Battlefield 2042 Review – Fun but Flawed


It’s hard to believe it’s been fifteen years since we were blessed with Battlefield 2142, and with the eagerly anticipated release of Battlefield 2042 we’re shown proof that monkey’s paws really do exist.

Battlefield 2042
Developer: DICE
Price: $60
Platform: PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X
MonsterVine was supplied with a PC code for review

Let me start with the good, which Battlefield 2042 does have a lot of. On the surface, it’s that same Battlefield gameplay you know and love with the grand army battles and spectacle the series is known for. Hiding in a building only for the wall to explode from a tank shell, or the chaos of a hurricane tearing its way through the map is something you only ever get in Battlefield. Tanks rolling over the battlefield as jets scream past you, as soldiers are screaming at each other over explosions and hails of bullets just never fails to inspire awe. In one particular battle on an arctic map, I jumped out of the helicopter that was about to explode and proceeded to wingsuit my way through tight spaces in the iceberg as people were fighting above and below me. There were countless moments where I just had to stop and watch the carnage unfold around me and for brief moments I’d think “This is why I play Battlefield, for moments like these”.

The shooting still feels great, with gunplay having a satisfying feel to it and DICE even added some much-appreciated improvements to the gameplay, like being able to call down a jeep at any point. Having to run five minutes to your objective is a thing of the past and honestly this might be my favorite change to the game. I also love the new quick-switch attachment system dubbed “plus system”. In-between matches, you can equip various attachments to a gun like multiple scopes or ammo types. When in the game itself, you can simply press a button to open up what’s basically a “weapon wheel”, but for your gun’s attachments instead and quickly swap around whatever you want. I’ve seen some polarized reactions to this new feature but I really don’t get the complaints. Being able to swap my assault rifle from a stock iron-site to a scope when I’m alternating between large and indoor environments is great. It’s the kind of quality-of-life improvement the series needed, unlike the next few changes.

Where the game starts to fall apart is in what’s probably one of the biggest changes in the series history: the removal of the class system. In previous Battlefield games, there were four classes to choose from: Assault, Support, Recon, and Engineer. This tim,e however, DICE has taken a page out of games like Call of Duty or Overwatch with the addition of Specialists. There are ten specialists all with their own unique ability, like having a grappling hook or wingsuit. And while each specialist is still listed under classic class titles, like Dozer falling under Assault, that’s mostly done purely in spirit and not actuality. Where this system really starts to fall apart in how gone are the days of a class being locked to a particular weapon set. Anyone can equip anything, and that extends to gadgets as well. And it’s this move that fundamentally kneecaps the core of what makes Battlefield work.

Call of Duty and Battlefield both have very different types of chaos. Whereas Call of Duty is chaotic at the micro-level, Battlefield is chaotic at the macro. To help with making sense of things, it was handy to be able to see an enemy player and know exactly what class they were and what loadout they likely had. Before, if I told my squad to target the enemy medic it was a simple process of simply shouting the command. Now it’s impossible to tell who the enemy medic is, as any of the Specialists can be carrying a medical syringe. On top of that, focusing on a particular player is impossible as a teammate might shout “Target the Dozer player”, but when I poke my head around the corner to peek there might be multiple Dozers.

A player could be playing as the Casper specialist, someone who you’d think is a traditional sniper character judging from their ghillie outfit. And Casper is listed under the Recon class, but that doesn’t mean you have to play them like that. I can pick Casper, but give them a shotgun/rocket launcher combo and medical syringe. I get the benefit of a ghillie suit AND an assault focused loadout? That’s every FPS game’s worst nightmare to play against. Gone are faction specific skins as well. A Specialist will look the same regardless of if they’re on the USA or Russian army, further confusing things. Before, if I was playing USA I could immediately see a Russian player and know I can target them. Now? If I see a Casper running around I’ve got to look for the little blue dot over their head, indicating they’re friendly, first. There were many times where I’d round a corner and me, or an ally, would shoot at the other person because there’s no way to immediately tell what team someone’s on. This completely cripples the way Battlefield used to play, where you relied on being able to tell what class a person was by their silhouette.

There’s a lot happening all the time in Battlefield, which is why you need to be able to make snap decisions based off simple visual information from quick glances. I can’t look at my squad and know who to request ammo from because anyone could have ammo. Or maybe nobody does. And it’s this unknown variable that makes it so players just look out for themselves, and customize a Specialist that’s focused on helping themselves, and not the squad. Oh, and if you want to play someone engineer leaning, you can’t have a repair tool and explosive equipped at the same time. If that helps give you any indication of how far down the rabbit hole of bad decisions DICE has fallen with this system.

