It might be short of a campaign, but its three online modes show a lot of promise.
It's pretty surreal to think that Battlefield 2042 has now been released (in early access). EA adopted a bit of a curious marketing strategy this time around with it only loosely detailing the near-future shooter's three core modes and showing little in the way of gameplay. An open beta did arrive last month, but this only featured Conquest on one of its brand new maps. As a result, entering the game's review phase was initially a mystery for me, and I approached it feeling both optimistic and cautious of what to expect.
As you might know, Battlefield 2042 doesn't feature a typical single-player campaign, like many other past entries. Instead, it's comprised of three separate online experiences: All-Out Warfare, Battlefield Portal, and Hazard Zone. All-Out Warfare is your typical Battlefield online affair, as it features staples Breakthrough and Conquest; Battlefield Portal is an all-new creation suite that allows you to "change the rules of war," and Hazard Zone is a PvPvE mode that features risk for reward elements. I will be examining all of these modes in detail throughout my review, with me starting first with the All-Out Warfare portion.
First of all, for those not familiar with previous Battlefield entries, allow me to give you a brief overview of the returning modes: Conquest and Breakthrough. Conquest is a battle for territory, where players fight to control lettered zones on the map. Breakthrough, on the other hand, sees one attacking team of players push forward to try and invade all enemy territory. Those on the defending team have to resist this planned invasion and prevent the invading team from completing their objective.
The rulesets for these modes are untouched within All-Out Warfare, but some big changes have been made. The player count on new-gen consoles and PC has been upped to 128 players, and maps are more expansive to compensate for this. However, I found this change to be a bit of a double-edged sword, despite it being a key part of the game's marketing. On the one hand, it was exhilarating to see chaos breaking out all around me, but admittedly it felt overwhelming and introduced a constant sense of anxiety.
Playable Specialists have also made their debut within 2042, and despite proving to be controversial within the beta, I feel they are a change for the better. These 10 characters come with their own unique gadgets and perks, and they can be equipped with any weapon you have available. For example, Sundance can glide gracefully from the tops of buildings using a wingsuit, Falck can heal allies from a distance using a syringe pistol, and Boris can defend himself by placing down a turret. I found all of these abilities to be practical, and it was fun experimenting with what Specialists synergised well with different loadouts.
When it comes to the gunplay, my opinions remain largely the same from the recent open beta. Using some SMGs and assault rifles is like trying to aim a rapidly spraying water hose, even with an enemy standing several feet away from you. Due to this, I found myself leaning towards sniper rifles and maksmans rifles to allow for more precision, but I did miss the frantic bursts of firepower that you get from those aforementioned weapons.
The new Plus System is an absolute game changer though, as it enables you to pull up a wheel menu and swap out components, such as scopes, grips, and barrels on the fly. The perks it presents are immediately apparent - you can change your combat capabilities in an instant - but there is one slight caveat. The attachments on the wheel require allocating individually on the main menu, and this can be tedious when doing it for each weapon. I get this because you have a broad selection of modifications available, but I wish there were some default options present, so you're not just stuck if you forget to equip any beforehand.
As I touched upon earlier, Hazard Zone is a squad-based PvPvE mode that features risk for reward elements. Here squads of four are tasked with collecting data drives from fallen satellites and "extracting" them by entering a drop ship at one of two intervals. Using a tracker, players can easily scout the location of these drives, but obtaining them won't be easy, as they will have to contend with opposing squads, AI patrols, and natural disasters. The first extraction opportunity is a safer bet, but the rewards are not as plentiful, and the second window greatly rewards players, but the punishment for failure is no monetary gain.
At the start of your match, you'll spend a currency known as Dark Market Credits, and these can be obtained by extracting data drives and gunning down enemy forces. Unfortunately, these credits are often in extremely short supply, and your weapons, throwables, and overall team upgrades have a price tag attached. Your squad composition also demands consideration, as you are limited to just choosing one particular Specialist each. Here it's wise to consider which abilities blend together: A squad containing Caspar and "Dozer" could work well, for example, as Caspar could scan for enemies using his drone, and "Dozer" could then lead the charge across the battlefield using his bulky riot shield for cover.
Hazard Zone made for several tense decisions within my squad, and it was exhilarating to hurriedly jump on an airship at the end of the match, having just barely survived. However, it was disappointing to see the same seven maps from All-Out Warfare recycled here, and not new ones crafted specifically for the mode. If eliminated, you're kicked out and forced to wait for the next game, which I found increasingly frustrating, because when you're on a losing streak, you have to use subpar gear (as you don't have the Dark Market Credits to spend).
Additionally, I can see Hazard Zone being considerably less enjoyable if you're not playing with a group of friends. Communication is integral as you need to coordinate what satellites to approach next and alert your teammates of immediate threats. Sure, you can highlight these by using the scanner, but it's not as direct as speaking within a party chat. From my experience with Back 4 Blood, Sea of Thieves, and other co-op-based titles, it's not always the easiest to find a group of strangers with microphones that can all speak the same language. This issue isn't exclusive to Battlefield 2042, but in a competitive mode like this, it's fair to say that those communicating via voice chat are likely to have the upperhand.
The third and final component of Battlefield 2042 is an entirely different beast of its own. Portal is essentially a builder where players can shape their own original Battlefield match types, using a toolbox of features from past and present entries. Using a web-based platform, players can alter factors such as win conditions, the arsenal of weapons available, and the size of each team. If this sounds like too much busywork, you can always play modes designed by DICE and the community. Bizarrely, it almost feels like Media Molecule's Dreams regarding its endless replayability potential and the sense of freedom that it offers.
Another huge draw to this mode is the inclusion of maps, vehicles, and weapons from Battlefield 3, 1942, and Bad Company 2. These assets can be blended in with the more modern elements from 2042 to make for some pretty unique modes, or you can just hop in and play a classic game of Rush or Conquest. It's almost as though you have a scaled down remaster of these games bundled in with Portal, as they have been given a visual facelift, and their maps are now playable with up to 128 players (new-gen consoles and PC).
During my review session, I got to see a handful of chaotic modes created using Portal's creator tools. One that stood out to me was a free-for-all mode where players were equipped with nothing but rocket launchers. The catch here, though, was that you could only hold one rocket at a time, and to receive further ammunition, you had to jump five times. Another that we received a sneak peak of tasked players with going head-to-head using nothing but knives and defibrillators. These types of modes I can see being hilarious with a group of friends, and I can't wait to see what the community comes up with when given the tools.
EA sure took a gamble when stripping out the campaign and adopting a pure multiplayer focus, but it appears that things have paid off for the most part. Each of Battlefield 2042s three pillars feels engaging and unique, and they will hopefully be expanded upon in the future through this new live service model EA is adopting. That doesn't mean I dont have my concerns, though. Hazard Zone I can see being frustrating if you're playing solo, and some of the weapons available here are just flat out unreliable.
8 / 10
Each mode feels engaging and unique. Specialists offer plenty of flexibility. Largescale battles create a great sense of chaos.
Hazard Zone likely wont be as fun solo. Some weapons are unreliable.