Battlefield 2042 is a shallow, feature-lacking mess of a game that appeals to neither long-time franchise fans nor newcomers.
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The release of Battlefield 2042 on November 19th should have been a joyous occasion for fans of the franchise. Instead, what the world received was a broken mess of a game that has long-standing "legacy" features removed, barren maps, and a tone that was often at odds with itself. Even after receiving three major post-launch updates, there is very little here that can be salvaged from the existing husk of a game that wouldn't require a complete overhaul of several key aspects. Sure, it's a huge step up from the open beta, but then again, that wasn't exactly the highest bar to have set.

The Battlefield franchise has always been a big sandbox-style military shooter. The game always boasted huge player counts and maps that were often seen as playgrounds for creative players. The core of the game was this focus on "all out warfare" that offered a mix of vehicular combat alongside boots on the ground infantry combat. In some ways, that still holds true in Battlefield 2042, but this release feels like the heart is missing. The game feels like a sanitized empty shell of what once made the franchise a popular alternative to the Call of Duties of the world. Those expecting an experience akin to Battlefield 3 or Battlefield 4 should look elsewhere.

The latest release from DICE and EA takes place in the near future, in a world ravaged by global warming and natural disasters. Fighters, known as No-Pats, are refugees that were displaced from their homelands due to environmental changes and socioeconomic issues. These No-Pats supposedly don't hold allegiances to any particular country, but the game still features Russia vs the United States so the whole No-Pat idea is kind of moot and only makes for some silly encounters when you're killed by your twin or clone on the opposing side.

Given that the setting is only a couple of decades away, there is a blend of modern weaponry with some plausible futuristic style gadgetry for players to utilize. It does not seem particularly unreasonable to expect that a war set in 2042 would have soldiers using current-era LMGs alongside drones and motion sensors.

The issues with Battlefield 2042 are extensive and varied. It is a release that makes Battlefield 4's launch look flawless in comparison. Here we are at the third week of public availability of the game (fourth week for those who paid for the deluxe editions), and it is still plagued by game breaking issues. Though mostly fixed in a patch, it is still often impossible to revive downed teammates. Players will often load into a game without the ability to spawn or select any of their loadouts. Two friends in my squad experienced this issue two games in a row during our gaming session on Saturday evening. There is still an issue present from the launch of the game where loading into a game will result in the entire squad being hit by an error where "persistence data" is unable to be loaded. This forces everyone back to the main menu in hopes that the next queue will be successful.

Speaking of queues, it is also often impossible to stop queuing to join a friend's game in progress. You are forced to exit the game and restart it. There is no server browser outside of the game's Portal mode. There is no map rotation as there are no persistent servers for the game's main, and only, modes of Conquest and Breakthrough. This is just the tip of the issues iceberg here.

The game is still riddled with bugs and tons of missing features, even after three post-release patches and one "day one" patch. There are times where you can fall through the world geometry. There are parts of some maps where walls are just a suggestion. Bodies may sometimes repeatedly "bounce" off the ground and up into the air as seen below. Sometimes ragdolls just do their own thing. Up until Update #3, ladders offered an interesting movement alternative. At least they fixed an issue where players could be stuck in a downed state (again).

The features and content in 2042 are as barren as its maps are. The number of badges, ribbons, and medals that can be earned have been whittled down to just a small selection in 2042. Then there is the lack of basic mobility options. Where are the quadbikes, motorbikes, and the like? Why not get some snowmobiles on the snowy Breakaway map? There is no reason why there are so few purely mobility-focused vehicles in this game when distances are as unnecessarily vast as they are on some of these maps.

You know what? I'm done trying to explain this game. It is now about a week after I wrote the previous paragraph, and I just cannot do it anymore. I had entire sections here, numerous paragraphs, where I mentioned several of the bugs and specifics of the game's missing features. Features, mind you, that DICE are now calling "legacy" features that they "may" add back at a later date. You have all seen the posts by now. You have seen all the Reddit threads or social media complaints, the YouTube videos, and so forth. At this point, all I am really doing is beating a dead horse. And dead it is. As of December 8th, Battlefield 2042 hit a player cap of 23,648 on Steam, while Battlefield V topped out at 20,252 players.

