Battlefield 2042 Review: the most creative and chaotic yet
They've chucked the kitchen sink at this one and while not perfect, it's undeniably fun
'Dun dun dun dun dun dun'...
This past week, we've done nothing but spend our free time playing this raucous return to form. The 11th iteration serves up the familiar Battlefield craziness we know and love, only turned up to 11 and with more multiplayer possibilities brought to the table than ever.
While we'll admit there are some new aspects that take a little time to get used to and the overall package might not be fully finessed just yet, you can make no mistake this is a Battlefield game. Here is our Battlefield 2024 review.
Let's start off with what's familiar: the good, old fashioned carnage of Conquest is more chaotic than ever and, to be honest, a little overwhelming at first. With lobbies of a record 128 players, hordes of vehicles and constant explosions across expansive maps, you can be swallowed whole in the first few rounds - especially if you're out of practice like me.
That being said, once you shake off the dust, you're quickly intoxicated by the high-octane action you'll remember from previous games. The skill level is already pretty high (we have no intention of trying Battlefield 2042 crossplay) but using your squad helps and Battlefield has always been challenging anyway - it only makes each step forward that much more rewarding.
Breakthrough also remains and is more brutal than ever. While the series might have done away with Operations, this is what you get when you boil it down to its core components: wave after wave of attack until one relents. Whether you're defending or attacking, pushing on and coming down to that last stronghold feels gruelling and like a real last-ditch assault against all odds.
In these two All-Out Warfare (AOW) modes, there does seem to be some match-balancing issues - capturing the last objective on the Doha map in Breakthrough feels nigh on impossible - and there were some issues with weapon bloom and hitboxes, but patches are already coming through to fix these issues and I've had very few noticeable issues on my PS5 build.
As for the new elements, the free-form approach to the class system this time round does take some getting used to - I would recommend sitting down for a few minutes just to familiarise yourself with how the 10 new specialists work in tandem with the usual classes. It's really not that confusing once you break it down: they essentially have additional perks and abilities.
The dynamic events such as tornados, sandstorms and rocket launchpads add a real centrifugal force to the games, creating different clusters of gameplay across the landscape. The first time I saw a storm coming towards me I did stop and sh*t myself for a second - before quickly running inside a building and closing the door behind me.
Wingsuits, ziplines, vehicle airdrops and Boston Dynamics-looking robot dogs called 'Ranger'? Yep, we're here for all that. Moreover, they're just about grounded enough in reality that this futuristic setting feels believable and makes it all the more enjoyable. The ability to change attachments on the fly also comes in handy on an ever-changing battlefield.
Hazard Zone is a winner
One thing we're relieved about is that DICE and EA didn't go back to the failure of Firestorm: their take on a Battle Royale mode which just never quite got going. Instead, what they've done is much better and tried their hand at another trend in gaming - to great effect, might we add.
'Hazard Zone' is essentially Battlefield's take on Escape from Tarkov and the whole extraction/escape meets survival genre. Most importantly, it's where the game's old fashioned tenets of teamwork are deployed best. Of course, you can assemble a solid squad and all perform your roles in AOW, but this reduced 32-player mode requires you to take it more seriously and think tactics first.
You and your squad are tasked with picking up data drives, as well as uplinks that allow teammates and vehicles to be called in, all as you race against the clock to reach the extraction point and be airlifted to safety. It also integrates a kind of round-based killstreak: the more you pick up and enemies you take out, the more money you have to spend on equipment in the next game.
Moreover, the intricacies of each specialist with their unique perks and abilities shine through most here, as every additional trait you can bring to the party gives you an advantage over the other teams and given that you work as a much smaller unit than in other modes, every little helps to keep you cooperating and working efficiently during the genuinely tense countdown.
Portal: a toybox in a time-machine
That being said, if AOW speaks for itself and Hazard Zone is the more strategic and serious mode, then Battlefield 'Portal' is the superlative and often sillier sandbox that not only captures the quintessence of what the series is about but it goes much further by letting you create the kind of experience you want. The aspects you think might be missing, they're here.
For those die-hard fans of the franchise who might take some convincing when it comes to the new aspects, this is the place for you. Portal packs some of the best highlights from the games down the years, starting from Battlefield 1942 and Bad Company 2, right up to BF3 and 2042. You can mix and match them all or build them just as you remember them.
Put simply, this is an entirely customisable game mode where different eras of warfare collide for some of the daftest face-offs we've ever seen - hence 20 robots versus one guy and so on. We've had 'x rules only' for years, but the specificity here is crazy: you can fine-tune everything from the classic maps and weapons to projectile speed, weather conditions, the HUD and so much more.
People are already creating some seriously addictive servers just from the launch content and we're sure more will be added over time - maybe even stuff from BF1, V and Hardline? Portal is not only a crowd-pleaser that can provide the safety of firm favourites like Rush on BF3 (yes, it's still there), but it also provides you with a plethora of ways to play the game how you enjoy it most.
Visuals & Audio
Battlefield games have always delivered a high level of audio-visual realism and fidelity and things are no different here. It's just as graphically impressive as it has always been and is clearly pushing the power of next-gen hardware just to render the sheer mass of stuff on the screen - can only imagine how crisp it looks on PC.
I've spotted a few early issues such as players on the ground floating instead of running as you parachuting down from way up high, but the animations soon catch up and it's understandable given the size of the battlefield. Other than that, I had one opening cutscene stutter on me slightly but only once in a good 15+ hours, so nothing major for me.
As for audio, it's as good as ever. In fact, as the timer ticks down, the soundtrack is so imposing at times that it nears almost Hanz Zimmer-levels of uncomfortable, taking the overall sound design beyond the usual beats of suspense and epicness to somewhere new entirely - a pleasant surprise for a series that already has an iconic soundscape.
The missing piece of the puzzle
As much fun as I'm having (and, trust me, I am - even with some minor bugs and dying every 30 seconds), there is one gaping hole left in my heart due to one decision made this year: no campaign. While they do give some background in the intro as to the wider context surrounding your online skirmishes, it can't replace a fully-fledged single-player narrative.
The franchise has had some truly compelling campaigns down the years: Bad Company 2, 3 and 4 - this particular series simp even wrote his dissertation on Battlefield 1's ground-breaking 'War Stories' format. So to arrive at this latest entry without a campaign is heartbreaking, I can't lie. That, along with a few areas that need some more polish, is why I can't score it any higher.
At first glance, Battlefield 2042 is chaos incarnate and we are absolutely not complaining about that; at worst it's an FPS with some teething problems that will no doubt be rectified soon. At best, it's a gargantuan, fast-paced and varied shooter meets sandbox trying to evolve and a few patches away from being up there with the best in the series in terms of multiplayer.
We sorely miss a campaign and can only hope it's something the devs and EA consider, or at least try to integrate more into the online experience. Nevertheless, there is evolution here, Hazard Zone is different and fun; Portal is a real selling point that offers so much more than tried and true gameplay, and the return to a modern setting feels unmistakably Battlefield.
It feels like we're back at college again, rushing home to log far too many hours and get far too little sleep. So, get some practice in, get yourself a squad and go wild.
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