In this review we take a look at the main gameplay modes of Battlefield 2042 on PC, disregarding Portal. As an open ended, user generated mode it would be hard to capture our thoughts in a useful manner. As with all our reviews, we ask multiple writers to chime in for our scoring to create an aggregate score. With that out of the way, let’s dive right in.
Battlefield 2042 is the long awaited return to the post-modern era popularized by Battlefield 3 and 4 and it’s pretty obvious DICE went for that same energy. But the game left us with a strange feeling not yet felt throughout Battlefield’s almost 20 year-old history.
On the one hand, the game is incredibly innovative and a bold departure from the conventions of this franchise. We’re talking an unprecedented scale, a highly dynamic weapon system, and a refreshing focus on Apex Legends-esque Specialists.
At the same time, Battlefield 2042 is incredibly controversial because of that class system and the messy launch. As far as we’re concerned Battlefield 2042 is a huge flop and a uniquely refreshing game in one. DICE deserves both praise for their bold decisions and scolding for the lackluster launch.
What we loved
- Immense, large scale battles with 128 players (PC and current gen)
- Silky smooth weapon system
- Highly customizable Specialists classes
What needs work
- Poor performance
- Very light on content (main game), Portal stole all the guns
- Untransparent class system
- Massive hit registration issues and rubber banding (mostly fixed after Update #3)
Battlefield 2042 review
This is easily one of the most controversial Battlefields in the history of the franchise. Gamers either hate or love the class system. They hate or love the PLUS weapon customization. Gamers might even hate or love the larger, less intimate scale of this one.
As you’ll read throughout this Battlefield 2042 review, we generally can’t tell you if these features are good or bad. We know, it’s our job to do so, but who are we to tell you what to like? And moreover, after a combined playtime of well over a hundred hours here at Game Enthusiast, we still can’t decide whether to praise the game or not. Because of its weird launch state, subsequent killer updates, but still with underlying fundamental problems and highlights, it’s impossible to give a decisive commentary on it.
Not your typical BF
What we can say is that this is NOT your typical Battlefield. We’ve been asking for a new Battlefield 4, and DICE obliged by cranking up the dial on mostly everything the 2013 classic had to offer. This is BF 4 on steroids, in a Michael Bay movie, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life essence drizzled all over.
That would kinda describe the general feel of Battlefield 2042. By saying this no typical Battlefield, we might’ve scared some veterans of the franchise away. But let’s be clear, this is still fundamentally a Battlefield game. The old foundations have been rebuilt however. The 20 year-old walls were repainted and the gaping holes in the roof mended.
Battlefield as a franchise has one of the most distinctive, appropriate slogans in gaming: ‘Only in Battlefield’. Battlefield 2042 overfloweth with the ‘Only in BF’ moments. At any moment, you might be in a firefight with as many as 20 soldiers on both sides. Big firefights attract reinforcements in the form of additional tanks, helicopters, and surprisingly lethal (though finally nerfed) hovercrafts.
Those fights often devolve into ‘Only in Battlefield’ slaughters. There’s no more ghost capping, no more 1 v 3 action movie last stands, and no more uninterrupted kill streaks in any vehicle. Instead, players need to rely on teamwork way more than ever before.
In conquest, a team needs ALL objectives in a sector (ranging from one to four capture points) to benefit from it. Each capture point might see multiple squads fighting over it. So you can imagine how chaotic it can get. This is of course one of the staples of the franchise; you’d have to expect chaos to a certain degree. But especially in Battlefield 2042, it’s generally really ON when it’s on.
That’s not a criticism by any means. But keep in mind that some players might have to adopt a different mindset in order to have fun in this game. You won’t stand a chance Rambo-ing your way through this game; you need to adjust to all the others in your team of 63 other players.
Epitome of freedom, but lack of choice
So Battlefield 2042 is chaotic, which is the price you pay for absolute freedom of how you get to play. And honestly, that’s the best part of this game by far! You get to decide if you’re a medic with a sniper rifle, a point defender with an assault rifle, or even a stealthy infiltrator with a shotgun, if that floats your boat.
