Coming from D.I.C.E. and EA is this year’s entry into the Battlefield franchise, and much to my disappointment, it isn’t Bad Company 3. Whatever happened to Haggard, Sarge and the rest? Will we ever find out? Anyways, 2021’s Battlefield option is that of Battlefield 2042. Buckle up, we’re going straight in.
First off, I have to nail my colours to the wall and state that I am a big fan of the Battlefield games, mostly as I much prefer their campaign and more balanced multiplayer over the closest competitors. However, this time around there has been a very strange decision made: the removal of the single player campaign altogether. Yes, you heard me right, if you are looking for a story to play, you’d best look elsewhere, like that other franchise – Call of Duty. This does seem to be a little short sighted to me, as the campaigns of the various games have been where many have traditionally started playing Battlefield, before progressing onto multiplayer. With the move to the “War Stories” model in the last two games – Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V – it did appear that a narrative experience was alive and well. But now it’s dead.
So, what takes the place of the campaign then, I hear you ask? Well, weirdly, for a multiplayer game there does appear to have been a lot of work done on the story behind Battlefield 2042, with short stories, videos and an entire universe created. We are “No-Pats”, a fighting force created after a lot of the world seems to have been destroyed by climate change, and as such, the only two superpowers left, Russia and the USA, have taken to using “No-Pats” as mercenaries to do their fighting for them.
When you boot up 2042, there are three main options for you to choose from. All Out Warfare is the main multiplayer mode, and comes in two flavours. Conquest is the classic Battlefield experience, catering for 128 players battling it out on huge maps over a number of flags. Each side has a fixed number of respawn tickets, and if you hold a majority of flags, the opponents tickets drain quicker, in addition to the kills you inflict on their forces. Breakthrough is a smaller game, with 64 players, and seems to be a mixture of Rush and Conquest. The objective is to capture a series of points, thus forcing the defenders back to the next sector, as in Rush. However, you capture the points by having more of your soldiers in the capture zone than the enemy, like Conquest. Defenders have unlimited tickets, but the attackers have a limited number – lose them all and it’s a loss, capture all the zones and it’s a win. Clear so far?
Now, there is a top tip I can share with you here, that doesn’t seem to be advertised very much in the game: you don’t have to play with the rest of the world in either of these modes. By selecting All Out Warfare, then pressing the X button, you can change from online multiplayer to solo/co-op play, and the rest of the server will be populated by bots. This is a great way to learn the maps, learn how various guns handle, and the details you need for the various specialists you can choose to operate and so on. Nicely, you can choose how deadly you want the AI to be, and best of all, it appears that all Battlefield 2042’s achievements can be unlocked in this mode too.
Hazard Zone is the next option on the multiplayer menu, and this is played in a squad of four, facing off against a mixture of AI bots and real people. The objective is to find and obtain data drives from what looks like crashed satellites – collect as many as you can, and then extract with the drives to win. Everyone else on the field is trying to stop you doing this, and it is basically a meat grinder just trying to stay alive. This is a new experience for me, and while the usual problems like non-chatting teammates still blight the action, it is an interesting mode to get to grips with.
Last but definitely not least is the much vaunted Battlefield Portal mode. Here, you can play Battlefield the way that you want to play, provided that there is enough server capacity to create your ideal game. As an example, I have built a server that allows us to play Conquest using some of the Bad Company 2 maps and the Bad Company 2 vehicles and soldier classes. Other servers have Battlefield 1942 soldiers fighting 2042 soldiers, which goes about as well as you’d expect. You can specify loadouts, so one team can be armed only with knives, for instance, while the other team has guns (there’s quite a few like that). You can have increased health, increased damage, and it’s possible to tweak your server to be your ideal match. You can even make it so that you are the only player. It’s certainly possible to have a lot of fun in this mode.
Graphically, Battlefield 2024 looks amazing on an Xbox Series X, with draw distances seemingly to the moon, no slowdown or lag as you charge about the place, and everything just appearing to be rock solid. Even the old maps from previous games look great nowadays after a brush with the HD stick, and Caspian Border has never looked so good. Sound wise it’s all very good as well, with the noises of war all present and correct: guns, tanks, jets and so on all sounding awesome. Presentation wise at least, Battlefield 2042 is very good indeed.
Gameplay is a matter of two halves, sadly. Gunplay and general combat are as excellent as always, and the majority of the vehicles behave exactly as you would hope. The exception are the tanks, as whilst they are okay to drive from an outside viewpoint, you’ll struggle to hit a smaller target than the side of a barn as the gun seems to wave around like a conductor’s baton. Changing to an inside view makes it easier to aim, but harder to drive – and in Battlefield, a stationary tank is a sitting duck.
Another issue I have is at the end of a match, when you have just found the perfect server in Portal mode and want to carry on playing in it, it kicks you out and you have to try to find the server you want through the browser again. This is needlessly annoying. You can add to that some odd things on the battlefield, like barrel-rolling tanks, extreme lag spikes and soldiers vanishing from sight, only to reappear behind and fill you full of holes. But hey, it’s a Battlefield game and I’m sure a flawless Battlefield launch is one of the signs of the end of the world. A good point for Battlefield is that it doesn’t currently have a Battle Royale mode, but I have a sneaky suspicion that one isn’t far away.
In conclusion, Battlefield 2042 is far from perfect, but it isn’t bad. It’s fun to fight and it’s great to be able to drive vehicles across huge maps. Hell, it’s even enjoyable to crash a jet into some unsuspecting soldier on the ground. There are bugs, but patches are planned so hope should be held. In the meantime, Battlefield Portal is almost worth the price of admission itself.
Grab a download of Battlefield 2042 from the Xbox Store