Tradition vs Innovation: Will Battlefield 2042's Specialist Gamble Work?

Published: October 12, 2021 1:00 PM /


battlefield 2042 tank

With the gaming industry gearing up to take advantage of the new generation of consoles, it's almost inevitable that developers will want to take risks. After all, it's the start of a new era of gaming, and everyone wants to stand out by delivering a fresh new experience. With Battlefield 2042, DICE appears to be taking this idea to the relative extreme by introducing quite a few major changes to the tried-and-true Battlefield formula. While most of these adjustments aren't too controversial, the abandonment of the traditional class system in favor of the Specialist mechanic has proven to be a divisive issue at best, especially now that the entire world has had a chance to try it out in the open beta. 

For those who have missed it, Battlefield 2042's Specialists are a replacement of the traditional class system. Instead of being a generic Engineer or Recon grunt, you will be able to pick one of up to 10 named Specialists at launch. Each Specialist has their own set of unique abilities or gadgets such as grapple hooks, recon drones, and automated turrets. In addition, these Specialists can basically equip any gear that you want, so you can use a sniper rifle and a rocket launcher or a light machine gun and a repair tool if you wanted to. In a sense, this means that there are no classes in Battlefield 2042, not that there's anything stopping you from making loadouts that more or less adhere to the design of the traditional classes. Although it is certainly ironic that the Specialists end up being less specialized than their traditional class-based counterparts.

In any case, one can probably assume that a bit of the discontent is simply coming from the fact that Specialists are a new feature. However, there are some very valid concerns regarding the implementation of Specialists. Chief among these worries (especially for vehicle crews) is the fact that you can't actually see what each Specialist is carrying. In other words, things like rocket launchers and anti-air missile launchers are, intentionally or otherwise, not appearing on the character models themselves unless the player has it equipped. This means that literally anyone can materialize rocket launchers out of thin air, making it impossible to know which targets to prioritize while in a vehicle. 

This problem extends far beyond knowing who to shoot though. Since Battlefield 2042's Specialists only have the one skin (so far), you can't tell what your squadmates are using either. The result is as predictable as it is frustrating. Rather than simply taking a look at your teammates, you must now actively ask questions that really shouldn't need to be asked. Who has ammo? Who has medic crates? Rockets? Should you run these or assume that your teammates are smart enough to have them? If a point is getting attacked by helicopters, should you switch, or has your teammate already covered it? Sure, there was never any guarantee that teammates would play their roles correctly in past Battlefield games if they bothered to select an appropriate class for the situation at all, but at least you more or less knew if a situation required more of a certain class. 

These are just the immediate, practical complaints that one could have. There's also some very valid concerns revolving around the potential monetization of Specialist skins, concerns that aren't exactly allayed by DICE and EA's track record. Speaking of which, since the Specialists are named characters with unique faces and uniforms, it's a guarantee that you're going to be seeing clones of yourself running around. It's potentially immersion breaking at best, and a deadly oversight at worst as it makes it much more difficult to confirm who is on which team. It sounds like a silly problem given that red name tags and such appear when you aim at an enemy, yet few people would laugh when they get mowed down because it took a split second to try and figure out whether the guy wearing the exact same uniform as half your teammates is a friend or foe. It is a little concerning that Battlefield 2042 is lacking the most basic means of relaying the most basic relevant gameplay information, but perhaps this will change in the full game.  

battlefield 2042 helicopter
Well this is clearly a fake screenshot as no player can fly helicopters that close to the ground without spontaneously exploding

Battlefield 2042's Specialists aren't without their merits though. It's a very neat way to allow players to multiclass to their heart's content. For instance, not everyone's a fan of using LMGs but maybe they like being a walking ammo box. Simply switch over to an assault rifle or SMG. Plus you could theoretically play Recon without everyone instantly assuming that you're going to hide in a bush on the other side of the map and contribute one kill every 10 minutes. Of course, it's going to be a little weird without any weapon restrictions whatsoever, but the Battlefield series was seemingly toying with the idea already with the introduction of multiclass weapons in Battlefield 4

Frankly there's not much to criticize about the Specialists as a concept since it allows for the implementation of cool gadgets and whatnot that don't have to fall into the rigid molds of the traditional classes. The problem is entirely in how Specialists are implemented. DICE could've, and probably should've, implemented Specialists as just that: special troops that function as optional alternatives to the traditional classes. For example, you could pick the traditional Support class with LMGs and ammo boxes, or you could double down on the area denial with Irish and his gadgets in exchange for less efficient ammo boxes. DICE could also take a page from Star Wars Battlefront 2, which had special soldiers as completely separate addition to the main classes. That would require DICE to implement a hybrid system though, and whether they are willing to do so, or are even capable of adding such a thing this close to release, is another issue.

Nonetheless, it is a little dramatic to say that the mere existence of the Specialist system will torpedo Battlefield 2042 as the core gameplay more or less retains its Battlefield-ness. If the game were to come out tomorrow as it exists in the open beta, it would still be a fun, solid experience for a couple of months until the next big hotness comes out. But if DICE wants their first next gen/current gen title to truly stand out, then they must perfect how Specialists are implemented, or at the very least make it so that the problems associated with the Specialists aren't apparent in literally the first match that you play.


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More Info About This Game
Learn more about Battlefield 2042
Game Page Battlefield 2042
Electronic Arts
Release Date
November 19, 2021 (Calendar)
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