Battlefield 2042 Review

November 11, 2021

Battlefield 2042 feels like it’s trying to be a lot of things, to a lot of people. No doubt the game is keenly awaited by fans, as it returns the series to a modern setting, which the games have left behind since Battlefield 1 in 2016, and it aims to evolve the experience to compete with other modern shooters and game experiences out there. At the same time, it’s also trying something entirely new for Battlefield with its tactical ‘Hazard Zone’ mode, and opening up a proverbial can of worms of potential with its creator-content driven ‘Portal’ mode. The result is something that plays well and is still fun, but feels like it’s stuck between playing to its core fans while trying to bring in new audiences.

The setting is certainly spectacular. Set in a frankly scarily-too-realistic near-future where Earth’s climate has started to spiral out of control. Shortages of every resource and a disaster which downed most of the world’s satellites have brought the US and Russia back into conflict. There’s no single-player campaign this time around, with the story instead being told through the environment and introductions to game types. The concept allows for some pretty cool visuals, like a dried up harbour in India, as combat takes place in the hulls of old tankers, or the city of Doha, with colourful skyscrapers now partially buried under sand dunes.

Extreme weather effects are also impressive when they invade these maps. Tornados can sweep you into the sky out of your control if you don’t pay attention to where they are on the map (and can be used to your advantage if you know how to pilot a parachute), and sandstorms seriously affect visibility. Frostbite still looks great and Battlefield 2042 does an amazing job of showcasing the tech.

The three core pillars of Battlefield 2042 are presented front-and-centre on the main menu of the game. ‘All-Out Warfare’ contains two game modes, the series’ stable Conquest, and Breakthrough which has been with the series since Battlefield 1 (although is similar to Rush from older games). ‘Hazard Zone’ has both PvP and PvE elements, risk/reward opportunities and focuses on quite a different style of gameplay than fans will be used to. Finally, ‘Portal’ allows players to play custom game modes created by other community members through a robust web interface, as well as officially added game modes that include classic modes and maps from Battlefield 1942Battlefield Bad Company 2Battlefield 3.

Conquest and Breakthrough, what DICE are likely expecting to be the champion content of the game, play mostly as you expect. Conquest seeks players fight for dominance over control points on the map, while Breakthrough gives one team a bunch of territory to defend and tasks the other team to fight through and capture it from them. The biggest key change Battlefield 2042 brings to the table are Specialists, new player-selectable characters between rounds which both supplant and supplement the existing class-based system. There are 10 to choose from at launch, each with their own unique design and personality (and plenty of unlockable skins). These characters can be assigned any class, and each class can be customised with any weapons or gadgets you want, which debatably removes some of the uniqueness of the Battlefield formula.

However, what Specialists offer are their own unique abilities, which play on the near-future tech of 2042. These include wing-suits (quite fun and handy for reaching one side of a map to the other, although you can’t fire while using them), grappling hooks, deployable turrets and drones to scout ahead. None of these abilities feel too imbalanced, and you’ll likely feel drawn to one particular specialist who suits your playstyle – parkour fans will most likely enjoy the grappling hook gun, for instance. The limited pool of unique looking characters, however, does mean that the teams can be quite similar visually and at-times hard to pick out, even with small dots indicating friendlies. This is something that could be remedied later on as the game evolves, with the spread of cosmetics.

Specialists are also used in Hazard Zone, which feels like the biggest departure from Battlefield‘s formula. Concentrated on players working in tight-knit groups of 4, preferably with voice party communication, your squad is randomly deployed onto the map and must find randomly-placed downed satellites, which hold data drives. The objective is to find as many data drives as you can safely, while dealing with other player squads as well as computer-controlled defensive forces, and then catch an extraction aircraft at one of the opportunities it arrives. If you’re killed, you’re left to spectate unless your squad can use a reinforcement uplink or item to bring all downed members back, but if your squad wipes then you’ll lose all your progress.

The mode relies a lot more on careful tactics and taking things slow, which admittedly aren’t the first things that come to mind when I think about a traditional Battlefield experience. Depending on your skill, you could spending a lot of time watching that spectate screen, which does make survival more important, but also removes that element of immediacy from Battlefield. Your squad also starts with the bare-bones equipment, as data drives you extract, as well as any kills you make, get cashed in for Dark Market Credits (DMC). DMC can be spent on other guns, gadgets, even ability buffs like being able to hold more data drives. Hazard Zone might get a following, particularly if you have some friends who can really get into the strategy of surviving, but at this stage I can’t see it being incredibly popular.

The Portal mode is where most of the potential for Battlefield 2042 lies, and it’s for somewhat surprising reasons. Using a surprisingly accessible web interface, you’re able to customise your own multiplayer game mode, from broad factors like player count and extreme weather events, to highly specific stuff like restricting prone position or inhibiting players from being able to exit vehicles once entered. Restricting weapons, restricting attachments, vehicles, or even crazy stuff like independently changing player or AI speeds, there’s a tone of stuff to play with. This is all done via simple toggles and switches, and once you’ve gone through what’s on offer it’s quite easy to set up and then publish with a code to access in-game. If you want to get really technical, then a programming-logic menu is also available for deeper customisation of the rules, which will take a bit more self-education. The trick is, of course, that it’s going to take time for the best stuff to come out, as I’m not sure there’ll be much of substance outside of meme ‘jump to reload ammo’ modes at launch. In a month’s time? There’ll probably be some really cool stuff.

The unexpected real star of the Portal show here, however, are the legacy maps and modes included from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3This is where the game has the greatest Battlefield energy, with some of the most memorable maps from those games lovingly brought into Frostbite on modern hardware, looking fantastic and playing just as well as they always did. Mechanically they feel just like the games did back in the day, with certain modern elements restricted, but their classic Rush and Conquest modes actually feel in general tighter, and more conducive to closer matches, than their current 2042 counterparts. These legacy maps can also be customised in Portal, and it’ll be interesting to see what people come up with in mixing the new elements from 2042 in with what really works about the older maps. There could be a perfect balance to be achieved here, between the old and the new, that emerges from Portal and I’m excited to see where that goes.

Is it odd that the most fun I had in Battlefield 2042 was playing the gloriously remastered classic maps? Maybe, or maybe that’s just how I’m being catered to as a rapidly ageing gamer, who can remember booting up 1942 at Virtual Arena at Box Hill in the early 2000’s. The new gameplay of 2042 is still solid, and the new twists like the extreme weather and specialist abilities are fun to experiment with. However, if you asked me to guess where players will be spending most of their time in 2042, I’d say that All-Out Warfare and Hazard Zone are probably going to pale in comparison to what comes out of Portal. Not everything in 2042 will be for every player, but this is definitely an exciting game to watch and see where the community can take it.

This review is based on a series of sessions provided by EA on PC, before Early Access.


-New maps and their weather effects are spectacular, and fun to play
-Portal mode adds insane potential to the Battlefield formula, as well as unlocking classic Battlefield experiences
-New specialist powers can be fun to experiment with


-The 2042 gameplay feels a little lacking in BF identity, especially compared to classic Portal modes
-Hazard Zone is an acquired taste, and not what many come to Battlefield for
-It will take some time for the real potential for Portal to be realised

Overall Score: