Battlefield 2042 has moments of brilliance in the base game and Battlefield Portal certainly hits all my nostalgia strings, but I can’t help but feel this needed another six months of refinement, especially with cross-play.
Ever since those early days in 2002 when my Dad bought home Battlefield 1942 from one of his Singapore business trips, I’ve been a huge fan of the Battlefield series. That iconic music gives me nostalgia every time I hear it and my favourites of the series are Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3. When I played the intro mission for Battlefield V, I was grinning like an idiot driving the tank across the desert when the music kicked in. I’ve loved the series over the years despite there being a few duds in the series (I’m looking at you Hardline). However in recent years, with Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V forgoing a story campaign in favour of story missions, and now Battlefield 2042 not having a campaign at all, my interest in the series is unfortunately wavering. Having spent almost two weeks playing all facets of Battlefield 2042, I’m left feeling rather neutral about it.
Developed by DICE with Ripple Effect Studios, EA Gothenburg, and Criterion Games assisting development, and published by Electronic Arts, Battlefield 2042 officially released on November 19, 2021 for PC, PlayStation and Xbox, though early access commenced on November 12. The heavy blow of the game having no campaign was months ago, and at first I wasn’t happy, but given the hype the multiplayer gameplay trailers revealed as they announced Battlefield Portal, and gave several nods to some epic moments from the series over the years, I was becoming ok with no campaign. When returning character Kimble “Irish” Graves from Battlefield 4 was shown, I was hopeful we’d see some form of story elements in the game. RIP to Michael K Williams who is no longer with us, and hearing his voice each time in the game’s briefings reminds me of this fact each time – a legend gone too soon.
Irish is a specialist in the game, a former United States Marine, alongside other specialists such as Navin Rao, an Indian hacker who can bring down enemy networks, Santiago “Dozer” Espinoza, an anti-tank specialist, Emma “Sundance” Rosier, a French aerial specialist who has a wingsuit, to Maria Falck, a German medic who shoots healing darts. There are ten specialists in total and could have been made so much more memorable had there been a campaign, or at least playable story missions. Because right now, I play Falck exclusively given she’s a medic and shooting heals at my teammates is a lot of fun, but aside from her accent, she’s just a skin for my favourite medic class.
I don’t know her story, nor anyone else’s except for Irish because he was in the BF4 campaign. Irish had a short film clip released back in August called ‘Exodus‘ and this was awesome, not only because we recently lost such an outstanding actor, but the snippet at his character’s overall story in this new near-futuristic setting was exciting and action packed. I would have loved to have played out that story in-game, but there’s none of that. What I can do is go to the official Battlefield website and read a bit more about each specialist, but I shouldn’t have to leave the game to learn more about characters I’m playing. Many games have in-game codex listing all in-game lore, character backgrounds, location history, amongst other things. I would have preferred to read about this backstory within the game’s client.
Another factor here is that I love playing a medic in all Battlefield games – it’s my go to class selection. Unless I’m getting snipered, or blown up by excessive tanks or planes, that will force me to get some revenge and go sniper or anti-tank. However in Battlefield 2042, I have played the other specialists, but due to my lack of skill I am always going back to the medic specialists, and Falck is just so much better with her healing gun. This brings me to Battlefield Portal though where we go back to the golden era of Battlefield. Regardless of the game era, I can just choose Medic straight away with no fuss, and it feels so familiar.
From the website, ‘Battlefield Portal is a love letter to the most long-standing fans of the franchise. Experience the nostalgia of past Battlefield games, combined with the cutting-edge tech of Battlefield 2042 in fights where anything can happen.’ Seeing the option to play missions from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 filled me with great nostalgia. Clicking each of these from the base Portal menu instantly took me back to those eras. When I played a Bad Company 2 map and went to throw a grenade, I saw the yellow smiley face on the pin and almost self-naded as I was nerding out about that little symbol bringing back so many memories. The weapons also felt awesome and familiar.
When you jump into one of these games, you’re taken back to when we just had basic soldier classes like assault, engineer, medic and support. It’s just simple – choose a class, choose your spawn point and then do your job. Doing this while playing on memorable iconic maps is definitely the highlight of the Battlefield 2042 experience for me. However, with the good comes the bad of those times. Tanks and planes were always supreme powers. They can be taken out by good anti-tank classes, but far out do they dominate like they did all those years ago. Same with snipers, the good snipers will remember all the old hiding spots, and far out are they as accurate as ever.
El Alamein is a classic map from Battlefield 1942 but it’s made for tanks and planes. Me as a medic running between locations, only to be blown to smitherines by a distant tank is my own fault, but it’s exactly how it was back in 2002. This is a good thing, it’s what we wanted, I’m just stubborn and would rather run across the open desert than jump in a tank or plane. That’s all on me and I should git gud, but that’s how I play. So maps that are huge and open have always annoyed me. Maps that have terrain, hills, dugouts to duck into, close quarters combat is my forte and where I personally excel. I hope the developers expand Portal mode to add-in more old maps. Right now, it’s given me some great nostalgia and I actually want to reinstall and play those old games, but for longevity of Battlefield 2042, I’d rather see more old maps added into the rotation to keep me clocking hours in this game.
