handful of new updates.

Even outside of the launch window problems that Battlefield 2042 has featured, it’s everything else in the game that I’m greatly disappointed by. Likely the most notable thing that DICE got wrong with Battlefield 2042 came with the decision to scale up. Rather than featuring 64 total players in a match like we have seen in previous Battlefield titles, Battlefield 2042 doubles that number to 128. This choice was seemingly done to make matches even more chaotic and outlandish than ever before, but instead, the opposite rings true.

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Battlefield 2042 feels hollow and empty a majority of the time, primarily because the maps that you play on are now far too big to accommodate the increased number of players. While Battlefield as a series has always been about traversing larger maps where you then defend or attack certain objectives, these points of contention are now spread way too far apart from one another. Most matches of Conquest, for instance, play out with you starting at your own base and sprinting to another contested point that is quite far away. Once you get to where the action is, you better hope that you don’t die quickly or else you might be forced to make that long trek all over again.

The worst thing about this increased size of Battlefield 2042 is that I genuinely find the game boring. That’s not something I say lightly in any regard, as Battlefield has long been one of my favorite multiplayer franchises, but the number of memorable moments that I now find myself having within Battlefield 2042 are few and far between. A good 30-40% of my time in the main game modes just results in me running around and simply trying to find enemy players to shoot at. I cannot tell you how many times in recent weeks I have started to play Battlefield 2042 only to be met with a quick desire to turn the game off and boot up Halo Infinite instead. I don’t make this point to directly compare these two games in question, but more so just to express that Battlefield 2042 has been so mind-numbingly dull that I haven’t even wanted to play it.

One of the other big changes that Battlefield 2042 has made comes with the addition of Specialists. Rather than giving you a generic soldier to play as, the game offers up 10 different Specialists that you can select from. Each of these characters has their own class association that has been seen in other Battlefield games (Assault, Engineer, Support, Recon) to go along with their own unique abilities to set them apart.

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In a general sense, I think the idea of Specialists is fine here in Battlefield 2042, but it’s the way they’ve been implemented that I don’t love. Most of the Specialists contain abilities that I often didn’t find myself using because they just weren’t that handy. The times where I would use these “Gadgets,” as the abilities are formally called, to help shift the tide of a certain battle were essentially nonexistent. While I understand that adding Specialists to a game like Battlefield 2042 surely must be done carefully so that the experience as a whole remains balanced, I struggle to see why DICE wanted to go down this route in the first place if this is the end result.

Outside of the main 128-player fiesta that Battlefield 2042 offers, the game’s other major offering is Hazard Zone. This is a game type that is more aimed at survival rather than large-scale, all-out war. It’s basically Battlefield 2042’s response to the battle royale genre, but rather than needing to be the last team standing, you simply have to retrieve certain items called “Data Drives” that are scattered across the map before then exfiltrating after a set period of time.

After initially enjoying how Hazard Zone matches were playing out, the thing that started to rub me the wrong way with this game mode came with how weapons and gear are doled out. Rather than allowing you to choose virtually any loadout that you would prefer for a Hazard Zone match, Battlefield 2042 only gives you access to the most standard weapons and gear, unless you have currency to spend. This currency can be obtained by playing and succeeding in matches of Hazard Zone, which means that the more often you complete the objective, the better your loadout will be in future runs. In theory, it makes sense to reward players in this manner if they achieve their tasks in Hazard Zone, but it also makes the mode feel a bit unbalanced. Getting killed by someone who has access to better gear while you’re still rocking the most basic loadout imaginable got on my nerves a handful of times, and eventually wore down my desire to even play Hazard Zone.

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The last big element of Battlefield 2042, and the thing that I have had the most fun with in the game, is Portal. This is basically Battlefield’s own version of Forge from the Halo series, as it allows players to create their own custom game types that are vastly different from the main modes. It also includes a number of different weapons, maps, and other callbacks to the larger Battlefield series, specifically with Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3. Some game modes from these titles even make a return, which is great to see, since many of these games in question are hard to play on modern platforms.

While the Battlefield community is still clearly figuring out all the ins and outs of Portal, I’ve already seen a number of cool modes since launch. One game type I found was a variant on “Red Light, Green Light” from the TV series Squid Game. When this mode was in its green light phase, players would run around and try to stab one another with a knife to gain kills. Once the screen prompts you to switch to red light, you’re then given a random weapon with a single shot that you can then use to try to kill others that may be in your line of sight. Overall, this was just one of the many unique Portal game types I ran across, but it gives you an idea of how inventive this mode can be in Battlefield 2042.

The most damning thing about Portal mode, however, is that for it to be my favorite part of Battlefield 2042 shows how much DICE dropped the ball with the other game modes. When I’d rather boot up the game and play modes that the community has built from scratch over the main offerings in Battlefield 2042, that’s a pretty big problem. Still, the fact that Portal was even included in the game whatsoever should give the title more longevity in the future, assuming that it can retain a consistent community in the years to come.

Guns in Battlefield 2042 are something that I found myself disappointed with out of the gate as there is perhaps less variety than ever before. Battlefield 2042 only features 22 primary weapons in total right now, which might seem like a lot on paper, but it pales in comparison to previous entries. Battlefield 1 and V had 30 primary weapons at release, while Battlefield 4 contained over 60. And even outside the lack of variety, none of the guns that are currently in the game feel that great to use. Much of that is likely because the TTK (time to kill) in Battlefield 2042 feels longer than it should be. Although I don’t want people to drop down and die as quickly as they might in a series like Call of Duty, I have poured nearly full clips into some enemies in Battlefield 2042, only to find them still standing afterward.

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The thing I can’t quite wrap my head around with Battlefield 2042 is that it straight-up removes common features from previous installments in the franchise. Native voice chat is nowhere to be found at the moment, which makes playing game modes like Hazard Zone especially difficult when joining up with randoms. Other things that you would almost certainly expect to show up, such as a scoreboard to view your own statistics within a match, also aren’t present whatsoever. These are smaller points within the grand scheme of my issues with Battlefield 2042, but it just further stresses that I have no idea what DICE was doing when it made some of these development decisions.

Battlefield 2042 absolutely should have been pushed back by EA and DICE to some point in 2022. Instead, the version of this game that is currently available has been virtually unplayable for me at times since first releasing. Even beyond this, though, some of the key design changes that DICE has made in Battlefield 2042 don’t feel for the better. Rather than improving on the core Battlefield experience that fans loved with Battlefield 3, 4, or Bad Company 2, 2042 is a bloated husk of its former self that is trying to recapture some semblance of its previous glory. As a fan that has been playing this series for well over a decade, Battlefield 2042 is a massive disappointment that I struggle to think is even worth saving.

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Rating: 2 out of 5

Battlefield 2042 is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC platforms. A review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review and the game was played on an Xbox Series X console.

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