We give our thoughts on the futuristic shooter's upcoming beta.
Later this week EA will open up the floodgates and allow fans to check out Battlefield 2042 for the very first time following a minor delay to its release. This beta will be rolling out across all available platforms, and it'll enable fans to play through the classic Conquest mode on a brand-new map known as Orbital. Ahead of the public beta period, we were lucky enough to sink three hours into the shooter, where we started to form our first impressions on its gunplay, vehicles, and new additions such as its customisable operatives.
As I touched upon earlier, the map I had access to was called Orbital and I was able to play it with 128 players as I was on PC (the map is limited to 64 players for those on last-gen consoles). Orbital is a map grander in scale than anything I have played in Battlefield before and it was breathtaking to look around me and see so much chaos unfolding at once. In one particular vantage spot I saw vehicles being dropped from the sky, tanks firing heavy rounds, and units scattering around on foot. I also caught a glimpse of a giant tornado sucking up players and tearing its way through the environment, but this only occurred during one match, and it was revealed later in a Q&A to only take place roughly 10% of the time.
The real focal point of Orbital is the giant rocket that is placed within its centre. Players can either try and explode the rocket or protect it so that it can blast off into orbit. There are no winning conditions relating to this, but it makes for quite a visual spectacle and its fate also changes the dynamic of the battlefield. If you explode it then those in the surrounding area will suffer the impact of the blast and the immediate area will be covered in fire and smoke. If the rocket takes off then the region will be cleared for players to land planes and helicopters.
With maps being this enormous in size (at least on PC and new-gen consoles) the option has been added for you to call in vehicles to assist with traversal. By pushing the B key you can bring up a tablet where you simply select the vehicle you want and click where you'd like it to be placed. There is a bit of a catch here though, as you can't order in heavy vehicles like tanks without proving yourself on the battlefield and building up enough points. This barrier I found to be a positive one though, as it limited the possible chaos, and it was also like a badge of honour to be seen riding around in one of them.
Within the beta build I had access to four operatives (Boris, Mackay, Casper, Falck), and I had a lot of fun experimenting with synchronising their special gadgets with certain loadout packages. For example, Mackay and his grappling hook was a perfect fit for a sniper rifle package, as you can easily reach a vantage point to then take out players from afar. Falck, on the other hand, complimented an assault package better, as her healing abilities could be used more effectively during close quarters combat where you're surrounded by allies. What I liked too was that there was scope to customise these packages even further, as you could switch your frag grenade for a proxy sensor or any other unlocked throwable equipment, for example.
This flexibility continued when out on the battlefield too, as I could swap out different parts of my weapon on the fly by pressing T and bringing up a modification wheel. Here it was lightning fast to change aspects such as my scope and barrel, and the UI presented plenty of useful information such as how it would affect stats like range and accuracy. I can see this being really handy in the heat of the moment if you've been targeted by a distant enemy after battling at close range, for example, as you could quickly take cover and then transition to a laser sight to more precisely land a shot on whoever has you pinned down.
When it came to the core shooting, things were a little hit or miss, as I found hit boxes to be imprecise and some weapons didn't function as I imagined. Assault rifles would just spray out bullets in an erratic fashion making it hard to pinpoint your foes and LMG rounds didn't seem to pack as much of a punch as I would have expected. SMGs were similarly imprecise, but this is at least somewhat forgivable due to their short-ranged nature. These criticisms aside though, the pistol and sniper rifle that I got my hands on both felt a lot more punchy and precise, and I ended up gravitating towards them as my weapons of choice.
I also encountered several graphical glitches during my playtime, but this could be due to the fact that this is an older build and more progress has been made on the game since. Often my character would be on the ground screaming for his life and his lips would not be moving. Additionally, bodies on the ground would flop around like ragdolls and flail their limbs even when they weren't being touched. Several other users also reported that icons weren't appearing to distinguish whether players were allies or foes. As I touched on before though, this isn't the final product and things may change before the full retail release.
The beta might have left me feeling divided in a couple of areas, but it's only just a part of the Battlefield 2042 pie and isn't necessarily representative of the final product. The large scale map brought with it a sense of chaos like I have never seen before in a shooter and the customisable operatives and modification wheel allowed for maximum flexibility. The new additions are nice indeed, but it's the fundamentals that have me a little concerned. Not all weapons here functioned as expected, and graphical glitches seemed to be plentiful.
The beta that we previewed is open to EA Play subscribers and those who pre-ordered the game from October 6 before opening to the general public on October 8. Battlefield 2042 is set to launch on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series on November 19.