Did Battlefield 2042's Missing Campaign Hurt It?

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Did Battlefield 2042's Missing Campaign Hurt It?

November 19, 2021

By: Anson Chan

More Info About This Game
Developer
DICE
Publisher
Electronic Arts
Release Date
November 19, 2021 (Calendar)
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There's much that can be said about Battlefield 2042's multiplayer gameplay, yet it's clear that the game must've had a rather interesting development cycle for DICE to have made some of the decisions they did. Of course, everyone's talking about the Specialist system since it's a blatant and drastic change to one of the core features of the Battlefield franchise. The lack of a single-player campaign however, while not as integral to the success of a series that revolves around multiplayer, brings up many more questions that can't as easily be blamed on mere creative differences. This is especially true given the amount of effort that was seemingly devoted to building up Battlefield 2042's backstory, which is currently spread out among the wonderful Exodus short film and some lore snippets on the game's official site.

For those who are unaware, the basic premise of Battlefield 2042's story is that Earth is on the brink of an ecological disaster. The combined effects of runaway climate change, the dissolution of the European Union, and the destruction of many of the world's satellites due to space junk pollution led to an ever increasing amount of refugees, collectively referred to as No-Pats. As far as can be told, the No-Pats consist of stateless individuals who come from a wide variety of military and civilian backgrounds, represented in game by the Specialist system and the associated lore behind each Specialist. As to why these refugees have access to top-of-the-line tanks and jets is anyone's guess, though that can easily be handwaved as being a gameplay mechanic rather than a rock-solid establishment of lore. It's also puzzling as to why the No-Pats are portrayed as mercenaries working for the United States and Russia but again, gameplay takes precedence over logic. Anyways, one can think of Battlefield 2042 as a bridge between Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 2142 since it clearly involves the characters from the former and borrows from the themes of the latter. 

In any case, this premise alone could've set the stage for one of if not the most ambitious Battlefield campaign to date. For starters, DICE could've taken the campaign in many different directions due to the stateless nature of the No-Pats, possibly even culminating in a pseudo-RPG narrative where you decide to help specific factions or superpowers, leading to various endings. Failing that, the story could also touch upon increasingly relevant modern issues. Climate change and its socioeconomic and political effects are a no brainer. Given that the No-Pats aren't citizens from any specific country, themes like patriotism/nationalism could be explored, as well as the effects that imperialistic superpowers have on both the planet and space in their desire for infinite growth on a world with finite resources. If DICE wanted to, they could also go deep into the propaganda that countries around the world use to stay in power and the consequences of letting wealthy individuals and corporations exist with almost no oversight.

Alas, none of that will ever see the light of day since DICE ultimately decided to have Battlefield 2042's story play out in the multiplayer via map intros and such. It's a method that has rarely, if ever, worked in the past since you can't really tell much of a story in the scant seconds it takes for maps to load up. No one's going to take the time to read the backstory of the Specialists either since Battlefield 2042 is not the kind of game where the in-game writing is a masterful display of world building. As if that wasn't enough, DICE's official stance on the narrative is that the backstory was only chosen for gameplay reasons and not because climate change is a potential existential threat to humanity, a spineless decision that could've only come from the rotten maws of soulless corporations that seek to monetize every art form until it's all a gelatinous blob that says nothing and delivers even less.

 
 
battlefield 2042 wingsuit
In other words, if story's being cut for better pew-pew, then that pew-pew better be damn good

To be perfectly fair, DICE's expertise is in creating multiplayer games. That's how Battlefield first started, that's how the games are largely marketed, and that's the main reason why anyone buys a Battlefield game to begin with. Cutting a single-player campaign that the core audience likely isn't going to play much of is a logical move, and it's worked for other longstanding game franchises to varying degrees of success (Rainbow 6: Siege comes to mind). The fact that Irish's (the main character of the aforementioned Exodus film) actor, Michael K. Williams, passed away not that long ago means that even if more story-based content was planned for Battlefield 2042, it's certainly going to have to be put on hold now. However, if DICE wants to cut content to focus on making a perfect multiplayer experience, then it goes without saying that the multiplayer experience must be near perfect. Very few people would probably care that the climate change backdrop was chosen purely for the sake of coolness if the gameplay itself was a must-play experience. 

So far, that does not seem to be the case at all, which really brings up the question of what was going on behind the scenes for Battlefield 2042 to turn out the way it did. That there are so many otherwise inconsequential issues, like a lack of meaningful weapon customization and the number of weapons in general, furthers the speculation that something must've gone wrong during the development process. It's not like DICE isn't capable of delivering a more well-rounded experience seeing as how every modern Battlefield game has had both single-player and multiplayer elements. Indeed, there were some terrific single-player moments in previous Battlefield games, including but not limited to The Last Tiger chapter of Battlefield V, the intro to Battlefield 1, and the vehicle missions in Battlefield 3, not to mention the Bad Company series. Granted, even the best single-player campaign in the world might not reverse people's opinions of Battlefield 2042, yet it almost certainly would've made the above-average at best multiplayer easier to swallow. Alas, now that it's caught between Call of Duty: Vanguard and an incredibly impressive and affordable Halo Infinite multiplayer, Battlefield 2042 might very well slip into obscurity faster than anyone would've liked.

Hi :)
Staff Writer

Hi everybody! I've been playing all kinds of games for decades now, from FPSes to city builders to the occasional platformer, and if nothing else, it's taught me that games are the ultimate form of art. 

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