Battlefield games are at their best when all hell breaks loose – vehicles converging on a central point, firing on one another while you and your squad try your best not to get caught in the crossfire. It’s in these moments where you tend to find yourself fully immersed in what DICE’s long-running franchise wants to convey. That, of course, is pure action. And while it has its fair share of missteps along the way, DICE’s latest entry in the series, Battlefield 2042, is a solid step forward for the franchise, bringing in everything that makes the series so bloody fun while mixing it up with handful of new modes to keep the experience from getting stale.
Battlefield 2042 sets a bleak scene for players. The game takes place in a near-future setting where a majority of the world’s global powers have collapsed and two major forces have formed to oppose one another. The globe has been completely turned over thanks to devastating climate change, while the two remaining players in the game – the US and Russia – have brought in no-pats, trained soldiers devoid of any real connection with either country, to try and turn the tide in their favour.
As far as the game’s story goes, that’s about all you get. Battlefield 2042 has ditched the series’ War Stories single-player mode, favouring a story told across the multiplayer battlefield instead. As someone who really liked the way War Stories were integrated into both Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V, I was disappointed about this omission. This is mainly because the game’s setting is rife with potential to tell a variety of interesting stories.
I say this because throughout my time in Battlefield 2042 I rarely felt a connection to the game’s premise or story. Squadding up with buddies and jumping into the desolated maps, plagued by destructive weather events and eviscerated locales, did well to set the scene but never went any further than that.
It’s lucky the gameplay is spot on, though. While I had my initial reservations after venturing through the game’s beta, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of fixes and changes were made to 2042’s core gameplay – addressing major complaints from the community. Gunplay feels snappy, while there’s a big focus on vehicle combat thanks to the huge, sprawling maps with little to no cover. This makes for riveting vehicle chaos but little fun for players venturing on-foot – something that has been an issue in previous entries at launch, too.
That said, I do like the new additions to the game’s gunplay. Being able to actively swap attachments on the fly thanks to the ‘plus’ system works wonders as you make your way across the game’s seven maps, with each section throwing a different kind of combat situation at you.
In a move that’s properly divided fans, the lack of classes in 2042 took some getting used to. Rather than having the faithful Assault, Medic, Support and Recon classes that define the weapons you have and gadgets to use, Battlefield 2042 has 10 specialists to choose from at launch. Each specialist has a unique ability to call upon — like a grappling hook or a wingsuit, for example – and can effectively play the role of any class you want. The benefit of this is that you’re given a fairly endless amount of customisation options, as specialists aren’t limited to the weapons they can equip. It wasn’t a surprise to see wingsuited engineer-types careening across the map throughout my time in the game, and I feel like it was a bold move from DICE. A move that tends to work, in my opinion.
Battlefield 2042 is split into three major game modes – All-Out Warfare, Hazard Zone and Battlefield Portal. All-Out Warfare includes the well-loved Breakthrough and Conquest modes, designed for players who want the classic Battlefield experience across 2042’s massive maps. While jumping into All-Out Warfare didn’t throw up any major changes bar the increase in player count on current-gen consoles and PC (128 players as opposed to 64), I did appreciate how well the game works with each of the new maps given their size. Conquest zones, for instance, are extremely spread out but you can get in on the action quickly if you jump into one of the many vehicles available or spawn in on a squadmate. The times when this wasn’t an option made for a jarring and boring run into battle, though, but that felt relatively few and far between.
One thing I did notice was how unforgiving the spawns could be in both modes. There were many occasions where I’d think I’d spawned in a relatively safe spot only to be decimated by a vehicle or an enemy who was close by. Again, I feel this is due to the openness of each map – with sprawling open areas giving on-foot players very little cover. And while that can be a good thing, finetuning of vehicle damage will be required to make ventures across the vast landscapes a more successful undertaking.
One of the other main modes in Battlefield 2042 is Hazard Zone, a squad-focussed mode that has squads of four dropping into a map to try to secure data drives and extract before time runs out (or they’re eliminated). Unlike All-Out Warfare and Battlefield Portal, Hazard Zone is less forgiving – if your squad’s taken out, you’re eliminated from the game. Teammates can be revived and there are redeploy beacons you can pick up that’ll allow a teammate to drop back into the action, but they’re few and far between.
Collecting data drives and successfully extracting from the map will see your squad awarded with a heap of dark market credits – Hazard Zone-exclusive currency that allows you to kit up before dropping into a match. Credits are essentially what will get you by in a successful Hazard Zone run, allowing you to equip better weapons, gadgets and items to help your squad survive.
