This is a first-impression review and as such opinions are based solely on the state of the game at the time of review and subject to change as development progresses leading up to final release.
Battlefield 2042 takes players back to a near future war zone where “non-patriots” act as specialists who join different international powers in massive battles around the globe. For 19 years DICE has aimed to let players make their own adventures by dropping them into massive conflict zones and equipping them with weapons, supplies, and vehicles. While the series has struggled to remain relevant in recent years, the gameplay always differentiates itself from other dominant shooters year over year. Halo is an arena shooter built on a longer time-to-kill while Call of Duty is a twitch-based multiplayer where speed and nearly instantaneous time-to-death levels the playing field. Battlefield, however, has always stood out as a slightly slower tactical shooter that prizes squad cooperation and positioning over reaction-time or map memorization. In this latest iteration, it promised to double the scale and player counts of previous generations and add specialists to refresh the class-based formula to modernize the game.
A cutscene will play, setting up the gameplay of these specialists taking various sides and you’ll be greeted by three different game types. All-Out Warfare, Hazard Zone, and Portal. All-Out Warfare pits two teams against each other vying for territory or attack and defense games. This is the traditional large-scale 128 player Battlefield past players are accustomed to. Hazard Zone is the “Escape From Tarkov” quad-based extraction game that has you looting drop pods for hard drives and safely extracting before another team or NPC can gun you down. Lastly, Portal is the “Battlefield Salad” where you can mix up select previous titles into a customized, player-created game for a new twist using old assets. Portal is a genius idea that I loved seeing the creativity and variety of game types.
The asking price for this package is between $60-$110 depending on the platform and edition. Alternatively, you could get 10 hours of access or unlimited hours with either Gamepass/EAPlay or EA Play Pro for $4.99/$29.99 per month or $14.99/$99.99 respectively. The value proposition is further complicated by the release date. While certain editions grant you early access, with unlimited playtime other editions grant you limited playtime with no ownership. If you made it through those two sentences with clarity of what to purchase, I congratulate you. I would love it if anyone in the comments could give me one sentence that tells me where, how, and when I can play this game if I’m a potential customer. I write this to illustrate the hoops that are asked of the consumer to jump through and how frustrating some people must feel when the game doesn’t run as advertised or release when they expected.
During my 15 hours with the game, I have spent a collective 3.5 hours either queuing or restarting the program to try and get into a match. I have experienced bugs such as items not unlocking, graphical errors, full crashes on Xbox series X, and more. The frustrating cherry on top is not having game chat enabled. There is a ping system but it is not as intuitive as other shooters. Not being able to communicate in Hazard Zone severely inhibits the capability of a cross-platform team and the lack of inclusion of a chat system is a glaring oversight.
Since Battlefield 3 and the ubiquitous adoption of online console gaming, it has been understood that EA’s flagship shooter always stumbles out of the gate with bugs and stability issues. Therefore, it should always be a question as a publisher what state is acceptable to ship a game in or call it “launched.” Furthermore, after Sony’s very public removal of Cyberpunk from their online store, it begs the question: what obligation is there from Microsoft or Sony to regulate these unfinished games during the certification process?
Let me put some sugar with all this salt. I will continue to play Battlefield 2042 weekly if not daily. I love the chaos and unpredictability of each battle. When the game runs as intended it is a joy to play and feels great. I want DICE to patch and update this fast so a community of players grows and 128-player lobbies are full. I understand publicly traded companies have to hit deadlines, but I wish this game was baked longer in the oven. I gladly gave them my $70 in addition to the review copy, because I love the formula.
I will play the hell out of Battlefield because I am a glutton for punishment, and I love the scale and skirmishes. Likewise, when this game works it’s a technical marvel that looks beautiful to boot. Therefore, I’d recommend you buy one month of EA play as a means to “rent” before purchasing. Perhaps we got rid of Blockbuster too soon, because this is a try before you buy, but if you love large-scale chaotic battles, this is a damn fun one when it works. I would love to be able to return to this article a year from now and write about how DICE made this right by patches and community support. Time will tell but, in the meantime, I’ll be on the Battlefield.