‘Battlefield 2042’: A series veteran’s first impressions


Poster for “Battlefield 2042” from IMDB

The highly anticipated latest entry in the “Battlefield” series, “Battlefield 2042,” launched into open beta on Oct. 6. While the game’s full launch is not due for another month, this early release has provided hundreds of thousands of players with the chance to get their hands on the next generation of “Battlefield” for the first time. I’ve played every game in the “Battlefield” series since the first, and I was able to spend a lot of time with the “Battlefield 2042” beta in the brief period that it was available. Here are my honest first impressions as a grizzled series veteran.

I should begin by outlining my disdain for the series’ previous outing: “Battlefield V.” The game’s notoriously insulting and tone-deaf marketing campaign, its contemptuously laughable depiction of World War II and its appalling lack of content at release have all ensured that “Battlefield V” remains one of the most contentious and generally disliked in the whole series. My view is more or less in line with the consensus of the community.

And yet booting up “Battlefield 2042” for the first time, it comes as such a gut punch to see how little of the previous entry’s DNA remains. For all its faults, “Battlefield V” in its eventually patched state looked like heaven and played smooth as butter. So why is it that “Battlefield 2042” seems to look and play worse than its controversial predecessor? It’s as though DICE, the studio behind the “Battlefield” games, heard the negative feedback and figured it’d be best to scrap just about everything — not even retaining the things that did work from “Battlefield V.”

And yet, many of the more dubious designs introduced in “Battlefield V” remain intact in “Battlefield 2042” or have even been expanded upon. Simple tasks such as reviving fallen allies have been rendered more janky and laborious. Why “fix” what isn’t broken? The flamboyant cosmetic personas of “Battlefield V” return in “Battlefield 2042” in the form of “specialist” characters which replace the series’ long-standing class system. These are essentially watered-down classes; each specialist is a unique character with a backstory, a well-defined appearance and a small set of passive abilities and unique equipment.

In the open beta, there are only four of these specialists to choose from — on servers with up to 128 players, I might add. This is exactly as hilarious as it sounds. Battles frequently unfold between units which consist of the same character on both sides. Oftentimes you’ll lose track of who’s friend and who’s foe amidst the chaos, and the game draws no clear distinction between which specialists are on your team and which are enemies until the dust has already settled. The “Battlefield” games have never been renowned for their visual clarity, but that such an integral part of the experience could have been so botched in this way is frankly remarkable. And for this to be our replacement for the class system is frankly unacceptable.

I’m of the mind that the “Battlefield” games haven’t been conducive to meaningful team play since “Battlefield 2.” But this change snuffs out the final bit of life that anyone could’ve argued the series’ tactical side may have still had in it. Squad play no longer exists. Everyone on your team is the same idiot with the same goofy player model and an effectively random selection of weapons and gadgets. If you need any health or ammo, good luck finding it amidst the cacophony of “Boris” and “Mackay” clones, any of which could have any assortment of equipment items on them. How this lunacy even made it past the design document let alone all the way to the open beta is sincerely beyond my comprehension.

As I mentioned, classes are gone. This would’ve been egregious enough by itself. But the laundry list of missing features only begins here. Dying on the ground and waiting for a revive? You’ll never know if a medic’s on the way because the ‘distance to medic’ indicator from previous games has been removed. The map screen has been removed. The scoring system and leaderboards have been gutted. Movement and melee takedowns have both been overhauled, and neither for the better. The chat wheel is not present. Leaning appears to have been removed.

These are only the missing features which I can recall off the top of my head. Players have taken to Reddit in highlighting countless more in addition to the game’s technical instability. While the beta build we were given was allegedly several months old, these are critical features nowhere to be seen, and are not to be brushed away with the “beta” excuse a month out from release.

That all being said, I promised my honest first impressions. And honestly? In spite of all that, I very much enjoyed my time with the beta. Even more so than “Battlefield 4,” dare I say it. While the game struggles with something of an identity crisis, there are two key elements of the “Battlefield” experience that “Battlefield 2042” succeeds in providing to greater effect than most, if not all other games in the series: scale and spectacle.

The game’s gargantuan maps, which seem to dwarf even the classic “Battlefield 1942” maps of old, the increased player count from 64 to 128 (in spite of the inclusion of bots in multiplayer matches; another of the game’s many annoyances) and some impressive setpieces all come together brilliantly to create a “Battlefield” that I simply found fun as hell to play. Oh, and that tornado might be even cooler than the zeppelin crash from “Battlefield 1.”

I don’t want to dwell too much on any of that, though. The fact of the matter is that the game appears severely lacking in too many crucial areas; I’ve got to show it tough love. There’s a hell of a lot of potential here, and the “Battlefield Portal” mode not available in the beta will be essential to the game’s success and longevity. All they have to do is deliver on what was promised. For now, while there’s plenty of cause for concern, I look forward in earnest to the game’s full release. Come on DICE, make us not embarrassed to be “Battlefield” fans again.