Matches aren’t as populated as what’s seen in the game’s other modes, with 32 players entering a Hazard Zone match on Xbox Series consoles, PlayStation 5 and PC. If you’re playing on last-gen hardware, you’ll have a total player count of 24.
One thing I really liked about this mode was that it encouraged consistent communication. Before you jump into a match, you’ll see an overview of the map with key locations to note — these locations will have a set of probability factors: uplink probability, data drive probability and enemy probability. The former two are worth taking note of, as uplinks allow you to call in teammates who have been killed alongside vehicles and the ever-handy robodog.
Data drives are scattered throughout the map, with one of the mode’s free gadgets, the data drive scanner, being your team’s ticket to locating drives. The data drive scanner will show locations where data drives could be and the amount of data drives there are in a container, yet it isn’t always accurate. There were times during my session where my squad ventured into a part of the map with confidence of finding a set of data drives, only for the signal to be incorrect. We then found ourselves in the thick of things between two other squads battling it out, having to then try and get out unscathed. As is always the case with these kinds of modes, there’s a certain element of risk versus reward. Deliberation, careful consideration and a sound strategy is key to a successful round of Hazard Zone.
I didn’t mind my time with the mode, though I certainly found more fun in Battlefield 2042’s other modes. There’s a lot going on and players who love a good squad-focussed game will get a lot of out of it, though All-Out Warfare’s Conquest mode and Battlefield Portal were easily my picks of the bunch.
Battlefield Portal, Ripple Effect’s ode to classic Battlefield titles, could have its own separate review. There’s so much to devour, from the in-depth Battlefield Builder website to the variety of modes on offer and potential to uncover. It’s truly something that I feel every Battlefield fan will be able to get behind and enjoy.
The mode launches with the seven maps seen in Battlefield 2042 as well as six maps from classic Battlefield titles. Maps like Battle of the Bulge from Battlefield 1942 and Caspian Border from Battlefield 3 have been brought to life in the 2042 engine and playing them again brought an immense sense of nostalgia – iconic soundtracks in tow.
Classes, weapons, vehicles and general gameplay tweaks have all been brought across, too. This means you get the proper experience from each of the three Battlefield games making their way to Portal from the offset – from battling out across El Alamein with 1942 weaponry to taking on enemy forces in Battlefield Bad Company 2’s ever-popular map, Valparaiso. Each map brought back for this mode looks beautiful, while staying true to the gameplay that made these classic titles special.
The beauty of Battlefield Portal is that it’s designed to be a sandbox for experimentation. Ripple Effect will support the mode with curated playlists to venture through, bringing back classic modes like Rush while also giving players the ability to carve out their own modes to play with others. Community created modes that are popular will be brought into a curated playlist by the devs, too, but you’re also able to jump into any community-created game mode by searching for it.
The editor itself is on another level, from being able to finetune the way characters reload weapons to making headshot-only game types. There’s an incredible amount of depth to it and it’s something I’m confident players will absolutely love digging into. And that’s the most exciting thing about Battlefield Portal — the sheer amount of potential at hand. I can see the team continuing to iterate on the mode, bringing in other classic Battlefield maps and games altogether (hopefully), making for an endless, chaotic celebration of the long-running series. It’s genuinely brilliant.
While it has its issues, the litany of modes on offer in Battlefield 2042 makes it an exceptional value proposition. Whether you want to venture through the ravaged locations of 2042 in All-Out Warfare or ply your trade in the squad-focussed Hazard Zone mode, the core offerings are great. Battlefield Portal offers an entirely different experience, though, presenting a look back at the Battlefield series in the best way possible. As has always been the case with Battlefield titles, launch is just the start for the game and I’m excited to see where it goes in the future – the potential is seemingly endless.
It’s not without its issues, but Battlefield 2042 is off to a fantastic start for DICE’s beloved series. All-Out Warfare modes are immersive, Hazard Zone is enjoyable while Battlefield Portal steals the show. There’s a lot to love here, and I’m excited to see where the game goes.
All-Out Warfare offers up a classic Battlefield experience
Dynamic weather events add to the immersion when they hit
Hazard Zone can be fun with a group of mates
Sound design, as per, is incredible
Battlefield Portal is brilliant
2042 maps can be a bit too open, putting on-foot troops at a disadvantage
No War Stories/single-player mode to bolster the lore in-game