Battlefield 2042 Review - A Promising but Shallow Shooter

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Choosing to skip the inclusion of a campaign and focus on multiplayer isn't an especially bold one for Battlefield. As great as the single-player modes in the likes of Bad Company 2 were, the series has always been about the thrill and intensity of its large scale multiplayer battles.

Splitting Battlefield 2042's multiplayer into three dramatically different experiences is a brilliant idea, though, making DICE's game attractive to all sorts of shooter fan.

There's All Out Warfare for fans of the traditional Battlefield action, Hazard Zone has the small squad co-operation element that battle royale fans will love, and Portal is perfect for old-school fans craving a little hit of nostalgia.

As an idea and package, Battlefield 2042 is brilliant, it's just too content light and has too many flaws to beat the 2021 shooter competition right now. What's so frustrating is that there's clearly bones of a great multiplayer shooter here, it'll just likely put too many players off before it inevitably reaches its potential.

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Table of Contents

Bigger Isn't Always Better

The main advancement for Battlefield 2042 is the scale. The maps and the battles are significantly bigger than ever before, pitting up to 128 players against another team of 128 in locations from massive ports to desert cities.

Throw in the extreme weather and it really is the classic Battlefield formula turned up to 11.

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However, larger scale doesn't necessarily mean more fun and many of Battlefield 2042's core problems stem from that across the board expansion.

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The sheer size of the maps means the objectives in Conquest are really spread out. There might be upwards of 10 different points to capture, but there's still 500+ metres between them, with little of note in those open spaces.

Wandering Through Open Spaces

Orbital and Manifest are a little more interesting, but Hourglass, Renewal and others are just boring to play.

The larger open desert areas in Hourglass are so strange. It's just dunes and sky, there's nothing discarded in the sand, no cover to check out, the areas are just there to run across.

You're just trying to run from one objective to another, and if you die pretty quickly and your squad isn't in a good position, you have to do it again.

That tediousness isn't helped by the poor vehicle balancing. Some of the vehicles are too powerful - the hovercraft more than any other - but there's not many of them.

With just a few tanks and choppers to cover the whole team, the majority of players are left running about, wasting time wandering through the bland open areas.

Get and stay in the action and Battlefield 2042 is a lot of fun, but those moments are too far and few between.

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The actual act of a firefight is as great as it always has been in Battlefield, with the weapons feeling weighty and the sound being spectacular. There's some balancing to be done, with snipers being the go to option in many situations thanks to the openness of the maps, but DICE are working on those issues.

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The New Specialists System Is Interesting

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It's also worth mentioning the impact that Battlefield 2042's new Specialist features have on the action. As many Battlefield fans were, I was skeptical of the move away from the four defined classes, but it works.

Each Specialist's abilities, from a grappling hook to a wingsuit, really open up more possibilities in the action, especially those that help you get back to objectives a little faster. Using the wingsuit from the top of the tower in Orbital to reach the objective down low quickly is a thrill, especially in the midst of a hurricane.

The basic Assault, Support, Engineer, Recon class set-up is still there too, and you can somewhat ignore the Specialists if you don't want to test them out. You'll still be assigned one, but you won't have to engage with their abilities if you'd rather keep it simple and 'classic Battlefield.'

It's just a shame, though, that 2042's menus are so obtuse and difficult to navigate that I can see the more casual player not bothering with customisation or Specialist experimentation at all.

It doesn't help experimentation with simple weapon attachments either, as knowing which you have equipped and where can be an absolute pain.

As I said, though, you're just not shooting your gun often enough, or at least not for long enough once you do. The moments of quality action can be too short, with running between objectives what you'll be spending most of your time doing.

Hazard Zone Isn't a Warzone Killer

Hazard Zone, DICE's smaller squad focused mode is 2042's answer to battle royale. Following the disaster that was Firestorm, it does take more advantage of the increased scale.

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The group up, collect data drives, avoid/kill enemy teams, and extract loop is an interesting one, but much like a lot of Battlefield 2042, it's under-baked.

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As fun as it is once or twice with a dedicated set of friends, the mode suffers from the same blandness as the main multiplayer mode, and it doesn't work as a matchmake and play mode.

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It needs more objectives to work towards and more reason to hunt down other players -becoming free to play wouldn't harm it. With more players, and more dedicated ones at that, added alongside more meat to the initially interesting bone, Hazard Zone could have a future. I just don't see it surviving long after the battle royale rivals ramp up their experiences in the near future.

Battlefield Portal Is the Future... & the Past

Portal, Battlefield 2042's third and final mode is the real highlight. Taking the action back to Bad Company 2, 1942, and Battlefield 3 with really high quality remakes, it's a joy to experience what was Battlefield's hay day as I remember it.

Bad Company 2's Valparaiso is one of my favourite shooter maps of all time, with attacking through the varied terrains there always being a lot of fun, and DICE has done a great job of recapturing its magic.

For me, smaller scale Rush mode is still the best way to play Battlefield as it keeps up the pace of the action and rewards experimentation and getting involved.

The options to create your own nostalgic experiences, melding weapons and other features from each of the games into one is brilliant too. You can really develop the Battlefield game you want, all while taking advantage of the wonderful maps we know and love.

However, the problem with Battlefield Portal is two fold. First of all, once again it's quite shallow. Just two maps from each of the remade games is rather stingy from DICE. I'd rather have been treated to full remakes of each of them than the bland colossi that are the new maps.

The other side of the problem is that Portal only serves to highlight the issues with Battlefield 2042's other main modes.

The faster paced, more visually impressive, more free flowing maps and modes in Portal are so much more fun than the slog of All Out Warfare that it's all I really wanted to play.

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Smashing through game after game of Rush on just the two Battlefield: Bad Company 2 maps gave me so much more enjoyment than the hours spent on Hourglass and the like. And that's not just the nostalgia talking, they're simply more fun to play.

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Verdict

That's the main problem with 2042 as a whole. It seems to have lost what makes Battlefield so much fun. The intense, engaging shooter gameplay is still there, it's just far too diluted, and the modes that focus on what the series does best are so shallow that it's easy to lose interest after not too long.

The big empty spaces may be tough to paint over, but DICE is renowned for its ability to drastically improve games over the space of months or years. There's a great game somewhere in Battlefield 2042, but it'll need a lot of work to bring it to the forefront.

There are too many issues to distract from the great moments, and those great moments are far too limited. I believe that Battlefield 2042 will be good eventually, I just think the competition is too strong for people to still care once it is.

RealSport Rating: 3 out of 5

We played Battlefield 2042 on PS5 with code provided by EA.