That brings me back to the base Battlefield 2042 game. As mentioned, cross-play and cross-progression is available, allowing players from different platforms to play together which is a first for the Battlefield series. Cross-play is restricted to console generations however, meaning Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 users can play together but cannot play with Xbox One and Playstation 4 players, and vice versa. PC players can cross-play with Xbox Series X|S and Playstation 5, but PC and Console players have the option of opting out of playing together. With these limitations, server numbers are 128-player battles, the biggest number in the series, however this number is limited to PC, Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 players. Those on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will be limited to 64-player matches, and I am happy with how this plays out.
Destructive environments make a return from Battlefield 4, with huge city towers tumbling down onto unsuspecting soldiers on the ground, myself included the first time. I had to laugh when it happened to me, even though I could hear metal scraping around me before it came crashing down. The addition of weather elements deteriorating with rain and strong winds, signifies the presence of a tornado that drops onto the battlefield. When I saw this in the trailers, I thought back to Just Cause 4 which also featured tornadoes. However the ones in Battlefield 2042 are awesome sights to behold. You can also use the wingsuit and slingshot yourself back up into the air to change position on the battlefield. It’s a very cool mechanic and looks incredible.
In terms of game modes, Battlefield 2042 has three major modes – All-Out Warfare, Hard Zone and Portal. Portal is great as previously mentioned, though it does get weird when players use say Battlefield Bad Company 2 soldier classes and weapons in a new Battlefield 2042 map. It just feels strange and I prefer the stock-standard nostalgic options available. All-Out Warfare features both conquest and breakthrough modes which we’re familiar with. There are six new maps and all of them feel almost too big. I know we are playing in 128-player servers and these maps have been designed to experience mini-battles within the overall larger battle arena.
There’s just a lot of empty space, especially if your team is holding majority of control points. As a soldier, specifically as Falck or any specialist without the wingsuit or grappling hook, I’m running forever, or getting killed by a tank, helicopter, hovercraft or sniper and respawning closer to the action. The grappling hook certainly makes the action a hell of a lot quicker and was my go to specialist selection if I wanted a break from healing/resurrecting. Again, any map that had close quarters zones were what I enjoyed the most. I still got sniped from what felt like impossible shots, but a quick press of ‘Q’ alerted my teammates to their position and they were dealt with pretty quickly.
I do like the fact that we have cross-play enabled in these multiplayer matches, and it shows who is a console player versus PC in your squad list. But where oh where is the overall score board? I know I’m a bad Battlefield player, but sometimes I have moments of brilliance and it’s encouraging to see you and your squad mate’s names climbing the scoreboard, especially if you’re playing with real life mates. At present, I can’t see that, only my squad and how our squad ranks which doesn’t really matter compared to how all players are ranking, in my opinion. It’s a small thing, but is strange why a series main-stay has been altered/seemingly removed. Even in the post-match screens, you never get to see how you ranked overall.
Despite all the negative experiences, I’m still playing the game every couple of days. I do like the ‘T’ system of hot-swapping out weapon attachments, but it takes a long time to unlock different components other than scopes. The in-game menu system for changing attachments is also quite confusing and fiddly. Above all though, this is a new and modern FPS at the heart of it all, and sometimes that’s just what I feel like playing. However my system handled most of what Battlefield 2042 threw at me, aside from a few intermittent crashes meaning lost progression, as well as a number of times where I couldn’t end my life and respawn, it just stuck in the death scene while players ran around me.
Some others mates who have older CPU’s though, are having a much worse experience. DICE have acknowledged that older CPU’s are indeed having issues, and they’re aware of this fact, but other more pressing issues are being focused on. So for those with lesser system requirements, you’ll unfortunately have to wait a few more weeks to get better gameplay performance, which is not ideal. The next major Battlefield 2042 update is locked in for November 25 as Electronic Arts looks to fix weapon bloom, nerf Hovercrafts and Nightbirds, and improve gameplay performance across the board. More roadmap details can be read in the latest Battlefield Briefing published earlier today.
Overall, I gave the game a 7/10. Battlefield 2042 has moments of brilliance in the base game and Battlefield Portal certainly hits all my nostalgia strings, but I can’t help but feel this needed another six months of refinement, especially with cross-play. I feel a huge missed opportunity having specialists there but no in-game story missions, or even a codex, to make us care about them. The short film Exodus was great, particularly as we lost a legendary actor in Michael K Williams. Hopefully in 6-12 months we can be playing a better overall Battlefield experience with some refinement – time will tell.
This review utilised an Origin key provided by EA Australia. Battlefield 2042 is available now on Origin, Steam, PlayStation and Xbox.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis