When a round starts, soldiers would head on to different directions, hoping to be the first to arrive at a point to capture it and set up a defensive zone, waiting for the inevitable and imminent arrival of enemy troops. Some would push in deeper, attempting to challenge the opponent’s points first and force them to camp in so that they’d stay away from ours. And all these would go on as warplanes from both sides thunder through the sky, strafing any ground and air targets they’d see. War choppers hovering a short distance away, shooting barrage after barrage of anti-personnel missiles at enemies brave enough to advance, or defenders foolish enough not to escape. We’d have Tanks and an assortment of armoured military vehicles rumbling around the battlefield trying to support their fellow soldiers. The deafening sound of explosions from near and far can be heard. The war would go on for at least 20-30 minutes as both sides’ trade kills and blows.
This is why I love the Battlefield series. There’s just something irresistible about the large maps and full-scale warfare atmosphere that appeals to me. I’ve always loved the series since I played the first Battlefield 1942 game. It made a strong and lasting impression.
So, when EA announced the latest game in the series in Battlefield 2042, there were many reasons to celebrate. This game would come with bigger maps, catering to more players, and with next-gen quality graphics and horsepower. And if you were to combine these upcoming new features with the fact that Battlefield is one of the longest-running game series like I did, you too would arrive at the conclusion that this was going to be the best Battlefield game ever. If only things were so simple.
I played 2042 on the PlayStation 5 and the problem with the game was obvious from early on because matches weren’t starting. I would pick a mode and start the matchmaking process, eager to get into it with 127 other players. The game would then ‘find’ one for me before putting me in a lobby where I could see my assigned squadmates. There, four of us would stare at each other’s players’ cards and wait for the game to let us in, but that will mostly not happen. Because we’d be stuck there waiting for 10 minutes before one by one of us would just give up and leave the lobby to restart the matchmaking.
The funniest thing here is sometimes, after my second or third attempt, the game would instantly put me into a match that just started (I could tell because the kill counter was fresh) but it was a different map from the first 2 matches that I waited for. Naturally, I wondered “Why didn’t the game just load me into this one in the first place?”. “Why bother starting so many lobbies and make everybody wait in so many different sessions when they could all just be in the same one?”. Beats me.
And that is if I was lucky enough to get into a game after 2-3 tries, each costing around 5-10 minutes worth of waiting. Normally, I’d just repeat the matchmaking process that could take me up to 10 times and I still won’t get to play any. I also didn’t understand why the game didn’t just start anyway and fill the server with the players that’s already in the queue, and populate the remaining slots with bots while we wait for more players to arrive. Some of the games I ended up in had bots fillers anyway, so why can’t this just happen more consistently? That was another question that I found myself repeatedly asking throughout my experience in BF 2042 so far.
It is worth noting that if I had turned on my Cross-Play function, matches are found and played instantly. But doing so would hamper the gameplay experience greatly because there was just no way I could be meaningfully enjoying my game against the advantage a Mouse and Keyboard user has. But even so, I sometimes just enable cross-play so that I can step onto the battlefield that I so desperately want to play. It was a pathetic predicament.
But on the rare occasions that I did get into a game with other PlayStation players, the game did its best to impress me with all its cool elements and attractions. One of them is the beautiful landscape and buildings, the impressive draw distance and terrain varieties were a sight to behold. I could be fighting in a city area, a desert-scape, inside of a stadium, housing ruins, all on the same map.
Although the game’s main Multiplayer Mode could cater to up to 128 players (64 on each side), the number is hardly noticeable when you play on a map so big. It was that big that sometimes it feels kind of empty because players are too scattered. I would sometimes see 2 big groups maximum fighting for key areas, while the rest are scattered around, engaging in small skirmishes across the map. As with the older BF games, 2042 experience can be a real treat if you form a full squad with your mates. The squad can pick off distant points, kiting the opposing players’ attention to enable the home team to focus more on the key areas. Now, of course, that’s just one of the things a fully-communicating and cohesive squad can do on the battlefield, and because the maps in 2042 are so big, players will find ample team-play opportunities waiting for them.
This is one Battlefield game where fans of aerial combat vehicles would find their calling because they have ample airspace to fight and multiple ground points to cover and support. Tank drivers can meaningfully serve as mobile artillery, sniping targets from far and providing the vital bombardment that helps their teammates advance.
One of my absolute favourite things to do in BF games is to play support to the big guns. I would find myself a safe but strategic point to camp, deploy a drone and fly over to the nearest skirmish and start spotting enemies for my team. This accomplishes two important things; if I placed myself well, my squadmate could continuously spawn on me as long as my position is uncompromised and they could go on to flank our enemies. The second advantage is the enemies I spot becoming visible to my entire team including the pilots and tank operators, granting us the benefit of precision strikes, thwarting enemy ambushes, and acting as an Early-Warning-System against approaching hostile groups.
It was chicken-styled of gameplay and some may even call it cowardice, but a game like Battlefield had always required more than individual bravado and skilful-rambos to win. This was one reason why I’ve preferred BF over COD for many years because even an incompetent shooter like myself could play and meaningfully contribute to the team’s successes. BF game is a battleground that involves as many wits as it does skills and I was glad that BF 2042 still allows such gameplay to not only exists but to shine as much as the next action-oriented element.
