It’s safe to say that Battlefield 2042 got off to a bit of a rocky start, with lukewarm early reviews and players with early access to the game complaining about a variety of issues. We decided to test things out for ourselves with the console versions of the game, after having played previous entries on PC.
We already knew that, unlike Call of Duty: Vanguard, Battlefield 2042 wasn’t going to have a single player campaign. We were still curious what its approach to multiplayer was going to be though, as we haven’t been able to see it at trade shows this year and didn’t partake in the earlier beta either. The answer, in a nutshell, is that the developer at DICE are opting for scale this time around – the bigger, the better, which is where it harkens back to the epic battles of Battlefield 1942 and where it distinguishes itself from Vanguard as well.
To illustrate that, we’d go so far as to strongly discourage traversing an entire map on foot. To be effective in combat, you’re going to have to hop into a vehicle – a staple of the series, but very much at the forefront in 2042. And while this can make for thrilling moments when your vehicle comes under attack or you arrive in the nick of time to save the day, the large maps can also feel rather empty at times. This is especially clear when you choose to go on foot anyway, but also has to do with the fact that players don’t seem to be evenly divided across maps – some gameplay and balance tweaks would be welcome in that respect.
Another area where many of these maps need work is in how they handle their spawn points – which because of the open nature of most maps can result in you immediately taking fire and a quick death, sometimes before you’re even able to get your bearings. There are no doubt issues that will be fixed post-release, but you can’t help but feel that Battlefield 2042 needed a bit more development time and polish before being shoved out the door in time for the holiday push.
It’s visually spectacular though, especially for a multiplayer-only title. While single player campaigns can rely on set pieces for dramatic effects, Battlefield 2042 introduces extreme weather like tornados and sandstorms – which are especially marvelous when playing on a next gen system hooked up to a surround sound audio setup. When one of those pops up on a map, you’ll momentarily forget that that piece of the map you were on was actually quite bland just a few moments ago.
Another balancing issue has to do with teamwork – or the lack thereof. We were playing in the Early Access phase and, not having others to team up with, were paired with random teammates, who as a result didn’t cooperate very well. In part, we couldn’t blame them, because there’s no voice chat to help you do it either, but the end result of feeling all alone in what’s meant to be a cooperative multiplayer game wasn’t great.
While those are core elements that need serious improvements, Battlefield 2042 also brings a few new and exciting things to the table. Portal mode, for instance, is excellent. It has little to do with Valve’s classic franchise, but has everything to do with the ability to customize Battlefield’s various gameplay modes. Built-in presets include throwbacks to classics in the franchise like Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 3, and because they don’t suffer from the lack of polish that 2042 does they feel like a warm bath.
Outside of Portal mode, Hazard Zone is a team-based option that brings intense scenario-driven gameplay with it – with you and your team going after data that needs extracting. Voice chat would definitely make this better, and since it’s just you and four teammates we don’t get why it’s not already in there as the norm, even when playing with strangers – the game defaults to text chat, which we hardly ever saw anyone use. Again, we’re convinced this will be great down the line, but it could have been better at launch – especially for those of us who have to rely on matchmaking.
Remember how we mentioned that we didn’t take part in the Beta? Having played the release build of Battlefield 2042, we feel like we did after all. It has the foundations of a great game, and Portal mode should give it tons of lasting appeal, but we’ll check back at the end of the year to see if it fulfilled its promise.