Compounding on top of this, is the fact that the change turns Battlefield from feeling like you’re playing in an army, into feeling like you’re just surrounded by a bunch of lone wolf dipshits. This is probably the most selfish I’ve ever seen Battlefield, because unless you’re playing with friends, you’re likely to pick the Specialist most beneficial to you. If I can’t tell what my squad is rolling with, why am I going to bother picking a support setup if I might be dropped into a squad of all medics? To avoid any sort of annoying confusion, I’m just going to pick someone like the Specialist whose ability allows her to literally see through walls. An ability so good it makes you wonder why you would ever play as anyone else. Or the grapple hook Specialist, who allows you to have a whole new level of freedom of movement, but at the same time basically giving your squad the finger as you zoom away from them. There are very clear “good” Specialists and it’s a jarring experience playing a “USA vs Russia” game when it’s just the same four or five Specialists running around everywhere.

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As it currently is, Specialists only feel right in the new Hazard Zone mode. If DICE were so intent on pushing this new system, they should have instead kept the Specialists locked to Hazard Zone (with locked loadouts to the specialist playstyle). And if they felt so strongly about it, then allowing you to equip a Specialist ability on an appropriate class when in classic modes.

Also minor pivot, a PC issue is that the optimization is ASS. I don’t have some monster PC with a 3080 or something, but I’ve got a pretty powerful PC that shouldn’t be having as much issue running the game on *medium* as I’ve been having. Some serious issues with fluctuating frame rates no matter what setting you put the game on, and DLSS had absolutely zero effect on the game.

New to the series is Hazard Zone, DICE’s answer to the battle royale genre. Like all of these attempts at the genre, it has a twist to it and DICE’s new attempt at the genre turns it from a massive free-for-all into a more objective focused affair. You and your four-person squad go up against other squads as you hunt for data pads; the more datapads you acquire the bigger your reward at the end. The twist however is that you need to bring these data pads to the extraction point to successfully leave with them, and the extraction only comes twice a game in random locations. This means your team needs to strategize to gather as many data pads as you comfortably feel, to make it to one of the extraction points; all while avoiding players looking to take those data pads from you. The more you collect before extracting, the higher your reward which comes in the form of a currency you can use to buy better gear next time you play. Your credits stay with you between matches, but anything you buy in a match gets lost afterwards and you’ll have to buy into the gear again next time.

It’s a fun enough mode, especially when you have a team who’s actually trying to play correctly. This is where the specialist system starts to make sense, as you can only have one type of specialist in your team so you have to actually strategize what your squad setup is going to be. Unfortunately, the selfishness I previously mentioned is even more prevalent here as the majority of my matches consisted of people deciding to immediately lone wolf their way to an early death. Seeing a teammate immediately hop in a jeep and drive off, leaving the rest of you sitting there, is a repeat offense I saw when playing. There’s fun to be had here, but from my experience unless you have a squad of actual friends to play with I’d avoid Hazard Zone like the plague.

Portal is where the game starts to get its groove back and honestly, it’s where DICE should have really doubled down on entirely. Portal is a new mode in Battlefield where you can create custom games using elements from previous Battlefield games like 1942, Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3. To say the least, it’s a goddamn blast and I spent most of my time playing Portal matches. Not only is it a thrill to get to replay 1942 and Bad Company 2 levels again (and now with higher-end graphics) but the amount of depth DICE lets you have when creating these modes is honestly pretty surprising. The matches where you see a biplane from 1942 going off against a modern-day tank are endlessly entertaining, but there are some really neat custom games you can find if you peruse the server browser. At one point I found a Squid Games style, “red light, green light” game where during green light it was a knives only free-for-all, but the moment it became red light you had to freeze and were immediately equipped with a rifle and one bullet. Not only did you have the sudden adrenaline rush to stop your movement, else risking immediate death, but you had to spin around to find someone to shoot your single bullet at and hope you’re not in view of anyone doing the same. It’s dumb, but this is the kind of fun you can find in Portal and DICE would be wise to realize the gem they’ve uncovered here. It’s a mode that really feels like Super Smash Bros Ultimate, in terms of being a showcase for the series and its history. It should honestly be the main mode, not shoved to the side for what’s basically “okay it’s battle royale but…”.

The Final Word
There’s a lot to love with Battlefield 2042; on its surface it still delivers on those “Battlefield moments” and the new Portal mode is phenomenal. However the changes to the main competitive mode just feel like they shatter the core of what makes Battlefield tick.

 

– MonsterVine Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair



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