Speaking of Battlefield V, I returned to that game prior to 2042's launch after a long hiatus (I stopped around when they screwed up weapon balance in a patch). That game feels really good to play these days and I highly recommend checking it out again if you own it.

Now, Steam isn't the only place that either of these games can be played. But we can get a little better idea on how it's doing elsewhere. Take the Xbox platform for example. Microsoft often showcases the current most played Xbox titles through You want to know where Battlefield 2042 is right now as I'm typing this? Positions 23 and 25 for the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One versions respectively. This AAA game that had multiple studios working on it is sitting behind games like Ark: Survival Evolved, a 2017 game. Battlefield 2042 is behind not only this year's Call of Duty release, Vanguard, but also behind last year's Call of Duty title, Black Ops Cold War. Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, released in November 2020, has more people playing it than the Xbox One version of 2042. A newly released, AAA developed, multiplayer focused game that boasts these huge 128-player battles is sitting behind a single-player game that has been out now for over a year. That's just sad.

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Speaking of "dead," the game's touted Portal mode is also largely dead. You can find a smattering of community created game modes and servers, but it's still largely just a bunch of XP farming methods that people have set up. The modes that are officially promoted by DICE do fair a bit better at least. It probably doesn't help that XP gains are nerfed in Portal, and you are unable to make progress on the 2042 weapons in Portal. Honestly, if you're that hard up to relive the classic Battlefield experiences, just go play those old games if you can. You can probably find them for super cheap and they will offer you so much more content than what is available through Portal.

Like, what is even going on? Why did the game release in such a state? Do we blame the developers? I wouldn't. That wouldn't be the smart thing to do. They aren't the ones calling the shots. They do and make what management tells them to do. Do we blame the management at DICE? Sure, we certainly do, but only to a certain degree. They are also being told what to do from upper management at EA. A lot of the issues with this game can probably be safely attributed to some people at the top putting their foot down and saying that this and that needs to happen in this new Battlefield game. What we end up with is this suburban mall looking Battlefield game that shits on most everything that long-time fans have come to know and love about the franchise.

DICE is trying to make this game not a total dumpster fire, but it might be a case of "too little, too late." There are just so many underlying design flaws present in the game that a simple "fix" isn't possible. The maps are just soulless at best and outright broken at worst. Building interiors are barren and featureless. There's little to no cover or features present throughout most of the maps, which is especially annoying when trying to capture a point and there's literally nowhere to hide. Some maps in the Breakthrough game mode are what I would call "impossible" to win for the attackers thanks to the last points being located atop skyscrapers that cannot be destroyed. The only way for attackers to get up to the rooftops is to take one of a few elevators up. These are almost guaranteed to be always camped by at least half a dozen enemy players at the top. You could, theoretically, drop out of an air vehicle on the rooftops. Good luck coordinating enough people to drop on to the roof at once though! That's not even mentioning the fact that the defending team can just repeatedly call in tanks, mobile AA, and other armored vehicles to the rooftops and camp in them.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if they didn't force 128-player matches on us? It's sometimes neat, but it's mostly just a clusterfuck. 64-players in the previous games felt good. They also probably felt good because they had rather decent map designs to properly support that player count. Maybe something like 100 players per match would have been a smarter idea. There does not seem to be any reason why they had to literally double the max players when compared to previous entries outside of placing a significantly larger number on the back of the box. Maybe it isn't the player count that is the problem. Maybe it's the fact that literally anybody can call in air dropped vehicles. Perhaps limiting these to squad leaders would help. Better still, why not just prevent people from calling in things like tanks on to rooftops entirely? Really, the shift towards more vehicular combat in Battlefield 2042 is a sore spot in general.