Though speaking of guns, there’s surprisingly few in the main game. In fact, there are more Battlefield 3 guns in this game than there are new Battlefield 2042 guns! Again, we review Battlefield 2042 as a main game, but to quickly diverge to Portal: it stole all the content from the main modes! We get it, nostalgia; Bad Company was great and we loved BF 3. But did the game really benefit from having those old guns in a separate mode while the main attraction has merely 2 to 4 guns in every category? Not if you’d asked us!
What somewhat dampens our rage from the lack of guns, is the addition of Specialists. We get it, people hate it. But this isn’t some hero shooter ripoff; it’s a new way of interacting with the game. See, there’s only so many guns to enable variety, but every Specialist has their own gadgets and abilities too. So DICE spread out player freedom over more categories, which is absolutely fine.
And just to touch on those gadgets, Battlefield 2042 really did future as a game setting right. Everything feels purposeful, organic, and believable. No crazy sci-fi crap, just plausible near-future evolutions of current-day technology. Well, except for Ji-Soo Paik’s wallhack ability, tough it’s way less OP than everyone said it would based be on 3 seconds of marketing footage. And yes, that’s a jab at all the journalist and YouTubers making 20 minute videos on how bad is was supposed to be.
The ability is just as balanced as every other Specialist’s ability; DICE really did a good job making Specialists feel unique without breaking the balance of the game.
Guns plus PLUS = awesome
Which brings us to the second major new feature: the PLUS weapon system. As you’ve probably seen in every trailer already, you can simply customize any weapon to your liking in the middle of a firefight. The PLUS system really is as versatile as you’d think; you can turn an assault rifle into a submachinegun or a DMR with just a few clicks while in-game.
Fidgeting with the right setups for what you think are upcoming situations is one of my favorite things to do in BF2042. It does however get a bit too fidgety in the main menu when filling in the PLUS slots for every weapon. You get three options for each of the four categories for every weapon. But there are many more to choose from after grinding for a few dozen hours. And it gets quite cumbersome to fill in slots to your liking after a while.
Graphics don’t justify sluggish performance
So, now onto the hardest part of our Battlefield 2042 review. It just wouldn’t be complete without talking about the game’s performance. There are reports of very poor performances on relatively beefy rigs. Personally, I’ve had steady 100+ FPS on a 2 year-old rig (1080p, mostly ‘high’ preset with DLSS on), with the exception of the map Manifest which is terribly optimized. Update #3 did smooth over a lot of performance issues for me.
Of course, PC performance always differs depending on the system, but it feels like the game should be running more smoothly for the graphics it has. Or it should look more beautiful for how sluggish it runs. Maps often feel empty to accommodate 128 players. But that makes arenas like Kaleidoscope and Renewal feel too clean, lacking cover or destructible objects. There’s just not enough stuff to hide behind or fight over.
In terms of consoles, there’s a clear generational divide. Current gen consoles seem to be performing like a charm, producing solid frames on high resolution TV’s. Sadly, last-gen consoles (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (S)) run Battlefield 2042 at ~55 FPS on a 1080p resolution. They sacrifice a lot of environmental detail and sections of the larger maps for a semi-solid framerate. Not to mention the fact that the 128 player mode is excluded for last-gen versions.
In conclusion, fundamentally this one’s quite a tough nut to crack. Mostly because EA and DICE decided to split up the content over multiple separate modes (I just can’t get over the fact that there’s more old guns than new ones). It’s a lot of fun to experiment with different Specialist builds and the PLUS weapon system is an amazing addition.
But just like the scale of this game, all those new features are really in the eye of the beholder, more so than most games. Because let’s be real, the new features of Battlefield 2042 aren’t new at all, they’re just new for the franchise. If you like them, this game is a solid contemporary shooter. If the new features aren’t your cup of tea, we can’t really recommend this game to you at all.
That’s about as much as we’d conclusively have to say in our Battlefield 2042 review. As you probably noticed, the game is a mixed bag of really bold decisions and a lackluster release trajectory. Contrary to most reviews, we gave the game a couple of weeks to settle, which was a good call in our opinion. Update #2 and #3 introduced major balancing changes and fixed a lot of networking issues. Battlefield 2042 might just shape up to be a killer game in half a year or so. Maybe the battle pass system makes it more fun. But for now, this game certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s not even for every Battlefield fan!
Image credit: Electronic Arts / DICE