As the seventeenth game in the Battlefield franchise, you would think that both EA and Dice would have this down to a fine art by now, but that clearly isn’t the case.
Coming in with a ridiculously buggy launch and even now seeing more updates pouring in to fix the bugs, Battlefield 2042 clearly needed more time, though all the time in the world couldn’t have improved upon those 128-player matches.
But even with a rocky start, I can’t help but admit that this game grew on me the longer I played. Although I personally still struggle with the concept of charging people AAA prices for a game that is entirely multiplayer.
I’ve played Battlefield 2042 on PC for the last few weeks to see whether it’s worth trying out after its controversial launch. Here are my thoughts.
- Huge 128-player maps can feel overwhelming
- Difficult to feel part of a team in Breakthrough
- Weapons and gadgets are fun to use
The main mode on Battlefield 2042 is All-Out Warfare, which is made up of both Conquest and Breakthrough. This features the more traditional Battlefield experience, though this souped-up variation offers up to 128 players across a map when you’re playing on a next-gen console or on PC.
At launch, this mode was pretty much unplayable due to the server issues. However, I want to give DICE credit for patching and fixing a lot of the bugs since its launch (even if the patches are still rolling out).
Currently, playing both Conquest and Breakthrough is a lot easier to handle with 128 players, though I wouldn’t say its massive player count correlates to its capacity for fun. I was hoping for the maps to be more impressive, considering the size, though a lot of the layouts were pretty formulaic and not particularly innovative, which is a shame when you consider the maps in Call of Duty: Vanguard, which can be influenced by players for a more unique gameplay experience.
The giant player count is a double-edged sword too; I was either completely surrounded by enemies without hope of surviving, or I was running through a massive empty map for minutes trying to find some action before the game ended.
This issue was more acute when playing in Conquest mode, which focuses on capturing and defending Control Points scattered around the map. Since you’re actively trying to capture different areas on the map without a plan, it’s expected that your team will scatter and split into different directions.
In 2042, maps are so big that it’s really easy to lose track of your team, as the Capture Points could be quite far away from where you’re currently based. This means that you’re less able to work as a unified team, and unless you’ve planned for someone to lead your 128-player gaggle beforehand, it gets frantic quickly.
I found this mode pretty lacklustre and not recognisable as a Battlefield experience. I could have been in any FPS running around like a headless chicken while my team tried to figure out a plan, and while I can appreciate the ambitious scale of the maps, the core teamwork element of Battlefield was completely lost.
Elsewhere, the Breakthrough mode sees your team of 128 or 64 split into smaller groups that will go head-to-head as one team aims to attack and capture the map, as the other defends. Considering my distaste for Conquest, Breakthrough is surprisingly similar, with the main differentiating factor being that you can only capture one area of the map at a time before you move on, rather than offering up the whole map for the taking.
The limitation of only being able to move forward after you’ve captured a specific area was much preferred; gameplay didn’t feel as frantic, as it was more obvious where you had to go. There were also significantly fewer instances of me running across barren areas looking for something to do, which is obviously less boring but also adds to the overall teamwork element Battlefield is known for.
Breakthrough was more focused on how you played as a unit, which better captures the essence of the Battlefield series. I felt like I was actually servicing my team, and since we were always so close to each other, the revive feature was actually useful.
In terms of weapons, I wasn’t blown away but the loadout I had could get the job done. The selection was fairly limited but the weapon customisation enabled me to change out the likes of ammo type or scope to better fit my playstyle.
The vehicles and gadgets available were a lot more fun, with the option of releasing a Ranger Robot Dog or calling in a helicopter to defeat those pesky enemies hiding on top of buildings. There was a lot of fun to be had here and some genuine moments of pride when my team managed to defeat the opposition.
- Features smaller 32-player matches
- Can only unlock new gear by winning games
- Best mode for teamplay
In a big twist to All-out Warfare, Hazard Zone takes you away from sprawling maps with over 100 players and brings it back to tight gameplay in a small squad.
There are 32 players in each match (24 for those playing on last-gen consoles), divided into groups of four. Your job is to scour the map for data points while battling it out with other players, as well as the AI. The mix of AI and real-life players made this mode a lot more entertaining, as you weren’t having to rely on crossing paths with players on the other side of the map to get a little bit of shooting action.
Hazard Zone is my personal my favourite mode, but there are some glaring issues. When I first started playing, I had very few weapons at my disposal; just an assault rifle, grenade and a data scanner. And the only way to gain credits, which are used to improve your loadout, is to make it to the end of the game and extract yourself from the map.
So if you’re ripping through enemies and winning all your matches, you will have no issues building up your credits. However, if you lose your mission, you’ll receive zero credits, which left me in an annoying cycle of being constantly outmatched by the other players who had better weapons.
This limits Hazard Zone in terms of accessibility, as more skilled players are likely to gain more credits and continue on their trajectory of success, while less skilled players are left in the lurch. Luckily, I was eventually able to climb my way up and upgrade my weapons to be more substantial, but this could easily put people off this mode.
These issues, and the formulaic approach to the mode, does mean that Hazard Zone can get a little stale after a while. It doesn’t have the frantic and rushed energy that All-Out Warfare has, but I found that learning the ropes and bouncing off of your team members was more fulfilling, even if the end goal is pretty simple: get the data drives, kill anyone you see, and get out as quickly possible.
- Provides access to older maps and classes
- Matches can be designed by the community
The Portal mode in Battlefield 2042 brings in weapons, vehicles, classes and maps from previous Battlefield titles, including Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, Battlefield 1942 and of course, Battlefield 2042.
The ability to choose maps from previous games, such as the fan-favourite Rush from Bad Company, with improved graphics and sometimes improved mechanics, is the perfect example of fan service done well.
You can also tweak simple elements in the game to make it more interesting, or develop triggers that will cause massive explosions and tornados mid-game.
Trading out my usual gun for a rocket launcher and calling in the aforementioned tornados to blow away enemies was incredibly satisfying. Out of the three modes, this one stayed fresh the longest.
My favourite part of Portal was playing the maps made by other players; think Super Mario Maker but with guns instead of Goomba. It’s great to see what other people in the Battlefield community are capable of, and there was more of an emphasis on teamwork here which is great to see.
This mode wasn’t my top pick, but it was refreshingly different to both All-Out Warfare and Hazard Zone, adding more variety to the multiplayer modes on offer.
Should you buy it?
You’re a Battlefield fan that want to try out 128-player maps:
The most exciting feature of Battlefield 2042 is the scale of the maps, with up to 128 players in each match. There are many issues with this mode, as maps can feel both overcrowded and empty depending on where you spawn. But if you’re desperate to play a game at such a scale, it’s worth checking out.
You want a campaign mode:
The price is slightly hard to swallow when you consider that you’re only getting multiplayer experiences here. While the patch updates are fixing the ongoing issues, not everyone will be happy paying for what was arguably an unfinished product.
All in all, Battlefield 2042 has been a real labour of love for me. The initial launch was remarkably underbaked, but I can’t deny the enjoyment that comes from firing a rocket launcher into a tornado. This may not be the best FPS multiplayer game available, and there are still plenty of issues that need ironing out, but there are occasionally some thrilling moments that you won’t be able to experience in the likes of Call of Duty or Fortinte.
It remains frustrating having to pay full price for a multiplayer game, but if you’re already a fan of the franchise and don’t mind missing out on the campaign, you’ll likely enjoy yourself here. The nostalgic aspect of Portal mode will also draw fans in, and of course, the 4K graphics make it very pretty game, even if it has its cracks.