The Battlefield series offers unique gameplay that plunges players into conflicts on a larger scale than most FPS games. These large-scale conflicts offer unique battlefield moments as players face off on the ground, in the sky, and at sea. Hopefully, Battlefield 2042 will honor that tradition in a unique way, but unfortunately, it fundamentally misunderstands what makes Battlefield so good.
Battlefield isn’t just about the size of the map and the number of players, which is something Battlefield 2042 is so eager to forget. Instead, it’s about the thin veil of believability that separates it from Call of Duty and Halo. Jumping out of a jet, firing rockets at your pursuers, and then reentering the jet isn’t realistic, but it’s the set that makes suspicion possible in a Battlefield game. The series stands out for its action, weapons, accessory library, right down to the character designs themselves, especially in a semi-modern entry like Battlefield 2042.
Battlefield 2042 does away with all of that, creating an experience that feels more like playing with toy soldiers than what Battlefield fans are really looking for. Weapon selection is severely limited compared to previous entries; soldiers sprint with awkward movements, and—with a few exceptions—most specialists look like they stepped out of a cheesy action movie. Battlefield 2042 tried and failed to give itself a distinct identity, but it rounded out its own with Battlefield 1. All the franchise needs to do is stick to it in a different setting, which makes this misstep feel even worse.
It would be one thing if identity issues were the only issue, but Battlefield 2042 content is another major hit. A total of seven maps launch in the base game, which is smaller than previous entries. Not only are the options minimal, but the maps aren’t all that memorable. Most of them consist of relatively flat, open spaces, which make long-distance encounters more frequent than other entrances. While it’s nothing new for Battlefield games to have wide open spaces, Battlefield 2042’s map has fewer interesting landmarks and close-combat structures. And there’s no substitute for chaotic options like Subway Operations or Locker Operations, which provide a nice change of pace amidst the chaos.
These large, open maps bring out the worst qualities of Battlefield 2042. Players may waste more time than usual running to the other side of a huge open space, only to be shot seconds after reaching their destination, a problem only partially mitigated by squad and vehicle spawns. This is another area where Battlefield 2042 fails to improve on the series’ shortcomings, and the gameplay mechanics are noticeably worse than usual. This problem is so severe that even though Battlefield 2042 supports 128-player battles, the map doesn’t feel as vibrant as it did when the series only supported 64 players.
Aside from the lackluster map, even Battlefield 2042’s biggest new gimmick is stale. While previous entries brought “Levolution” and a few other potentially map-altering innovations, Battlefield 2042 occasionally features giant tornadoes that destroy UI elements and pull players, vehicles, and other parts toward it. In the first few games it came out, there were some spectacle worth mentioning, but not much else to say. It’s damaging, not particularly funny, and reads like a half-hearted commentary on climate change. It’s more of a marketing tool than a fun game mechanic.
Additionally, Battlefield 2042 has bugs far beyond what fans usually expect from a release window. A very common bug left us in a respawn state with no respawn timer and no way to force us back to the respawn menu. The only way to fix the bug is to quit the game entirely, which is very frustrating even in casual play. Another issue is that players are unable to swap specialists and their weapon packs, a situation that sometimes persists between matches. One of the worst issues is removing friendly markers from allies’ heads, which is especially distracting since both teams use the same specialist, making friend from foe in some cases indistinguishable. These issues could be fixed with future updates, but it was a laughable demo at launch.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Battlefield 2042’s expert systems are entirely the wrong direction for the franchise – if an entire book were to be written on the subject, this can’t be overemphasized – but some of the devices they bring to the table change the interesting approach to the experience. The best example of this is the grappling gun used by Webster Mackay, which allows players to engage enemies at interesting angles. But while the extra verticality is nice, it’s an element that all players should have, no matter what their specialization, as Battlefield 2042 severely lacks out-of-the-box verticality.
Another arguably Battlefield 2042 saving grace is the Battlefield Portal. Portal mixes elements from previous Battlefield games, allowing players to create their own custom matches or relive some of the greatest maps in Battlefield history. For example, players can use some of the weapons, units, and equipment from Battlefield 3 to work together in a race to conquer the frontier of the Caspian Sea. However, all of these come with a Battlefield 2042 paint coat, and players experience the same stuttering as they do in the main game when moving. One of the most damning things about Battlefield 2042 is that its best features are from a decade ago.
Not only is Battlefield 2042 a lackluster Battlefield game, it’s also a poor FPS overall. That’s an overly correct statement after Battlefield V’s marketing was criticized for its “brilliant” CGI trailer. Other than a bland step back, it’s not clear what Battlefield 2042 is, or even what it wants to be. One can hope for meaningful content updates later, but the ship is sunk before it even leaves port.
Battlefield 2042 is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. Game Rant obtained the PS5 code for this review.