Thankfully, the rooftop capture points seem like something DICE is finally addressing in Update #3.1. I legitimately have no idea how the game even shipped with those cap points in the first place. I would like to believe that testers saw the flaw in these designs and reported it. As is the case with most of the decisions here, those complaints were probably ignored to push the game out the door instead of letting it have another 6-12 months to bake.

Addendum as of December 9, 2021: DICE has just released Update #3.1. This update removes all rooftop capture points in the Breakthrough game mode.

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Continuing with my complaints: The Specialists are almost all annoying assholes. Their snarky end of the round quips are just so out of place when you consider the world is being destroyed and this global war is supposedly going on. The tornado looked cool once or twice, but then it shows up over and over and over in most every round, especially in Conquest. It barely tosses around any sort of debris. It doesn't destroy buildings, not that there's much to destroy on any of the maps anyway as the idea of large-scale "Levolution" seems to be a thing of the past. The tornado doesn't even carve a visible path through the landscape in its wake. The tornado is just sort of there for a few moments and then it's gone. You could take it out entirely and nothing of any value would be lost. At least the sandstorm on Hourglass is kind of neat and impacts visibility across the entire map for a brief bit of time. There are no other major weather events, by the way. Yep, feel free to add it to the ever-growing pile of disappointments.

Then there is the near total lack of teamplay. This is something that will never return without the ability to communicate. Lest we forget that there is no voice chat in Battlefield 2042. Hell, there isn't even a text based all chat, but that's beside the point. The lack of communication really hurts Hazard Zone. There's no point to playing that mode with random players. If you aren't already in a full squad with friends and using something like party chat or Discord, you should just avoid this largely wasted mode at all costs. Whose bright idea was it to ship a game with a mode that almost entirely relies on communication and teamwork for success without any sort of in-game voice chat? Also, vehicles that come with mounted guns really have no business being included in Hazard Zone where it is impossible to change your loadout to counter them.

There is another issue with the game that I'm just not sure where it should fit into the review, so I'm throwing it in here. Scoring for vehicle kill assists and healing are just terrible. Just straight up terrible. The fact that I can do 99% of the damage to a vehicle and be awarded no kill or assist points if someone finishes off that last 1% is infuriating. It's made all the worse when you are given those meager 10 points for disabling some nebulous part on the vehicle. Don't expect to get any points at all if you are the designated SOFLAM user either. Healing is the same thing. You aren't awarded points based on the amount that you heal a teammate. You just get a flat 5XP per heal. Meanwhile, someone can play as Casper and use sensor grenades and his drone to spot enemies at 5XP a piece. On top of that, he gets credit for kill assists if any of those spotted enemies is killed by a teammate. It just doesn't make any sense.

These days, I am more amazed when my friends and I can play Battlefield 2042 and don't see something that is janky, missing, or just outright broken during a session. So, why do I keep playing? How is it that I already have 62 hours in Battlefield 2042 when there is just so much to hate about it? Really, the only reason I can think of is because it's like watching a bad movie: I enjoy it for all the wrong reasons. Playing with friends is really the only thing that is keeping me playing this game regularly. We laugh at the utter garbage we see in almost every round. We constantly mock Specialist Angel and his "Angel does it again!" voice line in times where he does literally anything, especially when we he ends up killing a teammate with his supply drop. There are a few of those "Battlefield moments" but they're just so few and far between.

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As of this posting, there have now been three quite major post-release patches released for the game. If I had gotten this review out at release, the score would have easily been a single star out of five. In fact, I'm still strongly debating that right now in my mind. Undoubtedly, these patches have addressed a significant number of issues. It is perhaps rather telling, however, that there is still a long way to go for this game to get to a state that I would consider "respectable." Some of these issues just can't be easily patched without some significant overhauls. Maybe the game will be in a decent state a year from now, maybe not. It's honestly too difficult to say right now.