Replacing the old BF Class System is the new Operative System in BF 2042. There are 10 operatives I can choose from and play as. Each of them has a specific gadget unique to them; for example Casper, an operative with a deployable drone that he could use to do recon and spot enemies like I mentioned I did. Sundance, an operative that has Wingsuits instead of Parachutes equipped, allows those using her extended aerial mobilities. I would circle my enemies in the sky with her, before picking the right opportunity to land behind them and pick them off. The traditional roles where only an Engineer class can repair and a Medic class can heal are now gone. Players can do repairs or give out med packs depending on the gadgets they equip on their loadout. This provides more flexibility and options for players to respond accordingly in the field.
For an individual, the unique abilities of the Operatives may seem like they only add very little to the gameplay experience, but when deployed properly, they can have outcome-affecting consequences. There was a tall building in one of the city-scaped maps in the game where the capture point was located on the rooftop and the other team was defending it with all their might. Needless to say, we suffered a substantial drop of numbers on our counter trying to catch it. I was sniping the defenders from a nearby building when I saw in my scope, a friendly chopper flying over that rooftop and a squad of Sundance operatives jumped off the heli and wingsuit themselves to the roof, causing enough surprise there to divert the defenders’ attention from the elevator doors they were camping at. Slowly, friendlies began populating that roof, ejecting the defenders one by one before we finally captured it. Moments like this are what makes Battlefield stand out from other shooter games, but it’s just a shame that the matchmaking is in such a devastating state.
Gunplays can feel weird at times. There is a wild inconsistency in damages when I discharge my weapon against an enemy. There are times where they just die at a natural speed and there are times where it was as if they can choose not to die at all even after I emptied my entire clip on them. It was the same weapon, identical 1 v 1 situation, but different results. At first, I played it off as the recoil’s fault, or maybe I just missed, but it just became more apparent over time that there is a problem with the shooting in this game.
And it’s not just the guns, I’ve shot at somebody with a tank and though that shot hit close enough to him, he somehow survived when he shouldn’t. If a Tank can only kill someone with a direct-contact shot, then it just takes away the fun.
Assault rifles that should have the advantage of being accurate from short to at least medium range suddenly sucks and I’d lose in a ranged shootout against players using an SMG. One can negotiate this by saying how the SMG player probably had better attachments on or was just better than me and I would accept it if this was an uncommon occurrence. But when this keeps happening even in situations where I knew I should have won but ended up losing, it’s just tough to keep making convenient excuses on the game’s behalf. I later found out that it wasn’t just me, apparently many other players feel the same.
It goes without saying that a game like BF, no matter how grand the scale and beautiful the map, is a shooter game at its core. Even if I were to put the unforgivable matchmaking problems aside, the gunplay in BF 2042 did very little to convince me of its status as a quality shooter game.
The decision to exclude the scoreboard is another one that I didn’t understand. There is no way for anyone to track how well or badly they are doing in the game but this is to me, a very important element. Knowing how well or not I perform serves as nourishment to my state of mind. If I’m doing badly, then it motivates me to play better, and if I am doing great, then I want to know how great I am doing compared to others. At the end of a match, the game would show how many Kill/Assists I made, and how many kills my squad did collectively, and the rank of our squad compared to others. I get that the game is trying to focus more on the teamwork of players and their collective achievements, but I don’t think it should be achieved by sidelining individual milestones.
The game comes with a multiplayer Conquest and Breakthrough mode. The first one is the classic Battlefield trademark zone-capturing all-out-warfare and the second one is where attackers must capture the points before their tickets run out and progressively capture them until the final point is won. There is also a new and refreshing Hardware mode that is more objective-based where multiple squads go in and duke it out with each other to capture data points. The hardware mode is where the importance of Operatives’ unique abilities really shines as it allows squad members to assume different roles.
But the best feature in BF 2042 to me is undoubtedly the Battlefield Portal mode, which is a mode where some old BF games can be played (not full games, but only the famous maps and bits). Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 3, and Bad Company 2 are those players that can not only revisit but also customise as per the host’s liking.
I haven’t tinkered around with hosting a server of my own yet, but I’ve joined some and seen some hilarious and creative settings some players did. One of them was a server take takes place in 2042 settings but fights against A.I bots from 1942. There was another supposed XP Farm where players on one team defend against an endless horde of knife-wielding zombie bots. Damage multipliers, reload conditions, and winning conditions are some of the settings available to set and I’ve heard that the settings parameters are quite extensive. Server browsing, a feature that is not available in the native 2042 game modes is available on BF Portal.
What I Liked
- Operatives – variation in operatives does have a strategic and refreshing element to it. Like how I prefer to just be a scout first and switch over to a more aggressive operative like Sundance.
- BF Portal – Very interesting implementation and most times better than the core gameplay of BF 2042.
- Maps are huge – The scale of the warfare can be hugely impressive.
What I Disliked
- Long Matchmaking – For some reason, the final game is not like the beta where the game starts you off with players and bots which they continually cycle until all players come in. It’s separated and a really dumb lobby system takes forever especially with cross-play turned off.
- Gunplay can feel like ass – Emptying a full clip not killing anyone is bullshit. Also, certain guns and accessories are obviously skewed to being the meta and that just makes experimenting with builds redundant at times.
- Maps are huge – Vast areas are just empty spaces made excruciatingly more difficult where you traverse so far only to die instantly and repeat the same process over and over like a dumbass.
Battlefield 2042 is probably the most ambitious Battlefield game to date albeit with its flawed implementations. The game has all the necessary elements for it to be a good and long-running MP shooter but it needs to do better when it comes to simple and basic things like matchmaking. I was having fun when I could play it but I really wish I could just play it some more.