Even when DICE releases a patch, there is no guarantee that what they say in the changelog actually made it into a patch. For instance, Update #3 said that players would be able to resupply ammo to their underbarrel attachments. This was not the case. That update also said Sundance's scatter grenade would detonate after the first bounce instead of in the air. As I personally witnessed last night, this was also not changed. Update #3.1 says it fixes an issue where loadouts would be empty after joining a server. A quick glance at Reddit tells me that this is also still an issue.

Then there is the other elephant in the room: The rumors of what's to come for the Battlefield franchise. I read something about how some of the future potential skins include a clown outfit and a lumberjack. It's a rumor, of course, but at this point I would not be surprised in the slightest. We already had that "leak" of the Santa skin pop up in the game. Here is what DICE had to say about the Santa skin, and others, that were prematurely added to the game.

Nowhere in the official statement do they specifically mention the "Father Winter" Santa skin, but for the sake of argument let's assume that they were specifically talking about that skin in their statements. Though they say it's not coming "this Holiday," does that mean it's coming next year then? If it was for a special mode or meant for Portal, why did that Santa skin have a very clear message on it that said it could be unlocked by completing missions in Preseason Week 3? That sure looks like they had intended for that skin to be a part of the main game, but quickly backtracked and did some damage control when they saw the intense and immediate backlash from the player base.

I also heard about how the next Battlefield games after 2042 will stray even further from what made the franchise enjoyable. There is something about a new Battlefield game going all-in with the idea of a "hero shooter." Specialists are apparently just the first step in that direction. If true, classes are more than likely a thing of the past and are unlike to ever return. Even if that isn't true at all and DICE and EA make a Battlefield that returns to its roots, it is most certainly going to be an uphill climb for them. Whatever remaining goodwill fans had towards this franchise after this release is non-existent. For many, including perhaps myself, the Battlefield franchise is dead.

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I have been a fan of the Battlefield games since Battlefield 1942. Since then, there are only a few Battlefield games and experiences I have not played in some form or another. There were a few of the earlier game expansions that I never picked up. I never bought Battlefield 2142 as I didn't much care for the pre-release demo. I never bought Battlefield 1943 because I foolishly waited for the promised PC release that never game. I also obviously never played Battlefield Online as it was released only in South Korea. The rest? Yep, I played them. Battlefield Heroes? I actually played that one a decent amount. It was a fun, rather quirky take on the franchise. It had a certain charm to it. I even dabbled in Battlefield Play4Free a tiny bit. That was a F2P title that blended elements of Battlefield 2 and Bad Company 2. I'm not some diehard fanatic of the franchise, though. I can't name every weapon or tell you everything about the maps. I just really enjoyed this franchise throughout the years.

For me to sit here and type out the words "the Battlefield franchise is dead" is almost kind of painful. Battlefield 1942 came out in late 2002. I played Battlefield through the end of high school, throughout four years of college, and I played Battlefield still as I began my "adult" years. Two decades of ups and downs with this franchise as a fan. After two decades, I feel as though I can safely say that this: Battlefield 2042 is the absolute lowest this franchise has ever been.

Go back to Battlefield V, or Battlefield 1, or Battlefield 4. Just don't play this. Don't reward garbage. I just cannot recommend this game to long-time fans of the franchise nor to new players. Maybe in a couple of years after countless patches and content drops, but not now. Of course, with how DICE and EA just straight up killed plans for any future Battlefield V content in favor of starting Battlefield 2042 development, I would not be surprised if this game suffers the same fate when they move on to the next game. After all, EA is all about creating a "connected Battlefield universe" complete with several new Battlefield titles and "experiences." Battlefield 2042 is, sadly, only the beginning.

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Additional Information
  • Battlefield 2042
    • Developed by: DICE, Ripple Effect Studios, EA Gothenburg, Criterion Games
    • Published by: Electronic Arts
  • Price: Starting at $59.99 (USD)
  • Platform reviewed on: PC
    • Reviewed on: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X, 32GB DDR4 3600 RAM, Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti
    • Also available on: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
  • Release Date: November 19, 2021
  • ESRB: M for Mature 17+ (Violence, blood, strong language)
  • This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes.